Alma, Tell Us …

In central Colorado there is a town called Alma which the visitor might remember for two reasons. One is that at 10,578 feet it is the highest incorporated municipality in the United States. The second is the presence of a good ol’ general store which a local genius has named Al-Mart.

Now although Alma’s population is only 296 today, in the 1870s it was a bustling 10,000 souls. Mining was what drew people to this place, and today there are 17,452 mining sites in the area around the town. Its climate is such that there is no real growing season, so anyone who has an obsessive itch to garden can finally relax because even a radish wouldn’t make it.

We took a couple of (what else?) beautiful hikes while staying in a BnB outside of town with friends last weekend. As one of those friends once said: Colorado is geologically blessed.

Alma, by Tom Lehrer

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Speaking of BnB’s. I wonder how the name still sticks, when the majority of these offerings don’t offer that second “B” at all? At the place we stayed, not only did they not make us breakfast, there wasn’t even (gasp) a toaster. We made do by hauling out a large electric griddle from the back of the pantry to burn our bread with. It did a fair job, although by the end of each morning there was a strong aroma of singed wheat in the dwelling.

There were ten of us in the cabin, and each had a bed, which was a good thing. Sometimes overzealous promoters of these places might say “sleeps ten” which is technically true if three of the occupants are okay with resting on pine boards stretched across a pair of sawhorses.

And there was a civilized touch in the presence of a dishwasher. Unfortunately the latch on the machine wouldn’t work, so that it couldn’t be closed. Oddly enough, even though the door wouldn’t shut, the washer would start up if you pressed the button. And if you were willing to stand there holding the door closed throughout the several hour cycle, it probably would clean your dishes. We chose to wash ours by hand. Quicker all in all, you know.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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The month of August has a lot of weight to carry, I think. It’s often the hottest month of the year, the mosquitoes are still around (although in shorter supply), plants and humans are drooping a bit under that merciless sun, and let’s face it – who plans an August vacation if they don’t have to? Looming over its shoulder is September, which will be cooler, less buggy, prettier in those areas where the leaves turn color, and in general a more hospitable milieu in which to continue one’s life.

But still, August comes around each year and occupies 31-days of the calendar to boot. It is the Rodney Dangerfield of months, soldiering along without respect.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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I am presently reading the book “Lincoln In The Bardo.” Last night there was a passage that I found awfully moving … here, I’ll quote it for you, rather than natter on.

First, though, I will set the stage with a definition of the word.

Used without qualification, “bardo” is the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. According to TibetanĀ tradition, after death and before one’s next birth, when one’s consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena.

Wikipedia: Bardo

The voices in this passage are of persons in the bardo.

Please do not misunderstand. We had been mothers, fathers. Had been husbands of many years, men of import, who had come here, that first day, accompanied by crowds so vast and sorrowful that, surging forward to hear the oration, they had damaged fences beyond repair. Had been young wives, diverted here during childbirth, our gentle qualities stripped from us by the naked pain of that circumstance, who left behind husbands so enamored of us, so tormented by the horror of those last moments (the notion that we had gone down that awful black hole pain-sundered from ourselves) that they had never loved again. Had been bulky men, quietly content, who, in our first youth, had come to grasp our own unremarkableness and had, cheerfully (as if bemusedly accepting a heavy burden), shifted our life’s focus; if we would not be great, we would be useful; would be rich, and kind, and thereby able to effect good: smiling, hands in pockets, watching the world we had subtly improved walking past (this empty dowry filled; that education secretly funded). Had been grandmothers, tolerant and frank, recipients of certain dark secrets, who, by the quality of their unjudging listening, granted tacit forgiveness, and thus let in the sun. What I mean to say is, we had been considerable. Had been loved. Not lonely, not lost, not freakish, but wise, each in his or her own way. Our departures caused pain. Those who had loved us sat upon their beds, heads in hand; lowered their faces to tabletops making animal noises. We had been loved, I say, and remembering, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory.

George Saunders: Lincoln in the Bardo

Now that, my friends, is a piece of writing. It is the sort of thing that can be just plain depressing, when I can’t avoid seeing the gulf between prose that can sing like this and my own best efforts which are little more than stuttering in comparison.

Ah, well. Ah, well. If we are given chisels to work with instead of scalpels, it is best we don’t take up brain surgery, no?

(It’s that last line that is the hooker. I think that it might be where our best shot at immortality lies. ‘We had been loved, I say, and remembering, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory.At long last, one could hope that people we know are briefly gladdened)

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I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain, by Tim Buckley

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