video uploaded from my mobile phone
video uploaded from my mobile phone
as the plane descended for its final approach, this sublime view of the desert southwest came into view. just lovely.
as the plane descended for its final approach, this sublime view of the desert southwest came into view. just lovely.
SPOKANE AND AGAIN
in early august of 2009, we rolled into spokane, wa from missoula, mt. it was not the best of times. montana had shown us a wonderful time — from the big dipper to the testicle festival, from tubing the clark fork river to reeling at the berkeley pit — but in retrospect, it is clear that this was the beginning of a difficult time. my magic phone, the fabulous object that i named excalibur, had stopped working, placing us in a sort of communication limbo. work had trickled to a stop, and the financial standing of the endless road trip began to seem questionable. what had been a full on “ride-like-the-wind” vibe was taking on a more somber, serious tone. chalk it up to money woes, broken toys, or the beginnings of the natural shift that comes at the end of a long and productive summer, our arrival in spokane was accompanied by a small gray cloud directly over my increasingly worried head.
as a result, my initial experience of spokane was rather abstracted. instead of being able to focus on the marvels of riverfront park and the turquoise chaos of the spokane river, i was stressing out about how much money we didn’t have and how i would be able to conduct my business without excalibur. i remember a bag of freshly made miniature donuts that managed to snap me out of this rather depressing headspace for a few minutes, but for the most part, i was tense and nervous, as if bracing for a sudden, unexpected blow.
my second visit to spokane took place under markedly different circumstances. i returned on a business trip, which means that although this second visit might have been equally abstracted, it was a much lighter abstraction. as a result, i was able to wander happily through all of the landmarks that i remembered — the world’s fair pavilion, the old clock tower, the pedestrian bridge over the spokane river — without the constant nag of worry and doubt. the air was brisk and edged with humidity. a band of hacky-sackers laughed in the distance, their single-speed road bikes strewn thoughtlessly on the emerald green grass. a family sat at the edge of a pond feeding/being attacked by flocks of birds. color bled at the edges of tree crowns. my stomach was full of sushi and miso soup. i was tired from a long week of travel and work, and i missed tim and mazy somethin awful, but i felt happy and content. spokane is a very cool little city.
what became apparent was that the only real difference between my two visits to spokane was what i chose to pay attention to. the first time around i was inhabiting the interior world of worry and doubt, scratching worst-case scenarios into the walls of my mind. the second time, i paid attention to the reality that surrounded me. the shell of my own solipsism had been broken. the funny thing is that both of these worlds — insidious worry and the remarkable present — are always present; parallel planes that exist in the same space but in different dimensions. one gives solace and one gives dis-ease. luckily, whether we realize it or not, we always have the agency to decide where our attention — that most valuable of resources — will be paid.
what probably appears below is a blank screen with a funny logo off to the side of it. click on the pane and hopefully, what will appear is a 360-degree snapshot of spokane’s riverfront park. click and drag on the window to scroll up, down, left and right. and if you want to zoom in to check out the hacky-sackers or the girl wearing pajamas and slippers, click the + button in the lower left corner. i’m pretty pleased with this little chunk of technology and i hope you enjoy it as much as i do.
music in the video: da me cinco, by blip blip bleep, courtesy of iodapromonet.
Blip Blip Bleep
“Da Me Cinco” (mp3)
from “Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up – EP”
(Undercover Culture Music)
Buy at iTunes Music Store
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at mTraks
More On This Album
BACK EAST TO EDEN
for 6 long, beautiful, intense years, tim was the farmer for pitcher mountain csa. perched on the flank of pitcher mountain in stoddard, nh, the farm was the source of joy and beauty, stress and frustration. i met tim during his last two years of farming there and when i began to go up to visit with and help him out with farm chores, i was overwhelmed by the scope of the endeavor. by the time he left, tim (and a small team of interns) was responsible for starting, planting, growing, nurturing and harvesting about two acres of local, organic vegetables; enough to feed 120 local families.
the decision to leave pmcsa did not come easily for tim. after pouring so much of his soul into this rocky patch of windswept soil, he wasn’t sure what would be left to define him if he gave it up. this cold day in august was the first time tim had returned to pmcsa during harvest season in almost two years. since he left, there have been three other farmers and the scale of the operation has diminished considerably. the dozens of raised beds that he so lovingly crafted have been tilled under, the years of constant weeding have been all but undone. but more important than the changes that have occurred is the simple fact that pitcher mountain csa is still going strong. tim has left a beautiful legacy for his community. i am so proud of what he accomplished on pitcher mountain and what he has accomplished since letting it go.
