Lemons, roses, and summer rain falling across a long
dry land: each has a smell that overwhelms.
Add huckleberries to that.
The scent of a freshly halved lemon is crisp and
keen—it has an edge.Taking in the
scent deeply feels very nearly like running your thumb along the blade of a
newly sharpened knife.The scent of
lemon has become associated with cleanliness.
Roses fill the air with a fragrance that whisks
about you and tickles you the way silken scarves might if you stood amid them
in a gentle flow of wind.Sweet and soft:
the aroma of roses. Romantic.
Rain to dry land releases the very essence of earth
and stone.If you close your eyes and
draw in the smell of new rain, you quickly understand why the roots of bull
pine reach so greedily to grasp at more.
Huckleberries smell like the color purple.Their scent soaks deep into your hands as the
violet juice dyes your fingertips while you gather them.When huckleberries ripen in their mountain
home, whole valleys turn purple with their aroma.As the summer heat permeates the deep forest
floor, the air fills with huckleberry—the smell a mix of earth and nectar and
snow melting against shale.
The high mountain valleys of Montana have just this week turned purple.
Pictured today is a bull moose and some
huckleberries.These two items are
related only in that I encountered them both yesterday.
I bumped into the moose near my cabin early in the
morning.He trotted half-way around me
as I climbed out of my truck and then he halted and stood there, swinging his
rack back and forth.Not wishing the
moose to crash away before I snapped a decent photograph, I spoke to him in an even
voice.“Hello, Mr. Moose,” I said.“Baseball season is in full swing and I am
here to work on my cabin for a bit.By
the way, the stock market was up yesterday.”
I realized that I was spouting nonsense—but what
does a moose know?Additionally, as I
spoke I removed one lens from my camera and twisted on another. Finally, I hoisted my camera.
I found the huckleberries in the afternoon on a
berry scouting trip to a high-mountain secret location which is apparently a
secret location for about a dozen other people.No matter.I mountain-goated up
the slopes and picked quite a few berries while being attacked by no-see-ums
and deer flies. And then I poked around in some lush understory filled with fireweed
and the broad leaves of thimbleberry.
In May of 2003, the rear cargo door of a
Russian-design military air transport burst wide open at 33,000 feet above the
Congo, instantly sucking out into the air 120 soldiers, their wives, and
children.They all dropped helplessly to
Welcome, if you will, the end of a star-spun night.Welcome five deer leaping the silver
fence.Welcome the uneasy peace in
Iraq.Welcome the squared shale talus
from which we glean our walk-stones.Welcome six before seven.Welcome
all survivors of breast cancer.Welcome
to long wires humming their electrical song and wild rye swaying in
silence.Welcome computer graphic loops
of waves crashing against the shore.Welcome to swing-set toddlers and big kids swirling through the soccer
field.Welcome the first yawn and first
Welcome the beginning of a better day than
when you in the wetheyIas the rain fell on grass baconwhat the hell really miss the sound of of oflove the feel of ofof your voice sounds like pennies sliding down
a tin roofyou are something to me but whenwemaybebaby
Driving to work on the ranch roads early in the
morning I came upon a conspicuous dark pattern (nearly a puddle) in the center
of the road.I stopped before driving
over the spot and climbed out of the truck to investigate.
Nothing nearby.No crumpled beast.No fur.Not a single sign of struggle.
I wandered a wide circle around the dark patch on
the road seeking clues, as my pickup
tinged and ticked, idling away in
the silent dawn of a new day.
Grass pasture.Alfalfa.Stars just now fading
above.Light seeping in like fog from
Yesterday, I sat outside watching pleasure boats
unzipping wakes as they sped over the silver-blue surface of Hauser Lake.I sat there for several minutes, thinking
about all those people that, for one reason or another, have disappeared from
my life.Hundreds of them.Perhaps thousands.Some have fully departed.Others merely went away on career.Couples divorced and ejected themselves.A few simply dissolved when I looked away.
I would take most of these people back.
Surely I would.
For a few, I would sacrifice greatly if given that
they would return again.
At some point rainclouds began grasping at the sun
and splayed shadows overtop the lake.Looking
up, I spoke to the sun.I don’t recall
the exact words I used now, but I told the sun that I knew others would be
departing from my life, from this life.“But
you,” I concluded, “you always circle right around and come back again.For that, I am most grateful.”
Almost immediately, cool drops of rain began to
strike my shoulders and face.The
raindrops felt like icy kisses.
The heat of July has not yet brought forth the nightly
symphony of crickets.Last night,
although I had my windows flung wide open, I did not hear a single cricket
chirping.I heard only the pines scouring
through the passing wind and the occasional reports of distant thunder before sleep
dragged me down into the warm and syrupy black of near-nothingness.
The rate of chirping performed by crickets is
directly related to temperature—as is the speed at which an ant walks.Higher temperatures will incite a more
frenzied song from crickets.Entomologists have gone so far as to develop a formula that can be used
to determine the outside temperature based on the rate of chirping performed by
crickets.This formula, which is far too
sciency (my own word) to readily recall, involves counting the chirps for
something like 14 seconds and adding 40 to that.
Interesting, but the chirping is really all about
Only the male crickets chirp.This chirping, contrary to the popular myth
that it is made by the insects rubbing together their legs, is produced when
the boys in the band violin together the inside edges of their wings.All chirping has some form of sexual content.And, as with all species, the girls are
really attracted to the boys in the band.The loud symphony we normally hear is associated with attracting females
and warning off other males.
Sex all through the hot nights!
Last night I and the crickets settled ourselves into
a silent and sexless night, colored only by the occasional splash of lightning against
the far side of the mountains.
