19 July 2013

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Ponyboy & Johnny: Nothing Gold Can Stay

Brian Eno: I'll Come Running
Another Green World, 1975

Françoise Hardy: Le temps de l'amour
The Yeh-Yeh Girl from Paris!, 1965

The Beach Boys: Girl Don't Tell Me
Summer Days, 1965

Linda Ronstadt: Baby, You've Been on My Mind
Hand Sown ... Home Grown, 1969

Johnny & June Cash: If I Were a Carpenter
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, 1969

Lena Hughes: Pearly Dew
Queen of the Flat Top Guitar, early 1960s

Angel Olsen: Tiniest Seed
Half Way Home, 2012

The Instruments: Mountain Song
Dark Småland, 2008

Sleeping States: Contact Lunacy
There the Open Spaces, 2007

Peter Howe: I'm Alive
Morning of the Earth OST, 1971

Love: Mushroom Clouds
Love, 1966

John Stammers:
Idle I'm (Colorama Coloured in Remix)

Remix 7", 2011

Archie Fisher: Open the Door Softly
Archie Fisher, 1968

Emmanuelle Parrenin: Thibault et l'arbre d'or
Maison Rose, 1977

Kate Bush: Cloudbusting
Hounds of Love, 1985

Virginia Astley: A Summer Long Since Passed
Hope in a Darkened Heart, 1986

Jessica Pratt: Bushel Hyde
Jessica Pratt, 2012

Vetiver: No One Word
To Find Me Gone, 2006

The Clientele: Never Anyone But You
Bonfires on the Heath, 2009

John Cale: Paris 1919
Paris 1919, 1973

Thalia Zedek Band: Walk Away
Via, 2013

Robert Frost: Nothing Gold Can Stay

Notes: A full 80 minutes of gauzy, breezy, wispy respite from the heat. Because some summers, man, oh man, they drop like flies. And, yes, this is that summer.

For the faithful I might update the list with albums and dates but for now the music itself will fill all the holes.

Thanks to play it as it lathes for some bits of needed inspiration.

01 July 2013

Looking at the World Through a Windshield

Spring vanished into a blur of road trips and job applications. And now it's summer. And now the temperature approaches 100 degrees.

The end of April meant moving big black beasts to spring pasture on the desert. Two trucks and two trailers with the capacity to hold about twelve steers each; about 500 steers to move; and a total round-trip time from corral to desert of about 1.5 hours. You do the math.

Driving into the kīpuka and a late season snow flurry.

Sheepherders staking their claim.

Freed happy bastards.

Back to Carey.

No man's land.

The tail end of the storm and the tail end of the Pioneer Mountains.

Next it was off to Wyoming, Laramie specifically, via small roads and smaller towns.

The mighty Snake River poised to experience spring runoff from the mighty Tetons.

The Gros Ventre Range from too afar.

The Wind River Range and Wyoming's highest peak, Gannett (13,809 ft).

What to do in Pinedale.

Because in America the views from your car aren't always as preferred as the views on your car.

There is one thing they do have in Wyoming.

Stayed in the famous Virginian Hotel in the not-so-famous, one-horse town of Medicine Bow and had my first whisky in many, many years. When in Wyoming...

The only thing that inhibits a Wyoming view are the requisite windbreaks in front of your Wyoming home.

Snowy Range Ski Area in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains.

Sinclair, Wyoming. Which came first: the oil refinery or the town?

Back in Idaho.

A few short days after my return I headed west bound for Elko. Six days on the road and I ain't gonna make it home tonight.

The Spanbauer rock barn and dance hall just outside of Twin Falls. It's for sale.

Salmon Falls Creek and the old Wells highway.

Approaching the East Humbolts.

The East Humbolt Range south of Wells and underneath Angel Lake.

Back to Idaho and then north. A week with the little man above Cascade.

Leaving the Soldiers behind again.

School camp morning meditation.

Springtime in the Rockies.

Perfect peace.

Home for now. The engine idles.

02 May 2013

The Last Honest Face

RIP Scott Miller
(04 April 1960 – 15 April 2013)


There are those who crumble empires with their music (see George Jones). Then there are others who with a simple chord change, hook, and melody make the heart flutter and quietly skip a beat. Scott Miller was in the latter camp and sometimes the last flutter of a butterfly's wings can change the direction of tides and cause rivers to run backwards.

