Thursday, August 27, 2015

Simple Life In Dogs World

 A few days ago early in the evening, when the smoke from seemingly endless western wild fires had dissipated, I walked with my dog on BLM land.
We didn't travel far.
Rather, we stayed close to town.
Wandering down first one gravel road, we turned right onto a second gravel road, walked a couple of blocks and turned onto a short dirt trail that led out onto BLM land.
If we had headed out onto the trail we could have either circled our way all around the entire length of town at one fork, or continued walking out into the desert at a second.
For miles.
We did not do either one of those things.
Instead, I crossed into a huge field.  That leads to one more field.
That contains bales of old hay that Kory loves to run around, jump on, run across, scare rabbits from.
That leads eventually to four old potato silos that long ago fell into abandoned disrepair.................
 The Twin Buttes and BLM fire station, each covered by a light, smoky haze.................
 As I slowly and absently wandered through the fields I alternated watching for rattle snakes and looking out over the buttes.
Even though the buttes were visible, the mountains to the north and west were still completely hidden by the smoke.
It has been close to two weeks since we had last seen them.
Kory - as always - ran her joyful run and I watched my goofy mutt, enjoying the sight of her and envious of how simple her life seems to her.
She is fed, watered, exercised, loved.
There are vols to kill, and bunnies to chase, and life is good.
Life is so simple in a dogs' world....................
 The silos are one of only few outstanding features in this tiny town and I continue to love the silent geometry of them.
I was in no rush to walk hard and fast, and no hurry to head home, and so I continued to absently wander. Enjoying the silence,  Enjoying the emptiness.  Enjoying the aloneness of walking only with my dog and seeing only my dog.
I need a lot of alone time these days.................
She jumped around and on the silos and chased rabbits.
I walked.
She climbed onto hay bales and then chased rabbits.
I walked.
She ran through the tall grass and chased rabbits.
She deeply joyful at being embedded in the wonderful world of climbing, jumping, chasing and running.
Me walking but feeling..............what?
I'm not even sure anymore................
By the time I had circled around to the front of the potato silos I looked around me, scanning the area in search of my dog.
Normally I watch her closely as I make my way across a silent world.
Always wary of what she will get into - voles and moles and owls (oh my), deer, rattlesnakes or simply wandering mindlessly in the opposite direction to our direction of travel (always with head high in the air and I know that she has caught the scent of something intriguing).
On this day I had been lost in thought and had no idea where she was.
Calling her name, I already knew that if she was too far away she would not be able to hear me, and that if she was on the trail of something she would choose to ignore me.
I walked back the way I had come - away from the silos and headed towards the huge hills of long-abandoned hay and that is when I saw her.
Jumping around on the ground and hay bales, her excited, jerky movements telling me that some little unsuspecting critter was having a hard time of it..................
Rather than being annoyed with her I decided to patiently wait for her, and I watched my girl in mild and quiet bemusement as she continued to follow her nose.
Eventually I called her name again, and I watched some more as Kory sprinted in my direction..................
He awoke each morning with the desire to do right, to be a good and meaningful person, to be, as simple as it sounded and as impossible as it actually was, happy. And during the course of each day his heart would descend from his chest into his stomach. By early afternoon he was overcome by the feeling that nothing was right, or nothing was right for him, and by the desire to be alone. By evening he was fulfilled: alone in the magnitude of his grief, alone in his aimless guilt, alone even in his loneliness. I am not sad, he would repeat to himself over and over, I am not sad. As if he might one day convince himself. Or fool himself. Or convince others--the only thing worse than being sad is for others to know that you are sad. I am not sad. I am not sad. Because his life had unlimited potential for happiness, insofar as it was an empty white room. He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all. And each morning he would wake with it again in the cupboard of his rib cage, having become a little heavier, a little weaker, but still pumping. And by the midafternoon he was again overcome with the desire to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else somewhere else. I am not sad..........Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated............

