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.
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.
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.
(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.