“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein
"Life is good...it says so on my ball cap." mej

Header Photo: Bobbie, putting the finishing touches on one of our many backyard 13ers.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Footloose and Disaffiliated in the West's Space-Time Continuum


"In so far as the west was a civilization at all between Lewis and Clark...and 1870, it was largely a civilization in motion, driven by dreams. The people...were...credulous, hopeful, hardy, largely uninformed. The dreams are not dead even today...the habit of mobility has only been reinforced by time. With a continent to take over and Manifest Destiny to goad us, we could not have avoided being footloose. The initial act of emigration from Europe, an act of extreme, deliberate disaffiliation, was the beginning of a national habit." From Wallace Stegner, "Marking The Sparrow's Fall...The Making Of The American West."

Recall from "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" where I lamented/celebrated my family's compulsion to disaffiliate from home, family, friends, community, and all things familiar—to embrace their restlessness and heed the call of wild western horizons. I tried to relate how it separated the "apples" on our family tree with time and distance and infrequent opportunities to cross paths. In reading Wallace Stegner's soliloquies on the American west, I found Everett and Hilda Johnson, their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren...as if he knew them personally. It reaffirmed the existence in some scat few souls a seeming antonymic wanderlust that enslaves, yet all-the-while sets free.

Wallace Stegner was one of us. He knew the disease. There are "stayers, and there are "leavers," two separate species incapable of "changing their spots." Wally took the words right out of my mouth and better expressed them with his oh-so-deft pen: 

"...the rootlessness that expresses energy and a thirst for the new and an asporation toward freedom and personal fulfillment has just as often been a curse. Migrants deprive themselves of the physical and spiritual bonds that develop within a place and a society. Our migratoriness has hindered us from becoming a people of communities and traditions, especially in the West. It has robbed us of the gods who makes places holy. It has cut off individuals and families and communities from memory and the continuum of time. It has left at least some of us with a kind of spiritual pellagra, a deficiency disease, a hungering for the ties of a rich and stable social order. Not only is the American home a launching pad, as Margaret Mead said; the American community , especially in the West, is an overnight camp...without an essential corrective, which is belonging...airless and un-sustaining...space (instead) of place." 

The essence of the West according to Gertrude Stein: "Conceive (of) a space that is filled with moving." William Least Heat Moon, author of "Blue Highways," explained that the West "differs from the East in one great, pervasive, influential, and awesome way: space...Space west of the 'line' is perceptible and often palpable, especially when it appears empty...that apparent emptiness that makes matter look alone, exiled, and unconnected...terrible distances (that) eat up speed."

What is it about the American West, a place so "threatening" yet "beckoning?" Least Heat Moon was right, it's "palpable space," and I would humbly add to "space," palpable landscape diversity—so foreign and forlorn—from remote and barren volcanic landscapes, to rain forests, to angry seas crashing rocky bluffs, to gentle beaches of white sand, to 14,000 foot sky piercing alpine peaks, to sunken lake beds hundreds of feet below sea level, and all of it disconnected by space and time, and most importantly, un-peopled.

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And speaking of "un-peopled," Marathon Man Leonard accompanied Bobbie and I on a fall hike this past week, where we met with nary a soul. The glory of fall befuddled our senses, from the high altitude crispness of vision, to the caress of warm sun on skin, to the sweet scent of Ms Autumn herself...yeah, "befuddled."

Barstow Mine was in fine form...a state of decrepit ruination and rust and rot. Yellowcake vomit spilled from the mouths of olden shafts of Hope and smelled of sulphur. Irresistible rocks sparkled with quartz and fool's gold under intense Indian Summer sun; I wanted to take them all home, but ran out of pockets. 

Another day of unobstructed Majesty in Spirit Basin, just a few minutes from Lovely Ouray. Can you feel the "Spirit?"

















      

More Fall photos in store. Stay tuned...
Now go take a hike!
mark and bobbie

24 comments:

  1. We are headed out for another 10,000' Sierra hike shortly. Cute pic of the three of you. What was Leonard doing to Bobbie???

