Friday, July 24, 2009

Dancing with Whirlwinds

How we found an interesting thing and how I danced with the whirlwinds~

We are tiny creatures. Ants upon a landscape. One following the other across stone and earth. Clouds swirl about. Weather is a possibility. We hear rumbles. They sound like thunder, and that they may be. Off to the right is a sloping hill that falls off to a valley below. To the left, the same. We see but rock, earth, ice, and clouds. Ice on the mountain behind us. We are descending one of its flanks. It is called second Burroughs.

There is an anomaly in this Martian-like landscape. It is impossible to tell what it is from this distance. Metallic. It moves in the wind but is caught. Hung up by something. I go off trail and down slope to look at it. The others wait. It is a thing out of place here. It has been on a journey.

We had hiked up to the memorial to do “12 birds on the dome”. I’ve been here many times. I think Jon has been here before too. It is an awesome place. I want to take Jon on up to thirds Burroughs but we are unsure. I’ve been up here before during a lightning storm. We don’t want to get caught in that. We hear rumbles but are unsure if it is the glacier or advancing weather. We decide against. Too bad. Third Burroughs is an extraordinary place. A place worthy of ones ashes. I have been there before when weather was being born. It is the place where Burroughs becomes the trailing edge of Steamboat Prow. The rounded mountain sharpens into a knife edge. Green moist valley to the east, a direct drop to the glacier to the west. Rainier in front. It was here I stood with fog and mists lifting from the green valley and frigid air mass blasting up from the glacier. The point of their meeting was where I stood. Along this knife edge micro tornados were forming, like Whirling Dervishes, lining up, disappearing. And in these micro tornados snow formed and whirled and danced about me like spirits. They would engulf me and freeze me and spin away again. It was quite cold! And exciting. Imagine a dancing line of snow-whirlpools along this ridgeline including me in their happy existence. There was no snow anywhere else. Only here. You must go there someday.

While at Second Burroughs we lingered, enjoy the scenery and heard things on my FRS radio. They were having some sort of fair or something at Fort Lewis, and I was actually picking up conversation on my meek little radio. We were amazed at the tricks of radio reception. So what would be more unlikely than this?

I reached the object and it made me wonder. How did it get here? Than I looked the object over and I was shocked! A smile came over my face and I returned it up the slope to the others.

My E-Mail went something like this: “Dear Fort Lewis Fire Department. I have just returned from Second Burroughs on the North flanks of Mt Rainier. There, just off the ridge on the east slope at about 6000 feet or so we found one of your Mylar balloons with your Fire Department number on it. Evidently you were having an event and it escaped and made it’s way here to catch its string around a rock. Amazingly enough we could also hear your chatter on my little FRS radio. Hope you had a wonderful time.”


Monday, July 20, 2009

Total Eclipse of the Sun

A most lovely place, and beautiful young lass, Druids and a story from the past~

A few years back my oldest brother, my mom, and I took a caching road trip to south central Washington. Quite frankly it was a wonderful experience. One of the peaks of the trip was a cache called the G-Spot in Goldendale. Perhaps you’ve done it. Big yellow flowers were in bloom everywhere on that hill. It was gorgeous. It made my favorites list. Very near the cache is an observatory. I had been there before. We came back that night to visit it and had a great time and was given special tours by the head ranger including his personal library. He took me out into the night and showed me his green laser pointer, and I let him use my infrared night vision binoculars. We hit it off well.

The next day we once again visited Stonehenge, as we have on many road trips since I was a kid. Not long after we were married I took my wife here. She stood there on that rock in a very strong wind in a pink dress. I took a slow shutter-speed photo of her. In the photo her blonde hair flows out from her, the ends blurred out. Her dress is a wonderful blur of color. Her body becomes a flame of pink light. I love that photo. I have no idea where it is.

Here at Stonehenge there is a puzzle cache. I’ve wanted to do it for some time. But being travelers, it is time we don’t have. But these stones bring back thoughts and memories. One is a great respect for Sam Hill. The other is of another memory. It is of a visit here by myself in the 70’s. Here is that story:

How I played the wallflower at a Druid dance~ How the sun did an unexpected thing~ and how there was a voice shouting in the wilderness

I do not recall the year it was, perhaps 1976 maybe 1978, there was to be a total eclipse of the Sun. There upon the once mighty Columbia, sitting high on a hill is a replica of Stonehenge. Nearly as mystical a setting as the original. It was here that the totality was to pass, and here that I knew I must be to view it.

