Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mapping Our Journey in an Open Boat

My boat struck something deep.
Nothing happened:
sounds, silence, waves.
Nothing happened
or perhaps everything happened
and I am sitting in the middle of my new life.
~ Juan Ramon Jimenez

Where to begin...

I'm continually amazed by the avenues Life provides for enriching our lives and enlightening our thoughts through art and literature, all the myriad ways we learn and grow in this ever-expanding universe of thought. To wit:  I recently asked my friend, Michael von Helms, if I could use his painting, "Open Boat," with the above quote, a quote I found discomfiting and at the same time comforting. I seem to like the paradoxes of Life. They tend to create an atmosphere in which further discovery can be made. And discovery seems to be what Life is all about.

Michael responded with a "You betcha," a nod to my Minnesota roots. The first time I ever laid eyes on him at the gallery in Santa Fe, back in the spring of '07, when he heard my speech and guessed, correctly of course, its origin, we immediately and with the greatest of ease, went into a conversation right out of the movie, "Fargo."  It's this thing we do. You probably have friends with whom you also have this connection. One word, one allusion, and you're off and running. It's fun, isn't it, discovery?

He followed his "you betcha," with these words describing his inspiration for the painting:

The title came to me from the corridors of memory. I had read a short story by Stephen Spender (?) titled, "The Open Boat." Taken literally, the story was a nail biter regarding the author's sea wreck and subsequent journey to final safety of land, adrift without oar or sail upon the open sea. As a Life Metaphor, however, the tale was a far more disturbing story of an individual's total loss of control regarding his life...a powerful example of such an unsettling exasperating, agonizing "Journey" to final safety.

Dare I say, it's a place both of us have found ourselves in, metaphorically speaking, something we've talked about in our previous exchanges. Perhaps you've experienced something similar in your own life, an open boat at sea, with no land in sight.

Anyway, after a little googling, I recalled Stephen Spender as a poet of some magnitude whose work I had read previously, but had long forgotten. Obviously, Michael had him on his mind, as well. I also read about Stephen Crane, author of "The Open Boat,"  and his own personal experience going from Florida to Cuba. Michael and I exchanged a couple of emails of mutual recognition, in which he referred to me as Macduff (a character from Macbeth), but that will have to wait for another post. This literary stew I'm creating has enough ingredients for now.

Stephen Spender led to John Berryman (who deserves and will have a post of his own very soon), and the next thing I know, I'm agog with a memory-jarring love of literature, particularly poetry. I ran across the poem by Spender entitled, "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great."   In a forward of sorts, Spender describes the thoughts which inspired him to write it, including allusions to Beethoven's late quartets, Russian movies by Eisenstein, D.H. Lawrence and his ideas about sex, and Michelangelo. So you see, this drift towards one thing leads to another and... Surely it's happened to you, too.

These lines from the above mentioned poem, with some license being taken by me in its structure, really caught my eye and heart:

I think continually of those who were truly great
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history ...
...whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips still touched with fire
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song...

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from the ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth...

The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

You can hear the entire poem accompanied by beautiful art, paintings and photographs, here (I don't believe it's Spender reading, but a fine reader nonetheless) :

What I love about Michael's painting is that the open boat seems to be surrounded by a number of possible sails. Seeing the world through metaphor is part of discovery, of mapping our journey, and what I appreciate in abstract art, as well as in friendships and connections and open boats.

Painting:  Michael von Helms,  "Open Boat"

Photograph courtesy of Google

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

When I was a child, the Odd Fellows Hall was a mysterious place where secret ceremonies took place and word had it there was a skeleton in their closet. Literally. This kept us going with enough mystery in our young lives for about two summers. I longed to be able to enter its hallowed halls and see what the hoopla was all about.

Fast forward.

