Archive for the ‘2. A Mountain in the Wind’ Category

He gets off the bus and walks through the misty morning air. Here, a glimpse of the mountain tops; even a peek leaves him yearning to chase the vision, to turn heel and move toward them like some magnetic pull- away from ruler straight streets to crooked trails.  Away from organized and orderly to the unpredictable and untouchable forces of nature.   Lately I feel like I’ve been turning my back on the rockies. They have their own way of moving, of displaying personality. They are constantly changing with the sun’s movement and cloud shadows. Every time you look at them, they are different, something new is highlighted; so whenever his eyes peel away he feels as if he is being slighted a chance to understand them more, to witness their beauty.  At the arboretum, he works methodically, following the same tried and true routine he’s become habituated to.  The only thing to distract him from the task that so consumes him, are his deep-seeded criticism for visitors.  Their bad habits, their noise, for their production of plastic and disposable waste. (Ignoring the fact or contradicting the fact that they are out to appreciate nature).  But of course, this criticism exists only in his thoughts.  He would never actually confront someone about this behavior; he’d rather quietly watch and pick up after them when they leave.

Back on the bus, a thin film of dirt along his limbs, he glowers at other passengers and keeps quiet. So consumed by their quest for acceptance and materialism, they are totally unaware of their surroundings!  That man on the phone has no idea there’s a red tailed hawk flying over his head.  That woman reading? Blissfully unaware of the sun glinting off the snow on the mountain peaks.  This is not a new thought.  He returns to it regularly- savoring the pain, much like a tongue running over a cold sore- almost subconscious and helpless.  But, he is right, in a way; as people drive their Hondas and draw money from bank machines, there are whales floating in the vast sea, predators chasing prey, tiny litters of wild dogs being born. They seem like different worlds, impossibly coexisting on one planet.

He steps off the metal steps, thanks the bus driver quietly, and walks to his cabin. He opens the door, pats Makea on the head, they perform their ritual walk in the woods.  Left behind, stoically and quietly waiting in his cabin are books, binoculars, camping gear, boots, and little else. Some photographs of mountains, climbing parties atop a summit. There is a picture of him and his family out camping: all of them sitting in a row along the lake shore line.  A great memory of a trip to the mountains in which everyone bickered and argued and battled the whole drive there, only to be healed, calmed, quieted and shushed by nature’s presence.  He returns to these items, turns on a yellow light, eats a simple supper as he reads a field guide or natural history book.  He cleans his one dish and one fork and one cup.   Afterwards, he walks outside, waters any plants that need it, puts his chickens into their coop for the night and stands for a moment before complete darkness envelops the yard. There’s a moment of gray silence in which everything melds in to the same color at varying shades as tree trunks become backlit by the simple acceptance of the day’s end. The light leaks out of the scene gently; gently but without pause.


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-AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the poll responses!  As the writing progresses, I have many new thoughts about formatting and the overall layout of the novel.  Things might change up a little bit here and there, as I settle in to the tone and direction of the stories.  Thanks for your patience!  And for those of you who are interested, I have simultaneously started writing about the writing process as I do this.  Feel free to read alongside! http://theblankpagedwriter.wordpress.com/  Cheers!-

He came home, opened the door, as if he knew (and he did know) that the dog was right behind the door, tirelessly wriggling his whole body in anticipation of that door.  They didn’t skip a beat; after a jolly reunion they headed straight for the thin but well-worn footpath.  

            What a particularly annoying day at work, and an extra loud day on the bus.  Thank god for this walk, just two minutes in and my heart starts to beat faster in happy exhilaration from moving my legs, from breathing crisp air, from escaping the squeeze of man-made things.  I’ve got to get a new doctor- that shmuck doesn’t even know what’s good for me.  High blood pressure. Bah. 

The afternoon sun is lower on the horizon.  The nights are producing more and more dew, until one morning we will wake up to white-edged frost painting every jagged leaf and pine.  Makea runs to the right somewhere, her wet nose just barely skimming the surface of the padded ground.  Shafts of sunlight stand tilted between trunks of douglas firs and pasty aspensThe trees have mostly dropped all their cones, as if they were women tossing handkerchiefs at a military parade.  Clay looks at them, and lost in recounting the day, the leaf litter blurs behind his thoughts.

 Pine cones. That little kid kept asking me questions about pine cones today.  He just had to ditch the family outing and interrupt me while I was raking. Reaching into my piles of leaves and needles and holding up a cone, asking me what tree it was from.  Asking what they were for and why they were shaped that way and why some were different colors and why why why why until I shouted at him to go buy a book about pine cones.  His eyes got big and he looked like he might cry and then- I can’t believe it- he started asking more questions!  Where do you buy books about pine cones and do I have one he could borrow and do I like my job and…I mean, I guess the kid had some good questions.  But it was as if his parent’s had never shown him a tree before.  And I’m not about to give the kid a lesson in plant reproduction. 

            He continued hiking up to one of his favorite spots- a grove of aspens in the folded v of a valley.  It was almost perfectly hidden from the trail, and from where he sits, the buzz of the town has completely faded to silent.  He savors the quiet, as if it were a tangible thing to taste on his tongue. His fingers soak into the spongy moss; and he smiles at the sensation that the ground softly gives way to his weight.  The breeze pushes the leaves into making a shushing sound and  gently tumbles through his hair

              It’s amazing the things I miss even when just walking on the trail.  As soon as I stop moving I hear the chick-a-dee-dee-dee singing and I see a nuthatch hopping in curls around a thick branch. Alright, so a plane flies overhead, you can’t completely escape.  But this is where I fit.  Every living thing around me knows its place and purpose and the good sense not to ask why or try and take more than what they need.  No more, no less- this is my definition of equality. 

