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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chronology

I used to be a volunteer ranger in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah. After that I took other trips to that prickly desert land where I bathed in the Colorado River and filled my jug from the slow, metered drips of clean-water seeps.

In a land that barren, rocky, and vast, the difference between sun and shade was the difference between blindness and sight. Every raven that flew over and every fleeting cloud cast a deep shadow on the canyon floor. I could mark time by the line between bright and dark, and I did, I had to, because it was vital to stake out where I could comfortably sit and at what times of day I could sit there, waiting for visitors who'd hike three steep miles to see the ancient Horseshoe Canyon pictographs. Some of these hikers were suffering from heat stroke, and I was there to lead them to shade.

There's something deeply primitive -- or maybe I mean elemental -- about such places. I felt, as I've never felt since (though I expect it will come back to me if I make it past seventy), that we are subject to the earth's slow chronology. That time spent thinking and watching the thunderheads emerge over the rim of a cliff wasn't time wasted. It was just time passing. It was history.

4 Comments:

Blogger Piers said...

I love this -- blindness and sight; vast barren and rocky; "we are subject to the earth's slow chronology.....time spent thinking and watching the moving sky emerge over the rim of a cliff wasn't time wasted. It was just time passing. It was history."

MOre. The idea of time and nature is a wonderful cliff from which to leap into...?

I was reading Gary Snyder this morning at 4 a.m. (sleep is for the weak) and found several sentences I want to share, much as I would river rocks polished into Mondrian essences. These are from a book of essays entitled "The Practice of the Wild"; specifically, the first essay, "The Etiquette of Freedom."

"Wilderness is a 'place' where the wild potential is fully expressed, a diversity of living and nonliving beings flourishing according to their own sorts of order.....When an ecosystem is fully functioning, all the members are present at the assembly. Human beings came out of that wholeness.....reactivating membership in the Assembly of All Beings is in no way regressive."

"There has been no wilderness without some kind of human presence for several hundred thousand years. Nature is not a place to visit; it is 'home.'"

"Do you really believe you are an animal? Our bodies are wild. The involuntary quick turn of the head at a shout, the vertigo at looking off a precipice, the heart-in-the-throat in a moment of danger, the catch of the breath, the quiet moments relaxing, staring, reflecting -- all universal responses of this mammal body."

"The depths of the mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas..."

Just a random sampling. I lived briefly south of Sedona, Arizona -- red rock country -- and got out and about despite the fact it was over 100 degrees four months straight. Yes, shade is precious.

Watching the sky is true time. You're fortunate to have A) experienced it and B) to have recognized it. Hope there's more where this came from.

Oh, and thanks for your comment on my sonnet. I've written others but it's tricky not to fall into a faux Elizabethan diction; t'is like unto death, t'is.

7:15 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

'Tis it?

Gary Snyder and Barry Lopez and Mary Austin all said it so much better than I did. When I write like this, I wonder if I'm being too flowery.

Thanks! for the feedback. I'll maybe post a few more like this one, if the mood hits.

9:58 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Ginab, who couldn't post because I accidentally did something crazy to my settings, wanted me to post this for her:

"Well, 'lead them to shade' rather blooms some yellow floral heads at me. Funny
is, the floral-ness always resides with the verb. Like magic that. Whatever's
leading to the verb (whatever's gerunding or your-naming), I've been told or
schooled or I remain convinced, accounts for the blossoms. I think the voice
here -- it doesn't strike me as particularly romantic or nolstalgic. There's the
science of shade watching and a survivalist speaking. Volunteer or no--in fact
there's the unpaid point, too, nudging me here--I suspect an interruption
happens. The shade watcher is interrupted. Jolted. Those rude heat strokers!
Then I'm thinking, 'heat stroke' makes people buckle over, and they puke
sometimes. Whatever leads up to "lead them to shade" makes that line sound and
seem, to me, flowery.

I suppose it's a believability thing. Flowers decorate (not that you were
decorating; probably you're telling the complete truth: you lead them to shade).

As ever, love from the babbling brook here."

8:07 AM

 
Blogger Moonpie said...

"we are subject to the earth's slow chronology.....time spent thinking and watching the moving sky emerge over the rim of a cliff wasn't time wasted. It was just time passing. It was history."

Time spent like this, I think, is what it's all about. No distractions, just pure living. Sounds like an amazing place.

Thanks for your comment on my blog.
Moonpie.

7:34 AM

 

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