She’s all smiles, heat, sunlight
a laughing chatterbox
bouncing down the trail.
Calling out the world that surrounds us, making it hers.
No complaints, shouldering the pack with complete acceptance,
we have to go out of our way to cross streams at their deepest,
and in the longest possible way.
Climbing trees and balancing on logs,
everything here is a game.
We put up camp, explore the perimeter, eat.
She settles in beside me to read.
I catch her brushing her hair aside with a casual flick
and I can briefly see the woman that she will be.
Mine and yet not mine,
on the river.
If you’re like me, you probably feel a twinge of sadness every time you hear an NPR report or read an article about the slow-death of the public library. Branches closing, budgets slashed, and public attendance down, all this in the face of rising internet book sales, E-book popularity, and mega-discount retailers. One has to wonder how long the library can continue to scratch out an existence.
And if you’re like me, you probably don’t go to the library as much as you feel you should, or as much as you used to. I too have been lured away by book ownership, by the disdain for waiting for an inter-library loan or for my local branch to order a book. So I march down to the bookstore or start clicking the mouse button instead. I confess: I have helped kill the library.
I would like to reverse this trend.
I spent countless hours in my teenage and college years lost in libraries. This was long before I, or anyone I knew for that matter, had the internet. I suspect this plays a large part in it all. I discovered Bukowski as a teen by complete accident, browsing poetry at the Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles. The bulk of my education in art history came not from my degree, but from browsing piles of books between classes in college. As a romantic, I’ve always felt the library potentially represents the best traits and strengths of a society; a free and public repository of knowledge cutting across ages and cultures, built for the common good. What an unlikely yet beautiful thing that an American teenager can sit in a free and public library and read Marx and Goldman and Bakunin until closing. Though I suppose those library records can now be seized without a warrant…I digress.
I’ve promised myself to get back into the library, to get away from the instinct to buy what I want to read.
On that note…
Current books on loan:
The William Saroyan Reader
The William Carlos Williams Reader
Now I have to admit, reading anyone’s Reader can make you feel like a bit of a literary hack, sort of like purchasing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to ________ or the Spark Notes for For Whom the Bell Tolls (for which offenders should be summarily shot), but readers have their place. I’ve wanted to read Saroyan for years and wasn’t sure where to start. So far I’ve been absolutely impressed by a few chapter excerpts from My Name is Aram and The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. I’ll be reading one of those next.
The William Carlos Williams Reader happened to be the best poetry collection by him that was available at the time. It will suit me just fine right now.
We put the old girl down today. Over thirteen years old, she’s been with us longer than our children and since the beginning of our marriage. She’s seen babies come home, three different houses, the coming and going of other cats, dogs, chickens. I can still picture her sleeping with my son in his crib as a baby, scratching my daughter as a toddler when she would pull her tail. Chasing orange peels, dozing in flowerbeds in the sun, sleeping on the warm back porch dryer. We’ll miss you Tumble.
Ode to the Cat
| The animals were imperfect,
unfortunate in their heads.
Little by little they
put themselves together,
making themselves a landscape,
acquiring spots, grace, flight.
Man wants to be fish or fowl,
There is no unity
Oh independent wild beast
— Pablo Neruda
My wife raised an eyebrow when I told her we were going to camp on a ~9000′ ridge when a storm was scheduled to be coming in that night, but this sort of behavior isn’t entirely unexpected. Adan and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get out and test a few pieces of gear in bad weather and managed to throw our packs together, get some short-notice kitchen passes, and get to the trailhead for Mt. Baldy by 4PM. The plan was to climb as high as we felt necessary before dark in order to get into some decent snow and weather that night. We settled on a ridge to the west of the Baldy Bowl, camping on a small saddle at roughly 9000′. Clear skies during the climb, clouds gathering as we reached the top and watched a front roll towards us from the west. Winds picked up, temperatures dropped, we watched the wall of clouds quickly approaching and realized it was either time to set up camp and commit or get down right away; in the event of a whiteout we’d be staying where we were for as long as it would take to clear…
Site cleared and shelters erected, we started dinner in the clouds, a light, misting rain beginning to fall, sparking fears of really crappy weather: 32 degree heavy rainfall while snow camping could get pretty sloppy…at least snow is dry.
We found ourselves tent bound soon after dinner, trying to stay warm and dry as it continued to rain, passing hunks of Jarlsberg cheese, bread, and a small bottle of whiskey between shelters. As temperatures dropped and the winds picked up even more, we found ourselves slipping into sleeping bags and talking briefly before both of us rather unexpectedly knocked out by around 9PM.
I awaken later to winds whipping the shelter, the sound of snow and ice spraying taught nylon. A glaze of ice has formed throughout the interior, bit of it raining down on me in heavy gusts (I fully realize the sacrifices one makes for saving weight and find myself briefly pondering being zipped up in a double-walled, bomber 4 season shelter). I sit up to inspect and realize I’m accumulating a good deal of snow on the shelter; everything is sticking due to the layer of ice first created by frozen rain. I kick it all off from inside and drift back to sleep. I hear Adan knocking ice and snow off his shelter soon after.
Winds pick up but I’m comfortably warm in my bag, actually welcoming sprays of spindrift on my face that blow in from under the walls. My only concern is the bag interior wetting out so I draw the hood completely shut and roll over into another dream.
Fitful sleep, awakened by gusts and sprays, drifting in and out of darkness.
Sometime, early morning, I awaken to notice the sky has briefly cleared, bright moonlight throwing shadows on the shelter walls, trees whistling in the wind.
Morning brings the coldest temperatures and highest winds (NOAA predicted windchill in the low teens). Coffee is painfully, finger-numbingly slow as the winds whip through the tent as the sun rises. It does not help that I forgot to put my gloves in my bag and I’m cooking with stiff fingers.
Frozen shoes soon warm up on the trail as we make our exit; blood flowing, the cold is now bearable. Silent, bright, crisp, we have the mountain to ourselves for the first hour of the hike out, a spectacular sunny morning, snow and ice glistening on everything, footsteps crunching. A quick trip quickly becomes one of the more beautiful mornings I’ve had in a long time.