Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ghosts That Haunt

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.................John Muir 
So do we pass the ghosts that haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all. The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely crosses our minds. Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little..........Stephen King, Dark Tower Set 
The morning heat had already soaked through the walls, rising up from the floor like a ghost of summers past.............Erik Tomblin, Riverside Blues 
Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.................Rabindranath Tagore
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go -- so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, 'There is no memory of him here!'
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.............Rachel Carson
The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color...........Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Desire To Walk

There was a time when we lived in Juneau when it rained every day for six weeks straight.
Six weeks of endless cold, endless cloud cover and endless rain.  
In June and July.
Rain was a way of life in Juneau, and after living there for a while I quickly came to understand what the locals had told me not long after I arrived in that isolated town that is also the capital city of Alaska - do whatever you were planning on doing regardless of the weather.
'Cause if you waited for a sunny day you could be waiting for a long time.
The rain, the constant cloud cover, the cold even in the middle of summer, never bothered me.  Not for a minute.
But in truth I would never have imagined while living in that damp, moss filled, rain forest environment that only a few years later we would be living in the high plains desert in Idaho.
And that the endless dryness and blue sky could become so tedious.
I wake in the mornings wishing for rain in the summer, knowing of course that the likelihood of that happening is very small.
The weather here changes constantly during the other seasons of the year, but summer in the Snake River Plain is what it is.  
My need for water is increasing as it does predictably after weeks of high desert plains.  
We need to go in search of it soon.  
We need to feed the need................

A few days ago LC, Kory and I headed away from our tiny town and drove out into the desert.
It was early morning and the temperature had not yet reached the predictable blast furnace levels of mid summer in SE Idaho.
Cedar Butte is located 8 BLM miles or so from Atomic City, and as my 56 pound dog stood on the seat with her head excitedly stuck out of the passenger side window of the Tahoe, I looked out over the endless emptiness of the land.
I hadn't been on Cedar Butte in a couple of months and was eager to walk.  
It would be a short walk I knew because right now it is far too hot to walk too far, but I viewed this outing as a good opportunity to test how our pup would do off leash among the hills and trees of this expansive rise in the desert.
Kory has run endlessly on wide open BLM land.  She has eagerly explored rocky lava fields.  And she has wandered happily among the tall and lush sage brush that can be found in the desert if you look hard enough for such things.
But on this day we would wander off trails, in and among trees, sometimes losing sight of each other.  We were prepared (if need be) to wander in search of our wayward dog who may run after deer or rabbits or possibly even coyotes.  
But we hoped that we wouldn't have to.
A link to a previous blog post with other stories about Cedar Butte:
Not long after leaving the house, LC turned left off the gravel Big Butte Rd and drove a short ways before pulling into a dusty, wide open area where four wheelers typically off load.
A brief hike and we reached a fork in the trail.
The left fork circles all the way around Cedar Butte.  The right trail immediately heads up into the hills of the butte and that is the direction that we headed.
Once Kory hit the trail she ran ahead of us, enjoying the freedom of space and  the feeling of unbridled movement.  Her unwavering joy at experiencing such freedom never ends.
I see it in her face, in the way she moves, in the way she runs and explores, and that joy pleases me.
I don't know what her life was like in Tampa Bay, Florida when her name was first Lily and then Korea, but I can only imagine what her life was like during the months that she spent at the shelter.
Can only imagine how she must have felt when she was finally adopted by a family, immediately jumped their fence upon arrival at her new home, and then was immediately returned to the shelter.
Can only imagine how she must have felt when our friend took her out of the shelter, and then a week later put Kory into a cage and loaded her into the cargo section of a plane.
When I see this beautiful dog running through endless BLM land I am always reminded of just how lucky she was to find us, and how lucky we were to ultimately find her...................