For much of the '90's I attended small concerts, very small, in what is known in folk music circles as Grass Roots concerts. They started out in living rooms and then expanded into venues like the Odd Fellows Hall. It created an intimate atmosphere:  a dimly lit room with a few folding chairs on a hardwood floor, church pews circling the perimeter and a small makeshift stage at its center. I was fortunate to be introduced to some fine folk artists there who went on to become mainstays of the genre: Utah Phillips, Lucy Kaplansky, John Gorka, and Greg Brown, to name a few. They all had an easygoing style that was perfect in that small venue. They sang songs about life, interlaced with stories of their lives, each with a finely honed sense of humor. It was a really nice way to spend an evening. And, I had finally gained admittance. Music in the Odd Fellows Hall. Somehow it made perfect sense.

After a few years, the venue was too small for the crowd that showed up and it became necessary to move it. Unfortunately, the available space was in a nondescript building with very little soul and something, for me, became lost. But, not before a few more folks came through and found a way to overcome its sterility.

One night, we waited patiently for Greg Brown to show. An hour passed. A few folks started drifting away, most heading for The Pickle, a local watering hole, where we would often repair to after the show. When about half the crowd had given up, with the rest of us folk junkies holding firm and keeping the faith, Greg quietly came in and leaned against the doorway. When we realized he had arrived we became a slightly rowdy, happy crew. He took to the little stage, explaining that no one had told him about the new venue. He had gone to the Odd Fellows Hall and wondered where everybody was (this was in the day before cellphones became ubiquitous). Somehow, he discovered where we were waiting.

He relaxed, we relaxed, he played and sang for us few faithful far longer than normal. At the end of the night he jumped into a rousing version of the Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want."  It was perfect. A whole lot of fun. And it has become a part of the soundtrack of my life.

You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want, 
You can't always get what you want, 
But if you try sometimes you just might find, 
You just might find,
You get what you need. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making Room for What Matters

For several years I've been reading the work of metaphysical writer and astrologer Rob Brezny. I'm not someone who necessarily guides her life by the "stars," i.e. the solar system, I just find what he has to say intriguing and he gets to the heart of the matter in a straightforward, yet mystical way that works for me.

My favorite parts are the quotes he includes from a diverse group of people, all of whom have looked at life, written about their findings, and have ideas worth passing on. I'm occasionally introduced to someone I've never heard of before and that's always fun and often enlightening. Sometimes he includes them in what he refers to as "sacred advertisements," at the bottom of his weekly assessments. It's a way of approaching life that seems to be based on love and gratitude, metaphysical no-brainers, but sometimes I need to be reminded.

He announced this past week,  "It's time for the Gratitude Fest. Write thank you notes to the creatures both human and otherwise, that have played seminal roles in inspiring you to become yourself. Who have been your guides along the way, both the purposeful teachers and the inadvertent helpers who have seen you for who you really are?  Who has nudged you in the direction of your fuller destiny and awakened you to your signature truths?  Who has loved you very, very well?"

In that spirit, I made my list.

I'm going to go back to it now and then to really feel the gratitude I have for these people, for all the beings, including those who have fur or feathers, those who are still in my life and those who, for a variety of reasons, are not. I'm grateful for what they shared of themselves, and in doing so showed me a bit more about myself, things that are coming in handy on my journey.

One of the things I'm deeply grateful for this week is having a room that keeps life very simple, bringing everything back to the basics. It's allowing me the space that's just right for uncomplicating my thought and my life, for reminding me what really matters.

Gratitude heals. It keeps our thought in a place where good can unfold in our lives in a perpetual moving towards the recognition of our true self, the self we were born into, the self we have always been and are in the process of remembering.

Happy, Ongoing Gratitude Fest! 

The photo is the view from the courtyard outside my room, last evening, a view to the east, the afterglow of the setting sun.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Patti Smith and A New Perspective

The day after the National Book Awards were announced, with Patti Smith receiving one for her memoir, Just Kids, about her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, among other things, I knew I had to read it. Despite the fact that I had never been terribly enamored of their work as artists, I drove down to the nearest independent bookseller to see if I could score a copy. They had one copy. It was mine. I was excited, but I didn't know why.

