This morning, the sky is wild and tumbling. It makes me moody and introspective. I am out walking. When I dip down into the cottonwood stand in the dry gulch of Cusick Creek, the wind sounds like a far off freight train that never quite arrives. I look to the tops of the trees as they groan and rattle. It’s amazing, the strength of trees, the vertical stairways of flexible cambium beneath the brittle and frayed edges of bark, the way they can bend so deeply without breaking. I wonder what there is in me that manages the same kind of strength, what it is about my structure that allows me to stand up to a devil of a wind as it rakes and lashes at me? There’s a new cottonwood down, probably a victim of weather; I wonder if it was simply overcome, or if it gave up? Can trees give up? Though they live a life of service, I tend to believe surrender isn’t in the nature of trees, or anything wild and natural for that matter. Maybe humans are different because we can suffer the infliction of a crushed and broken spirit? (there is the matter of domestic animals which, at the hands of humans, can suffer crushed spirits and are therefore in a separate category from wild animals and human beings) There’s a kind of broken, terrible bad in some people that just spreads, like a virus, into others, crushing as it goes. I don’t see the same sort of affliction in nature. There is always a will to survive. A coyote in a trap will chew its foot off. There is never a question of when to give up and let go. Even when wild animals are dying, at the teeth and claws of each other, or at the hands of a hunter, they continue to fight for life. There is only the effort of living, every moment of every day. It’s amazing. I take notes. Copious amounts of field notes.
This beautiful world of mine is washed in muted hues: stony violet, chalk, drab taupes and tans, vague greens and the occasional patch of gold where the light hits a mountain peak or a clump of sage. It’s stark and madly howling out here. The colors are just as I love them: fleeting, shifting, melding, brewing, perhaps even indignant, as though they do not want the added contrast of bright light to birth them into full strength. They cannot be captured. They run rampant in the hands of the wind, flickering and mutating, they scurry on the ground like a thousand velvet voles. My attempts to describe them are in vain. They leap in and out of appropriate adjectives as the sun pushes forth from behind cloud sail, and then slides into cover again.
Tater Tot is galloping about like a little psychopath. His eyes have the crazy look he’s infamous for. He disappears into the sage and in a moment I hear him yipping for joy. A covey of Hungarian partridge bursts into the air and is carried away like grains of pepper in the terrifying gusts of wind. Tater Tot commences his chase. I don’t have the heart to call him in. He is joyful, the way a trout is joyful when it leaps out of water for the sake of feeling the sky rub at its rainbow flanks.
I turn my back to the wind and take my hair out of the clip that holds it. Instantly, my sight is covered in gold silk, I have hair in my mouth, hair stuck to my lips, it stands up on end as the wind rolls over and under it. I’ll have to use a garden rake to get the knots out when I take my bath in the evening, but it’s worth it to feel free and unfettered for a moment. I’m like a mustang in the high desert sage flats, sure footed, strong and replete with life. I sling my camera strap over my shoulder, call Tater Tot in to my side, and break into an easy jog on a frozen trail.
I head east-southeast, toward the growing light of the day.