The Twin Buttes to the left and Rattlesnake Butte to the right.............
The trail was open and dusty and it climbed quickly.
Neither LC nor I had a specific plan.  No specific destination in mind.  
No specific agenda other than to explore some more of the butte and gain confidence in our dogs' ability and desire to stay close to her people.
A look back at the Tahoe as we continued to climb................
Cedar Butte is such an interesting place to me.
Unlike the wonderful and very beautiful Big Butte that has only one trail leading to the top, Cedar is a vast conglomeration of trails that veer in every direction.
There is a trail at the base that circumnavigates the entire butte, and we have eagerly driven that trail a handful of times over the past year.
There are also a number of trails and trail heads spread out over the entire butte, which means that every single trip that we have taken has been a different and unique adventure.
Through the winter and spring I often heard large packs of coyotes howling in these hills.
There are deer and elk tracks everywhere you look.  
Much of the butte is filled with small, rough and rugged and hardy cedar trees.  The type with thick and spiny needles, and whose limbs have been twisted over many years into mangled shapes by the strong and unrelenting desert winds............
Looking north towards the entrances to the Big and Little Lost River Valleys..............
In the increasingly daunting heat, we stopped walking the trail with its steep incline and impulsively began to bushwhack through the thick sage brush to our left.
We were still climbing, but were heading towards the short and rugged cedar trees that were located on a rise.
Kory was wandering, and although she disappeared frequently behind trees and large boulders, she was not wandering too far.
Each time we called to her she quickly reappeared.  Excitedly bouncing back to us. 
And each time she returned, LC and I felt more encouraged that our sweet pup was now trained enough and bonded enough to be able to handle this much freedom without getting injured or lost.
In the heat of summer Kory has now almost completely weaned herself from the hot dog treats that we used so often through the winter and spring to encourage her to return to us.
It's all beginning to come together............
This black fungus is all over the butte, and attaches itself to rocks that lay in the sun.
This was the first patch that I saw and so I quickly snapped a picture of it before moving on, but as we continued to explore I realized that it was everywhere.
In some places rocks were covered with surprisingly thick layers of this black, spongy fungus.............
Kory and LC looking out over the Twin Buttes and the Snake River Plain.............
After reaching the top of the cedar covered rise, LC found a gully that led down the back side of the hill.
Neither of us had ever explored this part of the butte before, but we both knew that it must lead back down to the trail that meanders around the entire butte.
From there we could simply walk the trail back to the Tahoe..............
90 minutes after we left the truck we eagerly grabbed for bottles of water.
Kory drank from LCs hand as she loves to do, and then LC and I shared a bottle before slowly driving gravel road back to the air conditioned comfort of the house.
It was a good walk.  They're always good walks on Cedar Butte...............

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it............... Soren Kierkegaard

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Wonderful Silence

The past few days have been mired in a combination of blast-furnace-like heat, and the collection of wood and metal.
Our neighbor moved out of the home she had lived in for over 30 years recently.  
She has the home up for sale and (as she was beginning the long process of cleaning out her home) she asked if we wanted a lot of the metal and wood that had been stored in her old shed ever since her husband had died a few years ago.
There was a lot there.  Chain link fence, rebar, fence posts, plywood, lumber, tractor parts and endless metal......things.....that all look like junk to me but which LC either wants or wants to sell for scrap.
It is too hot to do too much outside these days, so what we are succeeding in doing right now is stacking future projects.
Enough plywood for build a shed in the corner of the yard to store lawn mowers and weed eaters and manual yard tools.
Rebar and posts and chain link enough to line the yard along one side of the property.
Bricks still stacked against the indoor wood shed patiently waiting to be layed as a floor for an outdoor patio.
A badly constructed green house that is attached to the house and that is waiting to be torn down (to be replaced with the outdoor patio).
A carefully constructed and smaller green house waiting to be built behind the indoor wood shed.
A pile of logs still waiting to be split and stacked so that it can dry for a year or two.
A 5 x 5 window waiting to be installed in what will eventually be the sun room.
4 poplar trees that need to be planted after the worst of the summer heat is over
A home exterior still badly in need of painting.
And likely more, but that seems like more than enough projects to think about for now, and we knew that updating and upgrading this home would be a project that took a couple of years to complete.
That prediction still holds true today so I try not to think about those projects in their totality, but rather try to think of them individually.
We have done a lot over this past year, but there is still much to do before this house is what we envisioned that it would be.......................