FOOD PARTY OR DIE!
one of the dangers of the endless road trip is that whenever we visit friends and/or family, folks are inclined to show us a good time by making us a delicious meal or taking us to their favorite restaurant. this can lead to a non-stop food party. and while i surely enjoy all of the wonderful, tasty, satisfying food, there have definitely been times — just a few, mind you — when i have been inclined to over indulge. damn you herrell’s!
after coming off of our latest vermont food party, some physical activity was definitely in order. there are only so many blocks of grafton extra-sharp cheddar cheese seconds one can down without beginning to feel a bit lactose intolerant. so. we headed from quechee, vt to the northern end of the white mountains of new hampshire for a few days of camping. the cold temperatures helped us burn through some calories, but really, we had a lot of making up to do. first up, an exhilarating and bracing 14-mile bike ride (7 miles uphill; 7 miles down) along the franconia notch bike trail. we stopped and paid our tributes to the old man of the mountain and watched a group of school kids swim (in 50 degree temperature mind you!) in echo lake. crazy kids and their crazy music!
next, a 7-mile hike to and from the zealand falls hut. if that’s not cardiovascular exercise, i don’t know what is. and happily, my 39-year old body leapt to both challenges with nary a complaint. not that i should be overly proud of my accomplishment. mazy’s 84 years old in human years and she did the hike naked and without shoes!
so now that that’s all over with, i say bring on the next food party!
IT’S TIME TO LEAF PEEP FOR YOUR LIFE!
tim says that the hot, dry summer means that the fall foliage is going to begin blazing early. judging from what’s going on in quechee, vt and hanover, nh, i’d say he’s right on the money. every time i go outside, i’m convinced that the trees are starting to show a little more color. it’s beautiful.
having just spent so much time in the rockies, it is easy to pooh-pooh the miniature landscape of new england. as my friend val says, “the mountains are small, the rivers are small, the distances are small, the snowstorms are small; even the tornadoes and hurricanes are small!” but what is remarkable about this yankee biome is not that it is so small, it’s that so much majesty is crammed into this place, practically filling every nook and cranny. without the soaring heights and overwhelming vertigo of the rockies, these new england mountains can still touch the most obdurate soul. the plethora of new york and new jersey license plates flying willy-nilly about the place is a testament to this fact.
karla, the friend that we’ve been crashing with this weekend, is a full-on city girl. it’s been wonderful to see rural vermont through her eyes, through her exclamations of delight and rapture. as the next turn in the road reveals another spectacular view of a mirror-still river; a mountain setting itself on fire; a pasture filled with scotch highland cattle.
it’s so nice to be back in vermont!
WALKING ON WATER
one of the most surprising, beautiful and surreal places that we’ve visited on this endless trip is right here , tucked into the southern edge of colorado, right where the rockies begin to descend into new mexico. the first time we laid eyes upon this bizarre landscape was in june of 2009, relatively early on in our journey. by that time we had logged a lot of road miles, but because of a lingering rocky mountain winter and a couple of long-ish house sitting gigs, we hadn’t yet done a lot of actual camping. as we pulled off of US160, heading north towards the great sand dunes, we somewhat naively believed that the place would be mostly empty and that we would have our pick of the park’s campsites. i mean, we’re talking about an extremely isolated, sparsely populated stretch of high plains desert…the veritable middle of nowhere.
and yet, as we pulled in, we couldn’t help but notice the line of heavily laden suvs, pickup trucks, and rvs. the place was a madhouse! when we finally reached the entry gate, we were greeted by a sign — campground full — and a speech that the park ranger seemed to be reciting from memory: “i’m sorry folks, but our campground is all full up. you might try san luis lakes state park, about 10 miles away, but i’m not sure if there’s any space there either. there’s also a privately owned campground just outside the park boundary…don’t bother asking about tomorrow, because we’re going to be all full up then too.”
the dunes themselves are magnificent. this is one of the few national parks that allow dogs anywhere past the parking lot and so the three of us dragged our way up a series of undulating, collapsing ridge lines, attempting to get a glimpse of the vast interior of the the dune field. every time we crested another dune, some subtle magic lured us onward, promising us a greater revelation if we managed to reach the next peak, the next vista. we hiked until all we could see, from horizon to horizon, were dunes. it felt like we were on another planet, like we could have walked on forever.