01 May 2013

08 April 2013

No Time No Blog

Been busy. Trying to reestablish oneself in a new geography means shooting a lot of arrows straight into the sky and holding your breath to see which one hits something. So while waiting for arrows to reenter the atmosphere I've also been trying to maintain a semblance of myself.

The following is a semblance of myself:

Music. There is always music. In moving vehicles, in headphones, from a computer, from a portable radio, in my head. Sadly, not from a proper stereo yet. Among the many faves is this set from the wonderfully otherworldly Broadcast (RIP). It's a live "Black Session" from the Parisian radio station France Inter recorded in May 2000 and featuring the original band members supporting their first album The Noise Made By People. Incroyable et trop cool.

Sample song: Long Was the Year. Indeed.

Friends. Friends are important during busy times. Hazel needed a friend and I suppose I did too. So we brought one home. Then we lost her even before we could become good friends. Fuck.

Books. Living the somewhat solitary life, there have been plenty of books blowing through these hollow walls. Sad to say, other than the hundredth or so re-read of Tom Spanbauer's The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon--mostly because I am back in Idaho and close to Craters of the Moon, and so is the book--very little has struck a chord. A few to mention:

Richard Francaviglia, Believing in Place: A Spiritual Geography of the Great Basin. I was hopeful but this 250 page book took me about three months to read. He even quotes a folklorist or two and uses some theoretical ideas steeped in folklore study but good-god-a-mighty the whole thing read like someone's PhD dissertation. No wonder no one reads those things.

Annie Proulx, Close Range: Wyoming Stories. For someone who is neither a Westerner nor a man, it's not bad. Seems like she wants us to believe she's both, though. Some stories are even worth reading again, though I haven't. Her use of Western dialect and inclusion of every tedious ranching work related detail becomes gratuitous and over the top soon enough. I mean, yeah, there are people out here named Leeland and Leecil, but not everyone. And some of those people even speak in complete and grammatically correct sentences. Overall, to me, it seems a good book for NPR loving Easterners who still marvel at black bears sorting through trash cans in Yellowstone.

Diane Josephy Peavey, Bitterbrush Country. Hmm. A book of very short, one to two page, pieces, many of which were read over the radio on, you guessed it, Boise's NPR affiliate station. Speaking of Connecticut Yankees in King Arthur's Court, if she had only run on that theme more often the book would have been interesting. It's when she tries to do what Annie Proulx beats you over the head with that you question whether or not you're living that NPR nightmare. And she's a nice person, and so is her husband, and they live just up the road from me.

Barry Lopez, About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory. The pieces I could finish were fantastic, the rest, well, I couldn't finish. Barry Lopez is a beautiful writer, that's for sure, and reading him makes you feel small and insignificant and sometimes, I think, that's good. But there is an 11 page story about his hands and, I'm sorry, that's just not acceptable and it makes me feel that Barry might be a little too aware of himself as a wonderful writer.

Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety. Still working on it. It's okay. For someone with a reputation as one of the preeminent Western writers this novel is about two couples wiggling their way around East Coast academic issues like not getting tenure and spending summers on tranquil lakes in Vermont. There are some nice bits and bobs, though (as they say in East Coast academic circles, don't they?). Like this:

What he'd probably like best of all would be to move up here the year around and write poems and dig in the local history and folklore and jot down in his journal when the Jack-in-the-pulpit and Calypso orchids come out, and how the crows get through the winter.

Yeah, me too. And especially this:

You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine.

Food. We all gotta eat. I admit I was a little worried. I moved back to Idaho from Geneva where I did our weekly shopping just over the border in France. In France they take their weekly shopping seriously. To be in Boise is not a problem. The Boise Co-op is an institution and they have one of the best wine shops in the Territory and maybe even on the frontier. Living in the hinterlands, however, and most of Idaho could be considered the hinterlands, is a different issue. Living in the Eurozone, I fell in love with fennel and, yes, you can find it way out West though it is often something like $2.50 a pound. Ridicule!

On the other hand, between Sun Valley Grass Fed Beef and coddled 4-H steers I've been inundated with some of the best beef in the galaxy. That and the fact that Idaho rivers are legendary for the things that swim in them.

Work. Unavoidable. You do it and sometimes you're paid and sometimes you're not. Sometimes you work for nonpayment in order to dig a foundation of your own digging. Sometimes you work to help and that might be the best kind of work as long as those you help understand your help as work.