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Walk For No Reason - Part 2

It was last weekend when Kory and I took this long walk up to the top of (and then around the ridge line) of one small part of Cedar Butte.
On that day the air was filled with haze and smoke from the wild fires that are surrounding us in all western states.
Since the day of this walk the smoke has only continued to get much worse.
Fires are raging wildly and out of control in California, Oregon, Northern Idaho and Montana, and the situation has only gotten more dire over this past week.
The fires have continued to spread, fire fighters tragically have been injured and three have died.
The air quality is considered hazardous for the entire state of Idaho.
Those who are healthy are warned to be outside on a limited basis, and those who are not healthy are warned simply to stay indoors.
Even though the fires in Northern Idaho are hundreds of miles away from us, the smoke has overwhelmed our region.  Not only have the mountains disappeared but now so have the buttes.
On some days we can see the blurry and smoky outline of Cedar, the Twins and Southern Buttes.
On some days we can see nothing at all but endless smoke that lays like a solid white wall covering the entire desert.
We had high hopes for both camping and fishing through late summer and early fall but that will not happen until the air clears, which may be a long while.
And through it all we cannot complain because tens of thousands of fire fighters across the west continue to bravely fight the good fight, hundreds of homes have been destroyed and families have been left with nothing.
And closer to the fires that air quality is even more hazardous than it is here.
There are so many that have it so much worse than we have it, and LC and I both continue to keep all of those affected by this disaster in our thoughts...................

By the time Kory and I were climbing the last steep hill of this trip I was getting thirsty and knew that my dog must be thirsty also.
As Kory effortlessly climbed the hill ahead of me (and then patiently waited for me to catch up) I decided that we would look for a shady place to sit at the top.  We would rest (OK.........I would rest), drink, and.........wasn't there an old power bar in the bottom of this pack?
I thought there might be, and suddenly I was very hungry.............. 
I knew from a previous trip to this place, that once we reached the top of this last hill it would be an easy hike for the duration.
The trail would take us on flat ground around the ridgeline of the hill we were now on, and eventually we would circle back to the canyon, pick up the trail again and it was down hill all the way back to the truck.
Not long after reaching the top I found a small tree, unclipped the chest and hip belts of my pack, tossed the pack down onto the trail, and gratefully planted my butt on a small rise on the side of the trail.
Digging into my pack I dug out a half bottle of water.
As I unscrewed the cap my sweet puppy wandered up to me and eagerly looked down at the bottle.
Smiling at her, I cupped my hand, poured water and watched as Kory thirstily finished off the bottle.
Digging out my last bottle, I unscrewed the cap, tilted the bottle and thirstily drank 1/3 of the bottle in one long swallow.
I was hungry.
I had not eaten before leaving the house, had not packed any food, and we had just spent the last 75 minutes or so doing nothing but hiking uphill.
 Inwardly I sighed.
Everything that I had ever known about "feeding the machine" while working out, had apparently long gone by the way side.
I was badly undernourished for the effort I was putting out, and I knew it.
BUT................I also knew that I had some kind of power bar buried in the bottom of my pack, and I rummaged around until I felt the familiar, rustling packaging.
With pleasant surprise I realized that I had three bars in my pack.
Digging one out I curiously looked at the package.
It was a Special K Protein Bar.  I liked Special K Protein Bars and as I continued to stare at it, I absently wondered how old it was.
Flipping it over I could find no expiration date.
What the probably had so many preservatives in it that it was good until 2020.
Deciding to live on the edge and give it a shot, I tore open the packaging, took a bite, and it tasted great.
The familiar taste of chocolate and oats, the combination of which had pretty much fed me through multiple races in multiple states over multiple years.
Kory again walked over to me and looked down at what I had in my hand.  
No Baby Girl - it's got chocolate in it and you can't have it.
She seemed to understand me because my dog quickly wandered off again, curious to investigate the area while I was sitting in one place.
Again I reached into my pack.  This time I dug out an oatmeal and chocolate chip Quaker granola bar.
I repeated the same routine of searching for (and not finding) an expiration date, deciding to give it a try, tearing open the packaging and hungrily taking a bite.
 A second after the bar hit my taste buds I spat it out onto the ground.
Tossing Quaker over a small rock wall close to me I dug into my pack one last time.
One more Special K bar, one more drink of water, and we were both good to continue on our way.
By the time I hauled my pack onto my back and reclipped the buckles, I was down to my last 1/2 of a bottle of water and knew that I would not be drinking any more water on this trip.
My 65 pound trail buddy would need it more than I did, and I resolved to hold onto it until we got back down to the Tahoe.
Which was fine.  We still had ridge to walk and then a very long down hill.
But temperatures were in the 70's and not the 90's.
We'd both be fine, but I did wish that I had brought one more bottle of water with me...............
Pictures taken while sitting on the edge of the trail....................
And some beautiful views while walking the ridge line................
And only a few pictures of our trip back down the butte...................
More maggot tracks................
Gnawing on some crunchy treat that she found on the trail.
It was a great hike.
Challenging, too warm but not hot, and my dog and I had a wonderful opportunity to wander together in the silence of our desert...................

 ........what it a place where I can return to myself. It's enough of a scramble to get to...that the energy expended is significant, and it translates into a change in my body chemistry and my psychological chemistry and my heart chemistry................Jay Salter