I arrived in the early afternoon on the day before it was to occur. As I wandered about Stonehenge (a place that has always held a fascination for me since childhood) more and more people began arriving. Ah, but these were not ordinary people. They came in odd clothing, white robes mostly, erected small pinnacle shaped tents, kept to themselves, built small fires in front of their tents, performed odd motions about the fires with small objects. They appeared to be praying perhaps. I wasn’t going to ask. I tried to watch without staring, a difficult task. As night came on more and more small fires were lit, then a large fire inside Stonehenge itself. I decided to leave the comfort of my quarters (was it a tent or was I sleeping in the car?) to find out what the activity was. As I approached Stonehenge it was obvious that there were a great many people on hand. I could hardly see from behind them. There was, upon the altar stone many candles aglow, there was some sort of knife, and a skull of a ram, and other things I either could not then identify or recall now. Behind the altar stone was a priest of some kind, but not the type you would see in the pulpit of any church. He waved the knife about and chanted things, though I haven’t a clue what. Then before long everyone held hands in a circle inside the ring of Stonehenge and began singing and dancing back and forth. And what might it be they were singing? “All we are saying is give peace a chance”. I thought of joining in, but the crowd seemed a bit strange and I’m forever playing the wallflower.

The next day as the hour of totality approached the clouds threatened to ruin the show. The crowd that gathered was now a mix. Druids, a professor and his students, locals, others. The Professor had brought a prismatic device that displayed the partially covered sun into a couple dozen small images on a board when it showed from between clouds. Some druids had climbed up upon the henge-stones and began banging drums and symbols. The clouds parted and the sky and landscape began to grow dim, like through a pair of sunglasses. “Through the glass darkly” seemed to apply.

It was at this moment, at the moment just before totality, that the most amazing and unexpected thing occurred. The last of the suns light intensified and began to ripple across the landscape, across the stones of the Henge, across the ground, across us. It was a most incredible thing! Ripples, bands of light and dark, moving in unison over us and the stones. Then they switched off and a sort of night came on, and a cold wind arose to chill us. There above us in a darkened sky was a blazing ring of fire. How odd it looked to see a blazing ring of light where none should be. Below us in the river valley, the streetlights had come on in the small town below. We stood silent and awestruck, even the Druids, for the few minutes it lasted. Then the famous beads appeared signaling the approaching end of totality and the Druids banged their drums and launched fireworks from atop their perch. Things passed quickly now, the light seemed to come back quicker then it had left and everything was returning to normal.

Everyone was dispersing and across to dell, someone in a camper, someone with a bullhorn, called out “This event has been brought to you by God! The maker of Heaven and Earth.” A rather fit ending I thought.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite

Regarding the passing of Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America; somehow his passing brings to mind the last and final pronouncment of the Oracle of Delphi in 361 CE after well over a thousand year of divine prophecy:

"Tell the king, the fair-wrought house has fallen.
No shelter has Apollo, nor sarcred laural leaves;
The fountains now are silent; the voice is stilled."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Vantage

Fear and loathing in Vantage. How worries advance with age.

I’m at the end of a dusty dirt road high above the Columbia River. Rattlesnakes live here. My bike lies next to me. I’m looking for a cache. Half a mile back up a short hill is my car. I’m greatly distressed. I could hear the radiator boiling as I removed my bike. My transmission was making horrid grinding and gnashing sounds just before I reached where I parked. Pangs of despair waft over me.

On the bike ride down I watched for snakes but saw a hummingbird and a coyote. It is lovely country but my mind is elsewhere. I have a family that I am responsible for, a not-so-well paying job. A kid in college. Two more coming up. Two cars that are on their last legs. Things are too close to the edge. I can not afford problems.