Since returning to this island continent my life has been filled with work. Non-stop, paid, unpaid, foundational support, charting new territory, pain-in-the-ass, rewarding work. There have been times of complete exhaustion and aching body parts and there have been times of eye-crossing tedium. It's all kinda the same.

On occasion, though, usually at unpredictable times—say, driving a load of shingles to a landfill on a back road in a completely non-legal, ancient dump truck with an engine so loud you can't hear yourself think—that you might look up into the sky or across the sagebrush fields and disappear into a thought sublime and crystal clear. A hawk might bank itself into the thought or a series of delicate cloud patterns might focus themselves in your vision. Whatever happens, the effect is to jar you out of both a state of hard-driving purpose and a momentary lapse of attention. Between those two states is a perfect place, somewhere not quite real but a product of a very busy day-to-day existence. Within those rare moments of perfection I understand the victory of a Red-tailed Hawk and I know that in that moment there is no greater accomplishment than completing a given task.

Ski. There have been years with less skiing, like the winter I spent in Mexico. And that's a good reference point: ten years ago, the winter of 2002-2003 was spent in Guadalajara, Mexico, the first step in a ten year globetrotting run. It doesn't snow much in central Mexico. Ten years later it didn't snow much in south central Idaho. Amid the hustle and bustle of this transitional year I try to make the best of it and I ski when I can (see 'Work' above).

(Smoky Dome, 10,095 ft. & North Smoky Dome, 9,937 ft.)

As someone who is particularly attached to giant mounds of earth nestled under frozen water it's hard to see their white spires every day off in the distance and know that I won't be able to visit them. It's equally difficult not knowing how one winter will evolve into a spring and then a summer and what all that will bring. It's hard when you know you have something to accomplish but you're not quite sure where to excavate the foundation. The uncertainties are often exciting, too, and encourage creativity, like climbing to the top of a familiar peak only to find your favorite couloir decimated by an avalanche. What to do now? Ten years ago, while I bemoaned the fact that I was spending a snowless winter in Mexico, a wise person said to me, "Don't worry, Steven, those mountains will still be there when you return." And he was right.


08 March 2013

Done Sprung

Oh, it's spring alright. Other than a series of stupidly cold and subsequently dry weeks in January I'm not totally sure when and if winter ever started. In addition to a sprinkle here and there that was immediately blown into oblivion, what remains is still the same three feet of snow that dropped sometime late December and early January. That's okay; this is what you might call a "transitional period" in every sense and context imaginable. Just imagine.

Imagine digging your truck out after collapsing through a wind-buffed crust and spinning on ice on a dirt road on which you never should have considered driving. Imagine immaculate silence once you soaked your clothing and parked the truck safely and turned off the engine. Imagine bending a corner and scaring ancient gangly desert moose from their Quaking Aspen hiding. Imagine wandering into a snowy high desert landscape with nowhere to go. Imagine another day in the sun and the post-winter non-winter blues fade as quick as they come.


Goal #1: Find snow. Obvious maybe but in this year of winds blowing cold and fast and non-stop straight down from the top of the planet it is better to leave nothing assumed. Anyway, lava rock makes for good hiking.

Rule #1: Once through the lava rock, find a ridgeline and run with it as far and as high as it will take you. It might be the last of the dependable snow for some time.

Rule #2: Once on top search fast for your options because the snow conditions might be a totally different state of miserable by the time you make it over that way.

The higher and farther you move the options expand. Hidden canyons appear out of nowhere, tight gullies open into saddles and passes that connect to other systems of passes, gullies, and canyons. Maps, then, are meaningless as representations of expansiveness and endless silent contours. Soon enough it feels like your own private Alaska. Not Alaska, though, Idaho, and your own private statement to the weird weather of 2013.

Rule #3: Variable snow conditions can be fun, too. This is a little more dependent on equipment and your ability to fly rather than sink.

Variable means variable, as in exhibiting great inconsistencies from one rounded curve to the next.

Goal #2: Fly, don't sink.

A strange winter and I'm a little doubtful of the spring. The quest will continue, though the quest for what I'm not sure. Good snow? Higher mountains? Finding art in the everyday? Silence in the noise? Truth in winter?

On the long haul home I was introduced to the phrase, "rendered truth." I like that phrase.