Friday, April 15, 2011
The Comfort of Low Light
There's something I find comforting about low light. Perhaps it's that back to the cave feeling that makes me want to settle in for the evening. The other night, while doing just that, I looked over at the corner where the lamp next to my bookcase casts a soft glow. Maybe it was the books themselves, or the pottery, or the doo-dads that I've accumulated over the years, now at home on my shelves, that made me feel cozy inside and out, but it seemed they were calling to me. I sometimes place things on a shelf and then become so used to their presence that I walk by them daily without a glance. I needed to take a closer look again.
I admit to being tired of dusting, even though I can't say I do a lot of it. I've put several things away to make it easier, but also to allow for a deeper appreciation of the things I've accumulated over the years, stuff too valuable in memory to dispose of. Rotating seems like a good solution. I need to take the time to really see those things I do have out, otherwise it's just stuff. I'm sure you've seen George Carlin's routine on "stuff." Anyway, as long as I can see past the dust I'm good.
A few things that made the cut: a rock of unknown geology, possibly volcanic, that my dad, Duane, brought back from Alaska and a photo of him in Kotzebue, back in 1973, a salmon fishing village then, perhaps still. Alongside these are mini-binoculars that once belonged to him. The binoculars original strap disappeared many years ago to be replaced by him, perhaps in the field, with a brown shoe string. It isn't going anywhere, it's part of the memory.
There's a photo of my mother on a fishing trip to Canada, holding up a big northern. I love that photo because it so clearly shows an important aspect of who she was, outdoorsy and adventurous when she had the time. Next to it is a small photo of my older son, Trevor, and me, on a trip that included a stop at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. We were en route west, on a camping trip, with a stop in the Black Hills before heading out to Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It was the mid-1970's and I had just graduated from college and was ready to hit the road.
Three of my favorite books sit next to these things. There's a copy of The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Hamilton. That is one great adventure story. It kept me enthralled one winter, just after we turned the corner into a new millennium. Two winter's later, I was living in Santa Fe and one of my first evenings out exploring the cinematic possibilities was to see the documentary based on that book. Angelheaded Hipster, by Steve Turner sits next to it. It's chock full of photos and pages of Jack Kerouac's letters, rough drafts of his writing, stuff my dreams are made of. Then, Cowboys and Cave Dwellers: Basketmaker Archaeology in Utah's Grand Gulch, by Fred M. Blackburn and Ray A. Williamson. It's what is known as, "an indispensable guide." I've studied it more than once to determine place and time while hiking in that area.
All of this makes for some pretty fine companionship most evenings: soft light, good books, warm memories, and on recent nights, one sweet little golden retriever named Buddy. Right now, he prefers chewing to reading, but perhaps one day he'll come around.
On the back of the photo of my dad, my mom wrote: Village of Kotzebue, Alaska. 1973. Duane flew out of here to hunt Dahl sheep in the Brooks Range.
The photo of my mom is from about the same time.