Patti Smith's music and performance art isn't necessarily my thing, but what I have come to appreciate about her, and even more so now, is her completely self-effacing manner. I know that sounds paradoxical, given her life, and it is. That's the beauty of it, of her. Jeffrey Brown interviewed her for PBS a few weeks ago, shortly after I bought her book, and it altered my perceptions of her. She is one cool drink of water, so refreshing among the self-aggrandizement all too often found in the art world.

A few years ago, I attended an opening for an artist friend whose work was being represented in a group show over on Second Street in Santa Fe. It was a new gallery and I wanted to be supportive, plus I thought it would be a fun outing. I had passed by this square piece of wood and glass sitting on the floor more than once, not realizing until about my third pass-by that the glass box contained a person.  A real live person, scrunched into this square, like Harry Houdini experimenting with confinement, waiting for the perfect time to free himself. I know this was supposed to be about Something. Something Important. But for the life of me, all I could ask was, 'Why?'

Now, I'm not opposed to performance or installation art, but it sometimes seems to have gone off the deep end where art and ego meet. For many years I held the opinion that Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe fit into this category. But, that was my category, and although Mapplethorpe did seem to yearn for the fame and fortune that goes with being discovered in the art world, in Patti Smith, I was very happy to discover that beneath, or instead of, my perceptions, was a living, breathing person who simply knew she had been called to create.

She writes:
  "In my low periods, I wondered what was the point of creating art. For whom?  Are we animating God?  Are we talking to ourselves?   And what was the ultimate goal?  To have one's work caged in art's great zoos - the Modern, the Met, the Louvre?
   I craved honesty, yet found dishonesty in myself. Why commit to art?  For self-realization, or for itself?   It seemed indulgent to add to the glut unless one offered illumination.
    Robert had little patience with these introspective bouts of mine. He never seemed to question his artistic drives, and by his example, I understood that what matters is the work:  the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of color and graphite scrawled upon the sheet that magnified His motion. To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind comes a light, life-charged."

I didn't read it right away. I put it on my stack and thought I'd know when it was time to open it. About six weeks went by. As I was packing for this road trip I put it in my bag, knowing the trip would produce the right moment. That was three days ago. I savored it, sentence by finely written sentence. I even put it down mid-sentence, just to forestall the coming conclusion, to elongate my pleasure at finding such a great read. It reminded me of my own youth, wanting something more, to experience all life has to offer. I may have mentioned a time or two, I got bit by the Kerouac bug early and hard. Sam Shepard, Gregory Corso, and her endless fascination with Rimbaud, all spoke to me of my own lingering obsessions.

I have always been enamored of the creative life, the passion of painters and poets, of musicians and songwriters, purveyors of all things beautiful, people who knew from the beginning that they were called to be artists, people who show us the world through their eyes, and in doing so, show us the world again through our own, perhaps for the first time.

I tried a few of these paths, paths that I knew, ultimately, would have taken me too far from home, too far from my true self, or too deeply into someone else's life; I had experiences and relationships that reinforced my love of the creative process and helped me to understand what drives people to do what they do with such passion. They even called forth some of my own. In the end, I kept what worked and let go of what didn't.

I'm not necessarily recommending her book to anyone. All I know is, it is so simply and beautifully written, and such an interesting and thoughtful look at the creative life, I was smitten. I'm sure I'll read it again, and that seldom happens. There have been few books that called me back to them. This one will, I'm certain.

The best part of this?  Seeing someone's life from their perspective rather than through my own prejudices.  Waking up to realize that my long-held beliefs were not necessarily the truth, that they were only my perceptions, as it is for all of us, in all of life.

Friday, January 21, 2011

All Moments are Key Moments

 Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.


Go where your best prayers take you.

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

I had not heard of Frederick Buechner until a few days ago, when I met him through George at Transit Notes (see my blogroll).  I had to find out more, read more. He is a poet and theologian, a spiritual memoirist and essayist. I liked what I found. The quotes I've included are his. The words themselves seem full of grace, attended to by a keen and loving heart.