If words are weapons, they are also toys.I prefer to think of them as something akin
to Play-Doh.I sometimes like to pick up
words, roll them around a bit, moosh them apart, or squish them together and
make two words into one.
These are my words.
While I suppose some people object to my
wordsquishing tendencies, in spoken form the words sound as a single thing,
anyway.Read this sentence aloud: An ominous cloudfront pushed a steady
nightwind across the greenblue sea.
Destruction sometimes has a beautiful face.Consider the awesome purple cloudfronts
preceding a hailstorm.Consider the
whitewater from heavy rains tearing apart the flank of a mountain.Consider the photograph I have posted today.
The lurid sunrise I captured over Hauser Lake
yesterday has not been altered in color.The lovely blush is a result of smoke from distant wildfires.
For some odd reason, I really enjoy the field of
energy efficiency.This is likely due to
a genetic defect that, in other people, would likely manifest as some form of
Energy efficiency can be complicated business.
As one small example, we can look at Total Resource Cost Testing (TRC
Testing).Posed as a simple question,
TRC Testing would read something like this: “Is
changing your light bulb a good investment?”
Sounds simple, right?
Well, power providers have found a way to make this
excessively complicated when they look at energy-saving measures.Part of the formula for TRC Testing involves
something called Net Present Value.Net Present Value takes into account an
asset’s worth at time zero.This value
must be weighed against the present cost of producing a kilowatt-hour, the
future projected cost of such (including inflationary figures), the energy
Mind you, the above paragraph is only a small
portion of Total Resource Cost Testing.If TRC Testing was illustrated as listening to music it might go
something like this:
You must begin by playing your favorite classical
piece on your preferred sound system.At
3 second intervals during the length of the entire song blast an air horn and
dance a bit of a jig.At random points
during the listening session, you must modulate the volume back and forth
between minimum and maximum.On
occasion, smack the speakers.Midway
through the song, find an open place and run around in a clockwise circle.Stop.Run the same circle in reverse.Near the very end of the piece, find two small children and have them
scream at you.
Not the same as just sitting there and listening to
the music, but you have measured the resource.
In conclusion, yes, please replace your light bulb
with something more energy-efficient.
I sometimes lie supine on my living room floor and
allow my big cat to rest his head on the upturned and cupped palm of my
hand.With my eyes shut, his steady
purring feels like entire generations of life caught in my palm and sifting
right through my fingers: births, deaths, loves, play, cats stalking amid tall
grass, and one dog trying to rush in—only to get stuck there with a large stick
sideways in its mouth at a too small opening.
Ariel, my dear, I have concluded that distance is
simply another human invention—one that is only narrowly more significant than
the yo-yo, but slightly less important than a soup ladle.
with distance.I say we make a new
invention.We might call it “spontaneous
togetherness.”This is all based on
sunrise, my hot tub, and the nighthawks.
this morning, I climbed into my hot tub and watched a cloudless sunrise blush
against the starry night.There, in the
first light, nighthawks began to plunge from the cobalt skies.I swear, Ariel, they appeared from nothing
but empty space and came swooping down all around me.
can’t we do that?
I drove to an aspen grove high in the mountains above Alice Creek.Once there, I found a log stretched across
the understory and I sat watching the leaves spin like a million coins in a
pine-scented breeze.Naturally, I
thought of you.
If I go
there again, will you please find a way to fall from the sky and find me?
Highway 435 tosses about somewhat fitfully as it
finds a way through the ranches and ICBM missile sites where the Great Plains
greet the Rocky Mountains.The
missiles—tipped with nuclear warheads—were planted deep underground in the
rolling grasslands and aimed at the Soviet Union
during the peak of the Cold War.
In a sense, the highway straddles two worlds.
Montana 435 is the line of demarcation between the
Rocky Mountain Front and the Great Plains, which continue on for nearly 1000
miles more before bumping into the Great Lakes region.The Mountains virtually erupt from the
prairie here.And just beyond the first
overthrust wall of stony peaks lies the Bob Marshall wilderness, one of the
most pristine roadless areas in the lower 48 states.
As you swing through the scarps and swales and
gentle rises, you occasion upon small squares of land fenced by chain-link and
devoid of flora within.There, under the
gravel and dust cover,lie the missiles.
On a rare day, you might chance upon a herd of elk
spilling across the prairie and skirting around a missile site.
As I have said before, the best part of work is often
the drive just getting there and returning home again.This morning I have posted a photograph of
Lake Helena taken while on my commute through ranch and farm country.
Over the years, friends and family have given me a
variety of books designed to instill within me—in one way or another—some form
of self-awareness or healing.Some of
these books were expected to spur spiritual epiphanies within me.Others were more of your obligatory self-help
volumes intended to school me on how to nurture a positive attitude which might
then sow seeds for a sort of metaphysical flower garden filled with everlasting
orchids and sunflowers.
One recent gift was a copy of A Grief Observed by C. S.
Lewis.That book, obviously enough,
followed the passing of my wife and was wholly intended to help me cope with
that horrid loss.
More recently, someone offered me a copy of a book
titled The Five Love Languages. I have picked up and read through parts of
this book on several occasions.While The
Five Love Languages might well be heavy with what seem thread-worn, if
not obvious, advice on how to keep love alive by being sweet with others—the
repetition of obvious points has great value.
Repetition is always a winner.
Finally, I really enjoy writing, but am in no way
interested in authoring a book of this ilk.But I do think I have something to add to all of this.
Here it is:
Today, when you meet someone you like or truly love,
make nice with them. Repeat this
behavior as often as possible.