Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why it was too much

A few weeks ago, I lamented here the deaths of a beautiful bird and a character in a foreign movie. Perhaps I'm overly empathetic, but at that point, I had also just had too much of death for a while. A couple weeks before that, my mom made the difficult decision to euthanize our aging family dog, the sweet pup we just couldn't stay mad at when she peed in the house or escaped down the street or barked incessantly, because she also did funny things and licked our faces and always had a smile on that cute pointed muzzle. But she was heading toward the light, and it was just time. She'd been with the family for so long that I have felt her absence despite living far away for many years. Then, one morning about a week before that post, the local news announced the death of two airplane pilots who had crashed the day before while delivering assistance to firefighters in the Utah mountains. And I knew one of the men. Not well - I had only met him once, on an awkward date back in November, after exchanging messages through a dating site - but still, I knew him. He seemed like a nice enough guy. Any death is sad, but when it's someone you have met, it hits a little closer to home. That one felt weird for quite a few days, especially since, when we had started talking and I found out what he did, I thought "Gee, flying small planes like that sounds dangerous." So by the time the bird and the man in the movie had perished, I had had enough of death. I guess I was crying not just for them but also for the pup and the pilot. I hope the mourning doves cooed extra hard that day.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012


It's summer. The air is warm, and it sticks to your skin. Scents of food and flowers, chlorine and sunscreen, waft through the air, through the windows, through the countenance of the season. The hot winds blow hair into whorls as sweat beads on the temples and neck and clavicle. Magic happens now, scandalous things that make you blush and tingle beneath raised eyebrows and wide eyes. The energy of something about to happen crackles like the moment just before lighting strikes. Fires are set. They burn everything that has worn out its welcome, that has come and gone and since dried up, which feeds all that is poised to emerge from the ash-laden soil. Fed by those hot winds, the scene is set for new possibilities, the likes of which we can hardly imagine.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How not to hike up to Stack Rock

Last weekend, my friend and I embarked on a trek up to Stack Rock, an impressive rock formation near Bogus Basin. Except that there's very little information on how to actually get up to Stack Rock, despite the fact that the trail was dedicated a few years ago. The connecting trails from Bogus Basin create a 17-mile round-trip hike, something we didn't feel up for attempting. As it turns out, our final mileage didn't fall too short of that. We trusted this guy, assuming that even though the trailhead is unmarked, after starting on the trail the path would be obvious. It was not. Compare Stueby's 9.5-mile trail outline with ours: 

In order to avoid this 15.7-mile debacle, do not:
  • Take the high trail along the ridgeline. You will just have to backtrack. Instead, take the trail that curls down and along to the right, crisscrossing over a small stream through some gorgeous, cool forest in the valley. 
  • When you reach the intersection of trails 120 and 122, don't turn right on #120. You will just run into a woman and her 10-year-old son training for Half Dome by hiking the 17-mile trail you and your friend shunned, and they will persuade you to turn around and backtrack to the intersection. Showoffs. Instead, turn left onto #120, crossing the creek once again.
  • When you reach another intersection where the main trail curves to the right, away from Stack Rock (which you can now see in the distance), don't freak out and wonder where the trail to the left goes. Just follow the main trail to the right, even though it looks wrong.
    The lunch spot. Don't take the trail behind that log.
  • When you finally reach the marked trailhead for Stack Rock (#125), don't walk past the open area on the left. Sit and have lunch there; listen to the sky and the breeze and the birds. This is one of the few things we did right. Don't choose an unsheltered spot for a pit stop, unless you're okay with being buzzed by a prop plane while your bare ass is out in the open. 

  • When you've made your way around the Stack Rock loop, having marveled at the looming granite above you, don't decide to find out where the trail behind the trail 125 marker goes. It's not a short-cut. It's a long-cut. It will switchback through the open meadows of the foothills and dead-end at Bogus Basin Road. From there, it's 2.75 miles along Bogus Basin Road back to the car. Uphill. In the sun. With cars whooshing past you, none of them even giving you a funny look. As if two thirty-something women wearing hiking clothes and day packs walk along the winding mountain road all the time. If you walk up this road and you'd like a ride back to the car but have too much pride to thumb it, don't look healthy and capable. Do exaggerate a limp or rest woefully against the concrete barrier. 
  • Don't get upset when your best-laid plans go astray. It may be a long-ass haul, but with the right company, an appreciation for some gorgeous scenery and a sense of adventure, it'll be a great day that you can brag to your friends about. This, we also got right. It was worth it:

Stack Rock: worth the trouble it takes to get there

The view from behind Stack Rock

Friday, June 08, 2012

Too much

Today, a bird flew into my sliding glass door and died. I came home to find it lying motionless on its side on the porch. A few ants had already gotten to it - big, fat ants, the kind that can be picked up and taken back outside when they sneak their way into the house. They were crawling on the bird's beak, its eye squinting as if in pain. There was no blood, no gore, just a body on the red wood in the warm sun. I dug a hole in the corner of the yard and buried it there, beneath the pine needles, where it will return to the earth.

Other birds have flown into the door before, but they flew away unharmed. This one didn't make it. And I was so sad. I would have been sad if it were any of the many house finches that hang around the feeder all day, or the robins that fend off the squirrels in the trees, or the mourning doves that tiptoe across the roof. But this bird was a western tanager, with its deep black wing weathers and golden yellow head, an orange crown spreading. I had never seen one before moving here, and its bright feathers made my little wooded yard feel so magical. Birds fly into windows all the time, all over the world. I knew that they flew into mine and I didn't do anything to make sure it didn't happen again. I did nothing to prevent this beautiful bird from flying into my door, and now it is dead.

This evening I watched a movie in which one of the main characters reveals that he has a disease and that he is dying. In one dramatic scene, he screams and writhes in pain, not from the disease, but because he doesn't want to die. And I cried for him, because I know that's how I'll go someday, kicking and screaming in protest, and I cried for the bird, this beautiful bird, because I feel responsible for its death. The man in the movie was a billionaire, but he died, just like everyone else. In this magical yard where life teems, this poor bird died. One can have it all, and still, death comes knocking at the door. Right away, I covered my door with stripes of white, yellow, and green electrical tape, the only thing I could find that would prove to the birds that something solid marks the boundary between the porch and the house, so that no more magic will be lost. At least, not if I have anything to say about it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Now I've gone and done it

I said I would write more. That I would flex my creative muscle and make something worth sharing with the world. I thought originally that I would do it here, but if I want people to take notice, the people who can give me a writing or editing gig some day, it should be in a more elegant format. Not something that screams MeMeMe. Instead, something that gives thanks to the here and now, to the place we came from and the place we're heading, from the spot where we stand to the greatest span of the cosmos. No matter how we believe this all came to exist, we can all agree that it is incredible and inspiring, beyond comprehension. This digital space will still be all about MeMeMe with some other stuff thrown in, but please visit This Wondrous Place for something a little different, inspired partly by Radiolab, partly by Ken Burns' The National Parks series, and partly by the creative endeavors of some fabulously talented writer friends who dare to bare their souls. This Wondrous Place is where my soul lives. Please respect it.