Late this afternoon I went over to the church at Ranchos de Taos. It's been painted and photographed countless times by many artists including Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams. I've photographed it more than once over the years, but I wanted to go back and pay homage to it again. And, for the first time, I had the place all to myself.  It sure was fun.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

At Home in My One Room Schoolhouse

Yesterday, I decorated my room. No, that's not it. Not exactly. I'll get to that.

This past Sunday night I stayed with my friends, Anne and Paxton, at their home west of Taos. En route, while crossing the Great Divide, I gave some thought to the notion that we would have a good visit, then I would pack up the stuff I had stored there when I left Santa Fe, and head back to Minnesota.

Just before passing through a tiny little town called Chromo I stopped to take some photographs of an abandoned, one-room schoolhouse at the edge of town. I love these little bits of history, what they represent.

After arriving in the late afternoon, while Anne and I visited, we packed my car. Then we ate some pizza and stayed up talking late into the night.

In the middle of the night I woke up and was lying there waiting for I knew not what. Until I did. The almost-full moon was now over the house and was shining in the window. I was not going home to Minnesota yet. I was leaving Anne's house and that's all I knew. And not because she wanted me out, although I suppose that is a possibility, but I knew I should leave and listen for guidance.

In the morning, while driving the Rim Road, I felt I was supposed to go into Taos and look for a room. I pulled over at the first intersection before heading into town, briefly disagreed, and played with the notion of heading down to Sedona. I even called Anne, who makes regular visits, to ask how long it took to get there. Maybe I was supposed to be there, an idea that didn't feel altogether disagreeable. I wavered. And then I sat and listened. Whether I liked it or not, for now at least, I was going into Taos. Not an altogether disagreeable option, either.

When I drove by a certain motel I knew that was where I should be. Not the spiffiest joint in town, but it offers those things I need right now - off the road with a certain sense of privacy and quiet, a courtyard with pinon trees as well as trees outside almost every room, coyote fencing, and ristras hanging from the vigas - lots of southwestern ambiance, something I've been missing, and it's cozy to boot (I think that's a fairly decent pun, but I might be prejudiced). It also just so happens to be the first motel I ever checked into in New Mexico many years ago.

The cool thing is, I have two of my favorite paintings and a favorite framed print in my car. Well, I did have. They are now gracing my humble abode. Had I waited to pack up my stuff, I would not have them now for my room.

I think one of the things I may be learning is that, yes, it's good to have a permanent home to always return to, and I'm very grateful for Lonewolf, for all it offers me, and I will be equally grateful to return there, but it's also good to feel at home wherever I happen to be.

Having spent most of my life, since a teenager really, in one relationship or another, I became used to navigating through life with someone there to share the ups and downs, the day to day exigencies that can complicate or relieve our human experience, sort of a built-in support system that creates a sense of security. And even though I've spent the better part of the last five years sans a relationship, I find I am still learning to appreciate and honor a solo life. Learning to feel at home wherever I am means learning to feel at home with myself. And that, as they say, is big.

So, I did a little decorating, leaning my artwork against the walls, bought some groceries at the store down the road, asked for and received a small refrigerator, and took a walk around the courtyard in the evening light. It's feeling kinda homey.

I almost forgot to tell you: when I crossed over into New Mexico from Utah on Sunday, in less than a quarter of a mile there were two crows and a coyote. The crows were standing over their dinner in the ditch, whoever the poor critter had been, and the coyote was trotting away from them, down in a hollow, across a snow-covered field. He had decided it wasn't worth it or they had shared before I came over the hill. That second scenario isn't likely but one never knows what goes on when we're not there to insert our conditioned human thinking. Either way, they made a fine welcoming committee.

