On scattered reservations, a few elders rise before dawn each day and summon the sun to return. Don’t scoff. When I, too, get up in the dark and meditate, I feel my own self-confidence rising. Watch the world awaken. Light a wood fire, something I sit beside and watch for hours, its flames more imaginative than television. Bask in the radiant warmth.
Kokopelli, night owl that he is, still slumbers.
My wife, in another room, rolls toward the wall and finally rises to join me.
There’s a science, and then there’s an art. In the pyre, paper first chars, then shrinks, and finally explodes. Only then do flames engulf it. “Consider the bomb a ream would create,” I grin at her.
“Now who would you want to bomb, Buzzard?”
But I also know how difficult igniting that ream would be, and how difficult to keep it burning. Watch carefully and misconceptions turn to ash.
In the continuing drought of that fall and winter, I explore national forest well into February. Areas that should be buried in a half-dozen feet of snow are instead bare. Atop one mountain, I look over a cliff. “I think it’s dolomite.” Maybe it isn’t. Maybe the identification isn’t earth-shaking important, but learning the names of places and their minerals, fauna, and flora adds dimensions to a place. Improves your chances of survival, too, if put to the test. For now, I scramble on the scree and realize that white painted stones at the cliff’s edge marked out a heliport. Far below my feet, a table of forest spreads into basins that are invisible from my vantage, and other places I’ve already been. I trace Forest Service roads, such as they are — 1707 from Raganunda to the top or 601 down to Willy Dick’s. “Keep elk gate closed,” the sign reads when I came out, passing a few back country ranches to the highway’s rush and debris. Far above all that, I sing out: “God bless a bloody rib cage above gray fuzz. Perhaps we’ll have rain in the morning! We shouldn’t be kicking this dust.”
In a zero-degree fog, the sun rises as white as the moon.
“Let our liquid flow again despite this desiccation!” I cry in my dreams. “Why is it so difficult to recall the thoughts rainstorms instilled?”
“You put too much value on sorrow,” Kokopelli tells me. Even in my sleep, that old guide’s still at work.
For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.