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    1. Jim and Gayle,
      You guys should be in good high altitude shape from all your above timberline hikes lately...you could do the same thing here some year, just boondock the Continental Divide and surrounding mountains summer till fall's peak...then skedaddle to lower climes like we do :)
      Leon is always messing up my photos: note the hiking pole coming out of my head :(
      Thanks, enjoy your hike!
      mark

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  2. Sure glad your getting nice fall weather to get out hiking before you hit the road.

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    1. But alas, a quick storm blow through today and tomorrow :(

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  3. Beautiful pictures, as always. It really is interesting in the difference between the West and the East. I was in three or four states in a leisurely afternoon drive on the upper east roads... and in no hurry. I'm never in a hurry when I travel. I was just amazed jumping through the New England States. I even jig jagged several times because I wanted to explore each state more.

    In the West? ha... well, as we all know.. Texas takes nine days to get from one town to the next. The West ... well? it's just all different and I'm glad I got to experience it all. what a deal. seriously

    It looks as though your friend Leonard is petting Bobbie... sweet ;)

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    1. Thanks Carolyn,
      I can identify with your Texas comment...It might as well be an ocean that separates us.
      mark

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  4. We love the West so much it's hard to contemplate the huge trip to the East, we've got so much awe inspiring beauty right here...


    Metamorphosis Lisa

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    1. You should have traveled the East first...then you wouldn't know what you were missing....
      The problem, as I see it, for me personally, that is, is that the East has so little public land; most of it is private, so the little public lands and parks that remain are overwhelmed with nuts to buts camping and hiking. Boondocking in the East? Outside of Walmart parking lots there is no such thing. New England needs to be seen in Fall, but I would highly recommend leaving the big Fiver behind for there are but two choices...jam packed interstates full of road rage, or narrow winding country lanes with no shoulders. We motel-ed it.
      mark

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  5. Susan here. Saw the below quote that someone posted on FaceBook and it made me think of you Mark. Wonder why? Hah!

    “Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…”

    ― Timothy Leary

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    1. Yep, me and Timothy Leary :))
      It's a compliment...a medal of honor I wear with pride, tho some call it a Scarlet Letter :)
      miss you guys,
      mark and bobbie

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  6. The west that is Colorado is calling to me.

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    1. It called me back in the 70's...I answered it's call and never left. Life has this thing called "choices," in the end, we are the deciders :)
      thanks

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  7. Those highway shots pull me right out of my chair! (You are photoshopping those blue skies, right??)

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    1. I don't even own Photoshop...it's too PC (left brained) for a Macophile type. Colorado's already blue skies are often exaggerated by several things:
      high altitude light
      low (autumn) sun
      bright foreground, like snow or the bright mine "vomit." They stop down the aperture and darken.

      Glad I got you out of your chair...you needed a break anyway, right?
      thanks S.
      mark

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    2. Reminds me of my most favorite poem, "Oh suns and skies and clouds of June and all your flowers together, you cannot rival for one hour, October's Bright Blue Weather!"

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  8. Mark- Of course a big part of BCB enjoyment comes from the photos- great of course - but my beach time gets cut back according to the time spent in checking the dictionary on those words you come up with=== splendorous- disafillated -mother f&$*@g_(ok - I am familiar with the last one)- I could make a long list- -part of the fun tho- Walden creek rv steve

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    1. Ha! I'm sure your beach time could use a little more Colorado to balance your life. I hear you may have company coming (grin). BE NICE!
      mark

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  9. I love the snow kissed mountains, just a magnificent scene! That golden hill certainly adds contrast to your photos.

    Can't wait for the fall photos! Boy do I miss the beauty of the west.

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    1. Thanks guys...
      More pics of Ms Autumn coming soon to a BCB near you!
      mark

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  10. We grew up in South Carolina and Georgia...we went west as quick as we could!

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    1. It gets under your skin, The West. Good luck going "home." :)
      mark

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  11. Mark-- Yes- company coming to the Florida beaches--Looking forward to a great fun visit! See some people in Colorado are willing to seek out the beauty of the Florida coast- By the way where are you getting your info from??? take care

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  12. We have our "sources." hey hey...

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  13. Wallace Stegner expressed the same sentiment as Peter Hoeg, I paraphrase: A person is not a traveler unless he leaves a home and has one to return to, he is a refugee or an exile. He may be right, I think we Fulltimers are refugees is a sense of the word.

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