Goin’ Once, Goin’ Twice, Goin’ Gone

Darker skies are still the order of the day here in Paradise. The smoke blanket is less dense or more dense but never absent. Hard to imagine what it must be like around where it all originates. Awful, I imagine. Our local air quality is poor, and we’re at least a thousand miles away from the fires.

There is one benefit to having this layer between us and the sun, and that is to make the heat more tolerable. It’s like 95 degrees in the shade compared with being out in the open. A couple of days ago I realized that with the high temperatures, low humidity, and woodsmoke we are all being slowly converted into jerky. I judge that I should be ready for packaging in another month, I think.

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The midpoint of one of our regular bicycle rides is at a small bridge across an irrigation canal that draws its water from the Gunnison River. We stop, refresh ourselves from the water we carry in our packs, and take a minute to gather it all in. On the morning of August 11, this is what the view was from the bridge.

There were a few waterfowl swimming way upstream, and behind us a large fish jumped and made a splash. All that was left behind were the widening circles in the water. What the picture doesn’t show was a chorale of roosters at some coop in the distance letting us know in unmistakable terms that it was morning. As if a person couldn’t see that for themselves.

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One evening Robin and I talked about how as a couple we have always lived by a river. The Big Sioux, the Missouri, and now the Uncompahgre. Our home is not right on it, but it’s a very short drive from BaseCamp. I’ve never quizzed myself to see if I liked lakes or rivers better … what would the point be of that? Both have hooked me hard at different times, and then released me to the land, different from what I had been.

In the mountains the water is mostly very busy and in a hurry. A reservoir may interrupt it for a time, but once beyond each dam it hitches up its belt and takes off once again at a run. Along its route it makes those sounds that we all recognize as special. Whenever Robin and I are given the choice of sleeping near a stream we take it.

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A man named Cuomo has resigned his post this week, after the queue of women who claimed he sexually harassed them kept getting longer and longer. When it finally reached all the way from Times Square to Greenwich Village he gave in. On Tuesday he said that he never crossed an important line with women, but that when he wasn’t looking somebody moved the line and didn’t tell him. That’s at least a try at a defense. Not a very good one, but a try.

Of course his personal line was a pretty rancid one, and convincing himself that giving any breast or buttock within reach a good squeeze was not only okay, but welcome … what can you say?

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BTW, one of our younger grandchildren has decided that the word “breast” is too loaded and sensitive for daily use. She has substituted “chest,” as in “We’re having baked chicken chests for supper.”

I haven’t yet, but the next time I see her I plan to ask how she deals with the term pork butt.

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Notes From A Backyard Deck

Neighbor Ed has nearly finished laying out the simple paver patio for us. The weather for construction has been abysmally hot, so when he and his helper quit early on Friday I wasn’t surprised or perturbed. Instead, we are pleased at how it is coming along. ‘Tis a simple rectangle which to we will add … what, I don’t know … but I’m sure it will all turn out to be snazzy, swell, and neat-o. How could it not be so? Robin and I bleed an artistic shade of red, and our decorating choices are impeccable.

Sometimes a visitor will look at something I have added to the house furnishings and particularly like, and they will say “Ewwwwww.” I forgive them and say “Come back in 25 years or so and you will find that what you despise today is utterly au courant. People will be scouring attics and barns for such things one day, just wait and see.”

I am so ahead of my time, whenever that is, that is.

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My very good friend who I never met, Nanci Griffith, has stepped out of the room. She was 68 at the time of her passing … a baby’s years. I don’t recall exactly when I first became aware of her music, but it captivated me then and there. Something about that child-like voice saying very grown-up things, I guess.

Listening to her songs today is a mixed thing. The music is just as special as ever, but the songs are tied to a period of my life that I don’t re-visit often. This heart that serves me so well has a few scars (and whose does not?), and Nanci’s tunes can pull uncomfortably at those.

Ms. Griffith also introduced me to Larry McMurtry and his book Lonesome Dove. There is no writer who has given me more pleasure, and no book that I have re-read more often.

Perhaps you can see why this particular obituary in the NYTimes on Saturday morning might have given me pause to reflect. But then, listening to a good song has always been worth a pang or two.

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It’s all just life, and this comes through in Griffith’s music. Life as defined by John Lennon: “What happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

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