as remarkable as the dunes were, it was the medano creek and the surge flow that captured my imagination. there was something so entrancing, so completely compelling about the endless combinations of wind, sand, water and sunlight, that i fell into a post of fugue state, utterly transfixed. patterns emerged and retreated in the water’s surface; a strange and half remembered calligraphy. within the space of a few windswept minutes, the water would take the form of delicate herringbone lace, a single standing wave, a string of tiny suns.
my communion with this place brought one of the first and most persistent revelations of our journey. standing ankle deep in snowmelt, held in the distant embrace of sun, sky, mountain, dune, forest and cloud, the connection between all of these physical forms became manifest and wholly evident. the only thing separating smoke and creek, sand dune and pine tree were the relative scale of time and size. beyond that, there is no distinction. everything exists only for a moment, every form is transient. all that holds us together is vibration; we are simply standing waves in the profound medium of universal energy. we arise and subside as quickly as a pattern in sand, as unexpectedly as a tree growing on the shoulder of a mountain, as beautifully as a forest fire. all is one.
words are as inadequate a tool as a cell phone camera in the attempt to capture the depth and reach of a landscape like this. better not to dwell too long on these ineffable concerns. better to simply surrender to the call of whimsy, of play, released from the bounds of eternity. let the mountains grind themselves to bits, let the sand scatter, let the snow dissolve into the desert. the sun is shining, the breeze is cool, and the whole world, even the forest exploding into flame, trembles with beauty.
arriving in new mexico felt wonderful. arizona’s springtime temperatures were starting to edge towards summer and as we climbed the western slopes of the mogollon mountains, we were welcomed by a cool breeze, a pine forest, and a blue, new mexican sky. our tentative game plan was to find a place to camp near the gila cliff dwellings. it being easter weekend, we knew we were taking our chances, but we acted boldly and with confidence. the universe, i am told, responds favorably to those who do.
despite our general tardiness and the amber sunlight of late afternoon, we made a quick detour through silver city to give mazy a walk and refill on coffee. immediately, it became apparent that we were no longer in arizona. people were craggier, rougher; nary a spray tan in sight. the town seemed poorer yet more vibrant. there was a co-op selling locally crafted herbal remedies and several of the many bakeries and restaurants were touting local, organic ingredients. it even had a beautiful old abandoned rollerskating rink tucked into the corner of downtown. looking at the handlettered signs and careful muralwork, i could almost hear the laughter and music that must have echoed from these cinder block walls. olivia newton john’s thin voice hovered in the air and i fell into my own private xanadu fantasy. the things this old place has seen!
as the sun began to duck behind a high mountain ridge, we found an open campsite along the banks of the cherry creek, on the edge of the gila national forest. there were several other groups in the small campground, including one that was broadcasting an r and b oldies station. we set up our tent and cooked dinner while listening to the soulful sounds of the jackson 5, rick james, and teena marie.
after spending so many nights sealed off from the starry sky, it was wonderful to sleep outside again. the three of us bundled up in our tent, as thick as thieves, reclaiming each other as pack.
the next day we drove 35 miles of beautiful, winding roads into the gila in order to visit the cliff dwellings hidden in the wilds of the mogollon. as at mesa verde, hovenweep and chaco canyon, the structures were beautiful, mysterious and strangely comforting. outside, the air shimmered hot and dry; in the cliff’s hollows, a cool breeze blew. something about their scale and setting gave there ancient structures an air of safety and comfort. we wandered silently through the ruins, marveling. these folks built and inhabited this compound (we are told) in the 1100s! what will the ruins of our civilization look like in the year 2900?
while there, we had a short, satisfying conversation with one of the park rangers. we talked about religious bigotry and racism, president obama and the teabaggers. she told us about the vandal fires that destroyed the intact roofs sometime in the 1800s. after a couple of weeks spent in mccain country, it was wonderful to meet a kindred spirit. “sometimes you just can’t understand what people are thinking,” she said resignedly. “you would not believe,” she continued, “how many people ask me why the native americans built their dwellings so far from the highway!”
i opened my mouth to let loose another diatribe against arizona’s willfully malicious ignorance and the hypocrisy that runs rampant through the current political discourse, but something stopped me. here we were, on a beautiful, early spring day, passing a few moments with a lovely woman in the shade of an ancient cliff dwelling. why continue to dwell on the imperfections of a transient world?
we thanked her for sharing her stories and continued our hike back down the canyon and to the shady dirt lot where our truck and our dog sat waiting.