Then, the morning after I arrived here, a lone crow cawed right outside my door, announcing my arrival. This is where I Am. Another day of learning in my own little one-room schoolhouse. And I don't intend to abandon it. I will be carrying it with me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Learning to Fly 10,000 Miles

It's a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately filling up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness, as well as fundamental spaciousness.
 ~ Pema Chodron

Last night I slept in Taos, New Mexico, and I will again tonight. Perhaps I'll then move on to Santa Fe or back to Minnesota. I don't know. All I know or need to know is this is where I am, where I believe I'm supposed to be right now. It feels right.

I've never watched the movie, "Fly Away Home."  A few nights ago I came across this clip in a seemingly haphazard fashion I cannot retrace, looking for one thing and finding another. Perhaps it was one of those times when I was led to see what I needed to see. What I know for certain is I felt at peace watching and listening. It reminds me of that wonderful film, "Winged Migration."  I love the images, the ideas - so sweet and beautiful - and Mary Chapin Carpenter's song, "10,000 Miles," is the perfect accompaniment. It just feels apropos to my life right now. Metaphors and messages. Listening and being. I hope you experience a similar sense of peace.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dreamtime and Xylophones in the Park

Yesterday, JB and I walked along the Colorado River, towering red rock on one side and the river flowing languidly alongside us on the other.  The blue sky and warming sun made the cool day a bit easier to walk through. As we walked by a pair of caves in the red rock, now sporting matching steel doors, JB told me about a woman who had lived in one of them a few years ago. They evicted her and created massive locked doors at the cave's entrance. It's interesting, the choices people make and the things they do to get by in this old world. I would love to know more about her, her life, what created the situation that brought her to her home in the cave.

Others live or have lived in caves in the area. A couple of years ago I read of a young man who lived in one farther up a hiking trail we had been on. Unbeknownst to me at the time, our hike stopped just short of his place in the hillside. The news story I read stated that he had made the choice, preferring it to all other options. According to the story, he did have other, more comfortable options. I wonder if he still does. Prefer it.

Farther on, we walked by a rock face where someone had scratched "dreamtime" on the rock. I've always liked that word. It originates with indigenous Australians, whose spirituality is not unlike indigenous tribes of the American Southwest, their beliefs dovetailing in many respects. I found the information on wikipedia very interesting and synonymous with much of my own spirituality:

In the early afternoon, we climbed up to a spot high above the river and sat on a small rock ledge, had lunch and a good conversation. There's something about being outdoors, spending time away from the constructs of our culture, that lends itself to talks about the myriad possibilities in life. It had all the elements of a beautiful day.

Yeah, that's me, among the rock and sky.

When we got back to town, we stopped at a small park which sits down in a hollow along a creek. We heard the sound of a xylophone, but were immersed in conversation once again and so I didn't immediately realize what was almost right under our noses. In a corner of the park were numerous xylophones and a young man was playing them beautifully.

I didn't want to disturb him, so we waited. After awhile we wandered over for a closer look. I was absolutely giddy with what I found. Several different xylophones, as well as other percussion instruments, all made of different materials, and all with "hammers" for playing. I visited with the young man while he showed me all the various instruments and their sounds, including those that had a few dull spots to be aware of. He said he comes by every day to play them. What a magical place it is, and how cool that this young man has made it part of his day, his life.


After he went on his way, I tried my hand at making a little music. It's these dream-like days that help me to more fully understand our own dreamtime, the origins of creation, and how Life leads us into one life-affirming moment of beauty after another.

My time in Moab is drawing to a close. I've stayed longer than originally intended. I am grateful to JB for his hospitality and his companionship. Tomorrow morning, on to New Mexico.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Calling Each Other Into Being

I spent the day with Wendell Berry, essayist, poet, activist and Kentucky farmer. No, not in the flesh, but with his words and his love for the land. Why?  Well, he's been crossing my mind now and again, his way of looking at life, his way of being in it. It's something I strive for, wish to emulate, on many different levels. And, as is so often the case, Life has a way of leading me right where I need to be. This time it was a bookstore.