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(Is that an intentional action, or do you just nor prefer to do yard work when it’s so similar to what you do for a living?)

Both, I guess.  I’m definitely a firm believer in supporting habitat for native and migrating animals.  The best way to create a healthy and natural place for them to eat and find shelter is to maintain indigenous plant and tree life.  Which doesn’t require much work because those are the species that want to live here anyways.  Plus I think the tall grasses and spindly trees and rocky creek beds of this area are beautiful.  Much more so than a perfectly green lawn and symmetrical beds of store-bought flowers and a team of hired labor to come on Sunday mornings and run lawn-mowers and leaf-blowers and edge-trimmers and all that junk.  But I do do a little garden work.  I grow a few tomatoes and lettuce and beans.   It’s nicer to walk out back and grab some of that for dinner than shove my way through the over-bright and over-crowded grocery store stocked with way too much food that people don’t eat.  Like cacao covered juju berries and crap like that for about $40 an ounce.  I’m sure that’s an “essential part of my nutrition.”  Keep me away from all that noise.  That’s another reason I keep my property wild – when I’m finally back from all the racket of the streets and highways, lord knows I don’t need to start raising a ruckus of my own.

(So, do you live far away from where you work?)

Well. Yes.

I love where I live, and I love where I work.  And the only problem is the distance between them.   Most people commute to work, but I’ve been there before, and I can’t stand the thought of being another mindless drone on the road, a part of the endless line of rubber on asphalt.  While driving, I tune out to everything around me, sheltered by the bubble of my car, aware of only my own insular thoughts.  When you’ve driven a route thousands of times, you don’t even have to consciously turn the blinker on for your exit.  And don’t even get me started on single occupancy drivers in their gas-powered tanks.  Talk about waste.  So I swore to myself that I would never do that again.  And now I take the bus to work.  Sure, it adds a lot of time to my commute, but I don’t mind.  The refreshing walk to and from the bus stop.  Saving myself from the hassle of trips to the DMV.  And I even get to sit by the big window and watch the world swirl.  Tree branches melt together with people and bikes and sunshine and clouds in the window, like they were thrown together in a big blender, complete with the sound of rumbling. And then I step off and breath new un-circulated air and head to work; rubber boots on, hat in hand.   At the end of the day, I walk to the stop on the other side of the street.  It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the day.  Most people who take this bus complain that the line doesn’t come often enough, that they are petitioning for more pickup times.  But I enjoy the wait.  There’s a huge cottonwood tree right by the bench, its leaves flutter down to sit next to me.  Birds come and go like tenants in a New York city apartment, and squirrels display acrobatics like monkeys in the tropics.  And trees, well, maybe I have more trees for friends than the average person, but trees just exude a sense of calm and steadfastness that I have come to really appreciate as an antidote to speeding traffic and the impatience of plastic.

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I don’t know what to say. Well, my name is Clay Berges.

I wake up early every morning, before most people are even dreaming about their alarm clocks going off… I love that time of day when the sky is dusty light blue, when the grass is still wet, when birds are safe to sing without direct sunlight to hide from.  Right now is a great time to work outside, mornings are still chilly enough to induce fog breath, but the days are sweeter and warmer.  I work with plants, in an arboretum. They generally stay in one place and don’t make a lot of demands.  Although they do speak to me: their leaves and flowers and bark tell me about whether they like where they live, if they are hungry or thirsty, if it’s too crowded in bed for decent night’s sleep.  They pay me in an unusual way, with currants and rosehips, brilliant smiling rhododendron blooms, and the shelter of a sweeping pine in the rain. Oh the rain, everyone complains about it because they don’t want to get their hair wet or something.  That’s pretty stupid, I guarantee you most folks got their hair wet in the shower this morning.  They probably went through the trouble of drying it too, even as they looked out the window and saw the grey clouds.  But I guess that’s what you get when most everyone has a job inside, they expect everywhere to be dry and 72 degrees.  Huh.

I don’t work with other people, endlessly yapping about their kids who can kick a ball or how bad traffic was or how they like their particular caffeine fix…No, I prefer to work with sparrows and bull snakes, woodrats, red-tailed hawks,  spiders, bumble bees.  They’re fascinating co-workers, very industrious and helpful in maintaining the life of the park.  There’s a highway along one edge of the park, and I often think about how the cars going by at 60 miles an hour are missing an entire city’s worth of life.  But rarely do they even notice what they are missing…

When I am done with work, I return home to my little cabin in the foothills.  I have had a lot of offers to sell my land, probably to make way for some god-awful development.  Thanks but no thanks, you can keep that check in your breast-pocket. My grandfather owned this land and lived in this very cabin, and he appreciated it and I appreciate it more than some rich shmucks ever would notice all the beauty about it.  My roommate is beautiful, gentle, friendly; she’s incredibly reliable too.  Never missed a meal in seven years.  Her name is Makea, and she’s an Airedale terrier.  She greets me at the door and we usually go straight to romp and walk about in the meadow for a while before dinner; and when I inevitably fall asleep in my chair reading, she makes herself comfortable in a curled up ball on my bed.  Seems rather backwards, I guess, but who minds giving up their bed for a companion?

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