I am high above the Columbia. Just over there, on the other side and upriver a bit I once climbed that coulee wall. That was over thirty years ago. I found my way up through the rock and sage and walked across those desert lands north. Ten miles, and ten miles back in a day. There were snake pits that bloomed with cactus flowers. Beautiful. I only saw one snake but worried a bit the whole way. I made my way to an abandoned home in a gulch that I had seen since childhood from the other side of the river. I couldn’t get close. It was engulfed in brush. I was young and single then.

Down there I remember when there was a bridge and the old townsite with a gas station, and a motel, before the dam was built. And before that a ferry ride on a cable ferry. On the east side and just north of the bridge we would stop and find arrowheads out among the river rock.

Once there were other people living here long before this country ever knew a European. They left ideas drawn on the rocks. Had a tool called a slave killer. Long before them there were forests of walnut, maple and gingko. There was a great upwelling of lava that formed this land, and a great flood which shaped it. Now the river runs still. The people are nearly gone. The town drowned. And gone is my youth. Trees turned to stone and dust.

I find the box and want nothing more than to go home. Entropy is not to be underestimated.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Jewel Hidden

How I came across a woman praying in the forest, and what it could possibly mean.~

Deep in the heart of a southwest desert, far from any road, days from any human habitation there is a depression in the sandstone rock. The rock is blonde in color with hints of red. It is part of a vast wilderness of rock just like itself. Most of us would get lost here and die within a week’s time. No one has passed by here for decades. Perhaps centuries. It is an exposed and hidden place. A place sacred.

In the depression of this rock is a jewel hidden from the rest of the world. An element rare and abundant. It is a cupful of water. It teems with little specks of life, insignificant, almost not there unless you look. Each speck going about the business of being itself. Little do they know they exist in holy water.

This rock that holds a handful of water is not unique. There are other places like this, every now and again, throughout this hot and desolate desert. They too hold life in their hands. They too are a salvation waiting to be found. Hidden in a nook or cranny, hidden away and protected from the blazing sun.

I came across a woman praying in the woods. It was along a river in the mountains of Washington. I was looking for a box that had been secreted away. I suspect she was looking for something secreted away as well. I could not decide if her prayers were Buddhist or Muslim, though she her self I believe to be a convert to that mode of prayer. She looked like the woman next door or down the street. Rather plump and reaching middle age. Her gown spoke of her conversion, whatever it might be. It had a bit of a fortune tellers touch. I said hello and nodded as I walked by, and she did likewise. I did not linger not wanting to disturb. I questioned in my mind the legitimacy of her extra-cultural methods, though it certainly wasn’t my place to judge. I knew she was trying. Perhaps she had found. Certainly she had a proper idea. I wanted to question her about her methods and thoughts, but I knew it wasn’t the time or place. I wanted to watch to see what she did, but I knew that would be a vulgar intrusion.

I went on and found my box. When I returned she had left. Religion is a method of Man. Mine is a jewel in the desert. Hers, a prayer said in the forest. We each have our ways.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Chalkstorm Sea


The sea was brilliant blue and freshened by a strong west wind. It kicked spray, as white as linen sheets, above the freeboard. Like wings, they were. Like the breath of angels. The sail buffeted under the strain. Buffeted and popped. Then it would catch the wind a bit cleaner and lean the sloop into the oncoming whitecaps. The sun sparkled a thousand times on the crest of each wave. There were few clouds and what there were looked like disintegrated cotton puffs. The breeze was too brisk for them to hold together. The mouth of the legendary Oronoco lay astern and the island of Aruba lay twenty miles off the starboard beam. And there, with a thousand miles of open sea ahead, there in that boundary between two worlds, there in that paradise that all sailors seek, a time when sun and spray and breeze peaks the senses and gives joy to existence, I saw a sight not often seen. A waterspout materialized before my prow, corkscrewing it’s way toward a sparkling heaven. In any other time, in any other place, I would have turned and ran and done my best to avoid it’s wrath. But this day, this perfect day, I raced on all the more, bearing down on the whirlwind, trying to catch it before this pillar of God disappeared. I laughed! I shouted for joy! I raced on to what would be certain doom to those who cared. But as gently as it came, so it disappeared. Yet I laughed! Yet I shouted for joy! But now I raced only the wind, the spray, and cotton puff clouds. I had ridden the wings of angels, and seen existence delighting as a waterspout.