One of my favorites is here in Moab, called Back of Beyond. It carries a thoughtful selection of books, both new and used. I stop in whenever I visit and always find something interesting, something that revitalizes and sustains me. Yesterday, I thought I went there to look for a book a friend had recommended,  How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, by Michael Gelb. I didn't find it. I found something else. It was quietly calling my name from the slim, divine stacks of the poetry section.

It was a little book of poems by Wendell Berry called, The Wheel. I opened it to a couple of lines that grabbed me by the lapels of my heart and wouldn't let go. I knew I had to have it. Though published in 1982, the printed price was suspiciously low and so I took it to the register to ask her about it. She showed me, in pencil on the inside cover, the actual price. And why.  On the title page, under his name, was his personal signature. A signed copy. Needless to say, it came home with me.

Today, I spent some time with it, savoring certain lines, reminding myself why I love the land, its inherent beauty and goodness, the simplicity of life it offers, and why loving the land is really no different than loving a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, or a dear friend. It offers fine companionship, open and honest communication, and a sense of place that sometimes seems hard to come by in a world of 7 billion people.

As we move in, around, and through each others lives, the land gives shape and form, provides contentment,  "in the sweet enclosure of the song."

The Wheel
For Robert Penn Warren

At the first strokes of the fiddle bow
the dancers rise from their seats.
The dance begins to shape itself
in the crowd, as couples join,
and couples join couples, their movement
together lightening their feet.
They move in the ancient circle
of the dance. The dance and the song
call each other into being. Soon
they are one - rapt in a single
rapture, so that even the night
has its clarity, and time
is the wheel that brings it round.

In this rapture the dead return.
Sorrow is gone from them.
They are light. They step
into the steps of the living
and turn with them in the dance
in the sweet enclosure
of the song, and timeless
is the wheel that brings it round.

~ Wendell Berry

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ancient Art Galleries

Another road runs alongside the Colorado, just outside Moab, referred to as Kane Creek Road, It, too, has several petroglyph panels along it. Yesterday, the weather was a tad gloomy, so we revisited them. Up above the road, along a rock ledge, is the Moab mammoth, along with a few other images carved in stone. Whether these are messages left by travelers or the long ago local citizenry sharing their stories, writing in their journals, we will never know, but rock art it is, and in the finest gallery in the world, Mother Nature.

Dig that crazy necklace....

The photographs are mine.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another Adventure Under Our Belts

There's a road that meanders up above Moab to an area known as Sand Flats. It continues beyond that into some fairly rugged country, designed more for mountain bikers and bullet-proof twenty-somethings. You know, that age when you feel a sense of invincibility and usually can have a lifestyle that promulgates it? That's not my age. Albeit, I have been in some fine canyons in the last twenty years and still have a pretty adventuresome spirit, along with a desire to get outside my comfort zone and experience life at a level that seems a bit more challenging.  A bit. I do not, however, like to be foolish, and although pretty good at conquering my fears, I've never been too crazy about being afraid for any length of time.

Yesterday was cool, the low 30's, but quite nice for hiking at this altitude and under a clear blue sky. We decided to do some walking on Sand Flats. Sand Flats is a misnomer. It's really a series of rocky hills and this time of year one side of those hills is covered in a few inches of snow. Speaking of snow, since I arrived I've noticed that the snow consists of a much larger than normal crystalline structure -  and it's everywhere, even up in Arches a few days ago, where I first noticed it. It's really quite beautiful. I almost feel guilty walking across it, breaking down the crystals.

We parked the car and headed into the area, which starts with a marked trail. For those who prefer that. We tend to veer off the trail at the first opportunity.

After leaving the trail, and walking for about half an hour, mostly up and down red rock, but occasionally through snow, we decided to take a break. On the next hill over. The problem with that plan is that a fairly steep snow-covered slope lay in front of us. JB is an intrepid hiker and, although never foolish, often a bit more fearless than I. He went down first with small, careful steps and declared it  "a piece of cake."  I took his "piece of cake" with a grain of salt, but decided I need to let go of my fear and be willing to have an adventure. He came back up and helped me down small step by small step. The softness of the snow under the crystals helped with getting our footing. Hang onto that thought. It's key.

