Friday, January 22, 2010

A history subject to invention

I had the habit of working until I could save a thousand dollars then hitting the trail.

One summer I hitch-hiked up to Canada to go climbing in the central ranges of British Columbia.  I traveled under an alias.  That summer I was Big Jake. Having a new name and a history subject to invention was as freeing as hanging my life on any number of mountain ledges.

It's hard to imagine now the gift of time I gave myself. An entire summer on the road, wondering and wandering into whatever the road delivered.  The time spent well off the road was the most memorable.

I was doing some craft work then too. Making leather belts and carving hash pipes out of deer antler. Up in a barn in Ashland Oregon I got to work over a 50 gallon drum of deer heads. The buzzing flies, blank eyes and protruding black tongues made it real. Hauling the heads out of the drums, cutting the horns down close to the skull to save the crenellated buttons that made such good pipe bowls took some sawing and carving skills.

A few days later I was fishing for hallucinatory salmon on the Rogue River. Casting from the shore into the swift midstream waters hoping that the fish were there. I imagined the huge fish struggling upstream getting angry enough to hit my lure.

The sun worked on my forehead and built a thirst kindled by vague desire and sunburn.  After an afternoon of nothing but casting, a 50 pound king salmon broke the water right in front of me. Perseverating through the swift air above the roaring river, four, five, six leaps and disappearing below the water for ever. Did I really seen what I remember?


I can remember wondering if I'd ever regret all the time spent solo in the mountains.  I can answer that question now.  I'm glad for every second spent with a pack on my back and the open trail waiting.

The days I spent reading Russian novels by the campfire are still with me.

The hours spent singing in the canons still resonate.

Night sky pressed galaxies into my eyes. Home was a ledge at 12000 feet. 

Recalling these moments let's me to change the now just enough to make life sweet.

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