“Back again, it’s Saturday…umm…I don’t know, (dates don’t matter.)
“It smells like spring! There’s a little bit of moisture in the air, it’s warmer. Mmmm, it smells like my desert after a monsoon. And the birds are singing. Oh I wish I could just bottle the smell for the research.
“But no, smells like this belong out here – they don’t belong in shampoos and soaps, mmm just in my nose and my mind.”
“The grass is redder today. It must be that with the moisture, the colors come out.
“This has to be my favorite part – walking through the tall grasses. The grass doesn’t seem to be as high today. Is it the dew? More mowing? But it’s still beautiful, just the morning light.”
“There’s sage in there – little tiny pockets of sage. I didn’t notice that before.”
“The land is so small, and the sky is so big. At the same time, the airplane overhead is just drowning out the peace.
“The grass is popping. It’s making little noises, sort of like popcorn. I wonder if it has to do again with the sun and the heat and the moisture. Tiny little pops.
“Way up on the hill, this part of the path is just dirt. It’s soft and quiet. I can see footprints of everyone else. Add mine to the mix. Rich, dark earth, soft.”
“Peace. I just have this sense of warm, sunny, fresh-air peace. (Fresh-air, big sky peace.”)
“I keep assigning names to things. Today I got this idea that I should draw a map and just assign names to things like “Deer Hill” and “Fencepost Ridge.” What is it that Abbey says, that “through naming comes knowing? Hension, prehension, apprehension?” I’m starting to put memories on specific places, specific corners of the trail. So “Deer Hill” back there, and looking forward to “Fencepost Ridge.” – I know it’s coming.”
[tape malfunction, who knows, cares, what I was rambling ambling]
“’The man ahead of me, he just took a picture of my fencepost!’ – that’s what I was thinking. And then I realized, ‘how absurd of me, to think of it as my fencepost.’”
“Today feels less about discovering and more about remembering, what with “my” fencepost back there, and now coming up to the one snared in the wind. But today, without the immediacy of the wind, it just doesn’t feel the same. (Oh, there it is. Hello, fence post.)”
“So I’ve been following the man in the yellow windbreaker. Instead of meditating on the landscape, I’ve been meditating on the ‘swish swish swish’ of his coat. And what he was doing out here. (And what he was doing taking a picture of “my” fencepost.)
“The modern mode of tracking: I can tell that the the man in the yellow windbreaker is not the person who has horizontal tread on their boots. When I was at Natural Bridges National Monument a few years ago and thought I was completely lost, it was only by tracking, tracking someone with horizontal boot-tread.
“Experiences in other places just flow right into experience here. I’m layering this not just with memories of this, right now (me talking into an absurd little tape-recorder), but of this summer and last summer and years before that. The skies, winds, scents, sounds.”
“Two people with horizontal boot tread! I bet it has to be a husband and wife. They bought their boots at the same time – same shop, same brand, slightly different size.
“I wonder what they were talking about when they came, this morning(?). Were they watching birds? For some reason, I picture them as, I don’t know, mid-fifties? Nice people.”
“Funny, I’ll probably always think of this place in blues and golds. Not green, just the occasional pine hunkered down. People usually think of grasslands and prairies as huge seas of green. Not this one. Not today. Not last week.”
“It smelled like spring at the beginning, and now it smells like autumn. I don’t know, just the light. The brush in the creek. Huh, it doesn’t smell like winter. Humph, it’s February.”
(“Oh, it smells like autumn, it’s got to be the leaves in the sun!)(How can seasons have smells?)
(“If I could walk this every day, just step out my back door and be here, I would be happy.”)
“Finally some little bird sat still long enough for me to pull out my bird identification book, which I opened to find the sparrows and my goodness! – how on earth am I supposed to tell the difference? There are dozens of them! And they all look the same… I’m going to have to try to distinguish the calls.
“Okay, so there’s one that keeps going “dun-dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun” on exactly that note. And there’s another that goes [whistle] “thwoo-eet, thwoo-eet, thwoo-eet, thwoo-eet.” (Oy yoi yoi, I need my song birdbook. But it’s a little awkward to carry around with me. ) And there’s the [whistle] “dee-dee, dee-dee” one out there too.”
“So here I am, -- trying to sort out half a dozen different bird calls with my book and my tape recorder, whistling and singing – and there comes a woman, walking along perfectly happily in the sunshine. Wearing headphones. Listening to an i-pod.
“Stream’s undercut. A whole tree has fallen in. It must have just broken through, what a tremendous crash that must have made! Lots of other trees, nearly ready to go, their roots exposed.”
“Except for the birds and the smells, (Oh and the clouds, as I look up, egads! Those horsetails across the sky, just wisps) I’m not here today, I’m thinking of the past. The coyote scat, disintegrated, and I think, ‘hmm, last week that was fresh.’ And I see streams undercut and I see bootprints, I’m living in this imaginary world of a map that I’m drawing in my head and putting names on.
Crunchcrunchcrunch on the gravel and the wind on the grass, I’m forgetting to be here.
(Ahh the irony of things. ‘Forgetting,’ I realize. Forgetting implies memory.)(‘Am forgetting’? too, I can’t stop with the words. It’s the process – the “felt value” as Herb Schroeder would call it, as opposed to the other categories, “concept value” or something, “assigned value.” Felt value. I “am forgetting.)(Oh, it’s a beautiful morning.)
“Expectations. So last week I was driving in on the road and was expecting huge flocks of crows. Today, here I am, coming to my little “Quail Surprise” (I hope I didn’t call them pheasants last week, I think I did, but they were definitely quail) and here I am, I’m expecting them to be there.”
“Blue jay! I know that one! I can identify that! Because it’s so blue. (Blue. Jay.) So very, very blue, it just flapped away with it’s little red breast. Oh, and there goes another one, like little pockets of sky flying off!
“Yesterday morning, while walking to campus, I waited for the sun to rise…. Oh, there’s a deer!…”
“And another! And another! [whisper] They blend in so beautifully. A little bird came, and I got out my book and was asking, ‘who are you,’ but it flew away, and I saw something move in the woods. And then another one. And another. And I’m just standing there looking at them and they’re just standing there looking at me. I’m looking at them, clutching a bird book, wearing a cowboy hat, and talking into a tape recorder…”
[tape ends, next side…]
“I know the idea of “place” (put in quotations) is a social idea – “place” is socially and politically constructed and I can see that social and political decisions about how to manage this – to put a trail here, to give people access and tell them about it – that’s part of it. And people talk about “going to Konza” – that’s social too, but. I don’t know, it’s experienced on such an individual level. And that’s what’s acted upon in the social and political realms. It’s me walking this path, every week.”