When we got off the slope, (no, that is not the slope, but a previous, easier one. No time for pictures when facing imminent death. But, I digress), the rest was easy going, down along a small stream of frozen water and back up onto a knoll of red rock, the perfect place for a break. As usual, we stayed a little longer than we'd planned, talking about pretty much everything - politics, geology, spirituality, flaws in materia medica, the meaning of life. Stuff like that. JB mentioned the new movie coming out about the young man who had to cut off his own arm after it got lodged in the rocks, while hiking here in Utah. He had listened to an interview on NPR, where the young man had described in pretty harrowing detail his awful predicament. It would not have been a discussion for later in our day.

We took pictures, mostly of clouds that were starting to form, creating quite dramatic scenery right over our heads.

When we decided to start heading back, we thought at first it would be nice to find another route, so as not to traverse the same area, see what we could see. We had a couple of hours of daylight left and plenty of time. Then, we thought better of it and decided to head back on the same path to avoid possible problems. We picked up our trail and followed our footprints coming in, heading back up to the snow covered slope we'd come down an hour or so earlier.

It's always been harder for me going up than coming down, vertigo being a factor. But this time held another factor - the cooling of the day. The gathering clouds and the dip in temperature had changed the snow. It was now icy under those beautiful crystals. Slippery slope may well have been coined in that spot, many years ago. It was a no-can-do for me, that much was certain. JB, having come up behind me, and a more seasoned hiker, wasn't completely convinced until he, too, made an attempt, which culminated in him slipping down, with his fingertips out like claws grasping for a fingerhold of any kind to stop the slide. Though sympathetic, I withheld my laughter, for the time being.

As with our usual gambit when confronted with a "situation," we started the good-natured blame game. He usually begins with something like, "Well, Ollie, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into."  I retort with something equally clever, that I can't recall right now, that may or may not have been peppered with colorful language. Then, we do a minute or so of verbal tussling before getting down to the business of finding a solution. It's traditional.

While I fought back the bit of fear trying to find an entrance, we decided the best course would be to simply head for the direction of the road, which we knew ran alongside us, just not too sure how far away. It was do-able before dark. That was the important bit of information we gathered there. So, off we went, into the wild blue yonder, exchanging clever repartee about our predicament and tales of other adventures we have known. Then we fell into a peaceful silence, one foot in front of the other, stopping to do a quick survey every few minutes to make certain we were still on course. About an hour later, we could see a break in the terrain and a small section of the road down below, about twenty minutes away. Quiet Hallelujahs all around. 

We got to the road with our dignity and senses of humor still intact. I wished for chocolate. JB carries a fairly well-stocked backpack, so I thought it not outside the realm of possibility. But, alas and alack, he declared us to be in a chocolate dead zone. I lamented and asked him why he wasn't manifesting some as we walked. He, being a very practical kind of guy, and manifest not being a word he would normally use, uncharacteristically said,  "Dark chocolate."  I retorted with,  "At this point, any chocolate would do."  He said we needed to be on the same page if we hope to manifest something, so I agreed, dark chocolate it would be. Then we kept walking.  A little further down the road and around the next bend, we saw the parking lot below, with JB's truck waiting patiently for us.

After arriving in the parking lot, and while I laughed hysterically about his fingers grasping for anything in his slide into recognition on the snowy slope (he being good-natured and tolerant), JB did his usual going through his backpack, reorganizing it. It's this thing he does. He's a Virgo. After further and deeper digging, he sat something down on the tailgate of the truck next to me.

Dark chocolate.

It had been at the bottom of his bag, and none the worse for wear. I was not about to complain about the condition it was in. It was chocolate. And it was edible. And another adventure was under our belts.

The opening photo, taken at the top of Sand Flats, is Abyss Canyon, a branch of Negro Bill Canyon. That's an improvement on its former appellation, of many years ago. JB and I hiked it together on a previous trip.