These are totally random pictures that were taken during walks with Kory around Atomic City over the past few days.
After the deer disappeared from town for a few months in the spring I worried that they may be gone for good.
They provided me with quiet and sweet sightings throughout the fall and winter, and I enjoyed their presence more than I expected that I would.
With the first sign of their return a couple of months ago, I realize now that I am again looking forward to constant visits with large herds come fall.
In the meantime, in-town deer sightings are hit and miss.
They are still traveling through town alone or with one or two others, and Kory and I have no idea where or when we will bump into them.
Often we will be at one end of town and I will see them bouncing across a yard at the other end of town.
Many times I will turn a corner and unexpectedly see a deer frozen under a tree, watching us closely.
The mother with twins now lives in town full time and we see them often.  Momma keeps her young safely away from all humans so getting pictures of them is hit and miss.  
The little guys are still bouncing around like Tiggers from Winnie-the-Pooh but are growing fast.  
They are very cute but (as my son used to tell me with good-natured cynicism) all baby mammals are cute...............
A few days ago I walked with Kory over to the "hay bay field" that is located just on the outskirts of town.
 She needed to run and explore and do all the joyful things that young and energetic pups need to do.
In front of the long wall of hay bales are four silos, and behind the silos (about 12 miles away) are the Twin Buttes.
I have no idea who owns the silos or the land that they sit on, but we have never seen what looks like an owner visiting this property.
The silos are beginning to falter in their sturdiness.  The desert environment is kind to them but they are slowly beginning to show the inevitable signs of both age and neglect.
I love these silos.  
They provide a sense of geometry and architecture to a town that has very little of either.
They stand silently watching over the vast and empty Snake River Plain.
Soldiers never standing at ease.  
Silent guardians of the desert...............
The silos are only a few minutes walk from the house.
Kory knows every square inch of this field (as do I) and I watched her dancing and prancing around the field, enjoying the sight of her.
Enjoying the sheer athleticism of my dog.  Loving the sight of her enjoying herself so much.
She felt free when she was running.
I could see it on her face and see it in her body language.
And I could remember that feeling..............
The BLM fire station, with the Twins in the background.
The fire station is manned throughout the dangerous Idaho wild fire season, which runs from the end of May through the end of September.............
On this particular day I watched Kory as she ecstatically ran in circles and then eagerly returned to me for a small hot dog treat.
As we wandered from one large field to the field containing the silos, my dog suddenly began to sprint towards the gravel road a football field length away from where I stood.
I called to her and she ignored me.
Still sprinting, she ran beyond the silos and beyond the hay bales close to the gravel road.
I watched as she easily cleared the fence, ran across the road and disappeared over a rise on BLM land without missing a beat.
She had played out this scenario 20 times before over the past months only............this time was different.
Something has clicked in my dogs' head recently.
She now predictably stays in the yard instead of bolting for the road and immediately disappearing from view.  She has cut off chases with a bunny or bird and returned to us when we have called to her while she is on the run.  
We can wander close to town and when she takes off she quickly returns to the house.
It's not a perfect system, but it's becoming an increasingly predictable system.
Somehow (as though someone had flipped a switch in her cute little furry head) she has begun to figure out that we will give her more freedom if she wanders within sight and ear shot of her people.
And nowadays we don't panic if she does wander because it is not for long and we know that she will return to us.
Something is beginning to work, she loves the additional freedom that we can now give her, and we love to see her free................
Kory had disappeared over the rise across the road from me and I stood in the silo field wondering briefly what I should do.
I turned back to the silos, snapped a few more pictures of them, and then looked for a low spot along the fence line to climb through so that I could take a direct line to the road.
A switch has been flipped in our dog but when she still disappears outside the city limits I want to find her.
Climbing through the fence I began to cross through an empty field and that is when I heard her.
Turning I saw my beautiful dog.  
Just like the Queen of the Castle she was balancing easily on top of the roof of the last silo.
I called to her and she ran down the side of the silo, sprinted across the field and greeted me with dancing, prancing, puppy energy and enthusiasm.
She wandered, but not far and not for long.
Then she came back to look for me. 
And that's a good thing...............
Sunset picture taken from the side of our neighbors' home................
The sun now sets around 9:30 and I know that I have missed many beautiful pictures over these past months because of my inability to be outside at that time of night.
But on this particular evening I was sitting at our ski picnic table with LC and Kory and realized that the sun was setting over BLM land.
Impulsively grabbing for Korys leash, we walked late in the evening, hoping to see both the setting sun and the deer wandering through town.................
After the endless, energy draining heat of the day, the night was cool and the sky was alive with color.
We wandered slowly through the back section of town and then slowly meandered our way through the few side streets that are in Atomic City, working our way towards the front end of our little, quiet, desolate desert town.
As it always does, the sky was changing in front of my eyes, and the muted and faded yellows and purples and pinks were outstanding in that subtle way that is so quietly beautiful.
And suddenly I was very glad that my dog and I were walking late in the evening..........
Close to the "main" road in town (that is actually just as quiet as every other road in town) something caught my attention.
Standing frozen beside a huge house at the edge of town was a doe.
Unmoving, she watched Kory and I slowly walk in her direction.
Kory had seen her and began to pull on the leash.
I pulled my dog closer to me and slowed our walking down even more.  Kory recognized my quiet tone of voice - I did not want to scare the deer.  
I did not want her to feel threatened.  I did not want to disturb her any more than she was already disturbed by our unexpected presence.
We walked closer and she remained unmoving.
As we passed by the bushes in the yard she moved her head so that she could keep us in view.
We continued slowly walking, and when we were standing directly in front of her we finally stopped for a moment.
Kory was silent and so was I, and when we had all cautiously stared at each other for another minute I gently pulled on Korys leash so that we could move on and leave her alone
Inwardly I smiled at one more quiet interaction with our city deer.............
You may have to enlarge this picture to see the deer..............
These pictures were all taken during a walk last night, and the story behind these pictures is the astonishing light.
The world looked so different because the light looked so different.  
I spent the entire, quiet walk through town looking around me in complete awe of the yellows and blues and greens that were so brilliant and that seemed to have magically brought this sleepy little desert community to life.
Every once in a great while I will see somebody riding on their four wheeler, but nobody ever walks in this town.  
Not in the winter.  Not in the summer.  Not ever.
Occasionally I run into someone working in their yard and we stop and chat for a few minutes.
But in truth, because I run in to so few people I actually give the residents of this town very little thought.
What I DO give a lot of thought to are the buttes, the sky, the trees and flowers and birds in summer, the icy mist and snow and continual ice crystals that cover every surface during the winter, the desert, the mountains, the deer, my quiet and very sweet interactions with my dog.
It is a quiet life that suits my overburdened psyche.  
It is the quiet life I need.
It works.............
Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully........Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth