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Sunday, April 26, 2020

"To everything a season: A time to embrace...a time to refrain from embracing" On "Hope," and Getting Shit Off My Chest

Just about now, in a "normal" year, I'd be rumbling up our driveway in Lovely Ouray...all worn out and physically fit from over a month's worth of hiking/biking/exploring Eastern Utah's notorious nooks. But this is not a "normal" year (oh how we took them for granted), so that Rv season-ending indulgence got blown out of the waterless red rock desert by the "new normal," for at least for a year or two anyway, maybe more. Revelations is upon us. Go ahead, stamp 666 on my forehead. But please make this C-shit go away.

We had only managed a bike ride and a couple days of red desert boondock bliss when Bobbie abandoned me in favor of hearth and home. Still, I was brimming with Great exploratory Expectations when we kissed goodbye. Bobbie had similar Great Expectations...of not living in a box-on-wheels, even if it was bigger and more comfortable than Goldie. Weather be damned; she itched for those familiar mountains that cradle Lovely Ouray.  

A mere eight hours later, I was informed via internet of a new Grand County Mandate: Excepting residents and essential workers, all tourists and visitors must evacuate Moab and all surrounding public lands. We had 24 hours to comply before doors and windows of non-essential businesses were to be shuttered. I spent one long night in "Disneyland," tossing and turning, wondering if someone would come knocking and kick me out. Then, oh-so-reluctantly, I broke camp the next morning and headed home. 

I was greeted in Ridgway by dark clouds, cold temps, and spitting snow. "Welcome back to winter, Mark." 

That's when it dawned that I would be enduring my first mountain-town winter/spring mud-season since, well...since I could remember. Ugh. 

Unlike Bobbie, I'm a warm-blooded Arid-zona raised fair weather kind of outdoor guy (Ok, wuss). And there I was, unloading Annie in a snowstorm, faced with two months of spring at 8,000 feet, at the base ginormous mountains famous for fabricating foul winter weather well into June. I swear, it's the only place where you can start out mowing your lawn in a t-shirt and shorts, and finishing up in a blizzard wearing coveralls. Deep breath...Patience, Mark. 

I learned something about patience a long time ago during one of several wanderlust inspired mid-life crises. They were tough but instructional...necessary, even...the kind that spawn from long, hellish 12 hour solitary nightshifts when glass-half-empty minds and dark winter nights conger up disappointment and disillusions of work treadmills instead of Happily-Ever-Afters. Wanderlust is a two edge sword, one that should come with a Governmental Warning: "Caution, Studies have demonstrated that Wanderlust causes mental illness and melancholia in Laboratory Rats." Indeed, I often felt like an insignificant lab rat...one of seven billion...scurrying around on planet earth in search of food, shelter and someone to love. For years, Life amounted to little more than a competitive maze whose sole purpose was to entertain vindictive gods. 

Last night I had a dream...a nightmare, actually. In it I was still a working stiff, standing somewhere near the middle of a long, depressing line to retirement. It stretched impossibly out of sight, could see neither beginning nor end enough to know where the hell I was. Maybe, if I live long enough, I dreamed, I might just realize all those unfulfilled dreams I've collected over the decades...endless travels with a soulmate outdoor woman who likes to hike and bike and explore. Is this line even moving, I ask to no one in particular. I hoped I was dreaming anyway. 

Aw Hope. It's like a life-raft on a sinking boat. I find it enlightening that, even in nightmares, I clung to "hope." Hope is an amazing and powerful emotion. It's like turning on a floodlight that vanishes darkness...especially during times like these. Without hope (faith might be a better word) we are sorely tempted to give up...on everything. It's a free fall ticket to the bottom, maybe one way, maybe round trip if you are lucky. But you don't feel "lucky," otherwise you wouldn't be in this sinking boat. For what it's worth, I found that, if we can just believe there is a sliver of hope, it can be enough to keep us moving, putting one foot in front of the other and baby-stepping our way up and out of dark times. It takes patience, something we are not born with. Patience must be learned...earned, if you will. Without it, we will give up...wasting money we don't have on lotto tickets. Waiting on a miracle, which is unlikely, at best. 

Understandably, hope's life-raft doesn't seem big enough to hold everyone that's under water right now. It's as if we're aboard the Titanic, and we just hit a iceberg called Pandemic.  Every righteous heart bleeds at the pain, suffering and seeming dim prospects for a quick recovery. All I can say is, KICK. Kick like you've never kicked before. 

Though we are not as reliant on jobs and income in this the third and final act of our lives, it is nevertheless soul crushing to see the suffering around our little town, where the "service industry" is practically all we have. Lately I've had to fall back on the same ole slivers of hope that helped get me through bouts with male mano-pause(s). Let's face it, the "news" is toxic right now, like (ahem) injecting clorox, if you will. It's enough to kill us. 

It doesn't help that, in our time of greatest need, Leadership is goes lacking, if not AWOL. It hardly inspires hope when POTUS goes off script, can't seem to form a complete sentence, and blunders his way through press conferences like a bull in a china shop, all the while making wild suggestions and statements that spits in the face or logic, reasoned science, not to mention all the Pandemic specialists standing in the background, trying to figure out how they are going to undo all the "science fiction" that just got propagated to a world on the edge of their seats and at the bitter end of patience. If it wasn't so freaking serious, one could die laughing.  

So it falls to an assembly of 50 widely divergent Governors to pick clean up the mess due to the current vacuum of reasoned policy and leadership. New York's Governor Cuomo must now spend up to half of his press conferences fending off lies and attacks by Trump, and he does it so well by calling out lunacy where it exists. In my book, Cuomo far better Presidential material than long-shot Biden...who, seemingly, is hiding out in his basement as of late.  

Yes. If Positive Affirmations can get me through tough times, maybe they can for you. I shall do my best to flip every negative thought into something positive, counter, "yeah-buts" like "What if we can't" with "We can at least try." In times like these, attitude counts. Hope, is an attitude. For now, it may be all we have...but maybe, just maybe, if we cling to it as if it's our only life raft, it might just light a way through the darkness.

Escaping mud season and Old Man Winter overstaying his welcome has been officially relegated to the bottom of my priority list. I guess I still have some growing up to do. Old Dog, New Tricks, as they say.   

In closing this rant, I'm reminded of a song by the Byrds. It was inspired during the tumultuous 60's, a time when our nation was as much divided as now over a war that wouldn't wind down, one that, literally, bled on and on and on...claiming our youngest, bravest, and finest. 

I left chorus repeats out in order to focus on poignant verses that rise up and resonate again today, as a stinking virus stops the whole wide world from turning...      

Turn, Turn, Turn...Pete Seeger, The Byrds

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven...

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate

A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

This post was thrown together in haste. I apologize if it does not live up to expectations...just needed to get a few things off my chest. It's fine if you disagree. These are my opinions...worth about what you pay for them.

Now try to go out for a walk or hike every chance you get. Exercise is long-known to slay the vilest of demons.
Peace out, 

Photos from previous springs spent in Utah's red rock deserts and an upcoming summer up high... 

Here's looking forward to spending this summer in Colorado's high country


  1. oh Mark. Damn. I agree with you on all of it, but you probably know that anyway. And I am so glad you found Bobbie to share it with. I dreamed I let the MoHo get stolen last night. Couldn't find her anywhere....my fault. Wandering crazy malls and cities trying to find it, couldn't call the police because my phone was in the MoHo. I guess nightmares or at least troubling dreams are the result of the troubling days we are living through. I'll go outside and garden a bit, walk our short street which is all I can manage now, and pray that my fancy EMG appointment for May 1 in Portland at OHSU isn't cancelled once again. We are well, we have food, internet, binge tv, puzzles no less, card games, and each other for company. I have kids on the phone and friends to check in with. Everyone I know is well and I am grateful for that. I can still sew, still garden, still walk without a walker at least, even if I have to use my sticks. Hell, I see absolutely fit gorgeous Germans hiking the national parks with hiking poles, so I don't get embarrassed...yet. but my pace is very embarrassing. I am inside deep angry and sad at my loss, and it is to damn small compared to so many, I know. But your post gives me a chance to vent in a place where friends and family don't have to see it. Just those random friends in my world who also read your blog and maybe they won't see it either. Thanks for the vent.

  2. Peace Out...I agree with you totally and we can do something about this in November to rid us of this Repukkkikan virus...the other virus will have to await a vaccine.

  3. Is the photo at the top Flying Monkey? Are you really riding your bike up there? That is quite the unforgiving side hill trail.
    We're ok in really really hot Tucson, it's supposed to hit 103 this week which is just nuts. That doesn't usually happen until June. We're ok except for the bored spitless part. We're going to have to get a hobby.

    1. No, not Flying Monkey...although it is a favorite climb of mine. That photo was taken at the top of Cow Bell, an MTB trail in the JEM complex across the road from Flying Monkey. Cow Bell is a narrow, steep-but-ridable trail that winds its way up to a mesa top, where there is a post with a cow bell attached to signify/celebrate by ringing it that you made the cliffhanger climb without falling off the mountain. It then connects with "More Cow Bell," a nice easy and flat loop around the edge of the mesa top with grand views.

  4. Love to hear a Man spilling his guts. Mother Nature will take care of the corruption that is bringing on this response: actually this is Her plan and she is only just beginning :) Einstein said "look deeply into Nature and you will understand everything" , amen
    Love those pictures Mark. .......the Earth is the most beautiful place in the whole UNIVERSE, but it needs a big dose of RESPECT. Don't every stop posting :)

  5. Mark, Mark, Mark. Turn off the news and go for another hike. Than have a beer or two. It's going to be sunny (??) all week. We are as close as we are going to get to heaven while we are still alive.

  6. Such a hard time. I have cursed living at 8200' and having to spend April here so I get it. I agree with all that you said. And, damn, I miss those claret cacti! And the red rocks. And the warm sun. Really, I miss everything about the desert.

  7. I feel fortunate that I am "lock downed" near Amistad NRA where exercise walking, running etc is allowed behind the gates with the big STOP sign to keep vehicles out of the campgrounds and picnic areas with their large crowds that kept on gathering in those areas. That gives me roughly 58,000 acres to walk or hike my fool self all over.

  8. You're in good company here Mark and Bobbie :) So my tip-toeing plans this morning, in about 6 hrs, are to stealthily move in my campervan from Maryland to Virginia with a Texas license plate. High risky adventure!

  9. I relate so much to this. Thank you for the "rant."

    And I'm keeping this mantra: "Kick. Kick like you've never kicked before."

  10. HOPE. FAITH. I've been thinking about these so much lately. Practicing the art/mantra of having an open heart...

    You always take the absolute coolest pics of my Dad. Love this photo series

  11. Great post! We are lucky to be in a neighborhood where we can walk among the pines even if we are walking paved roads. Hope to be back on the trails soon.

  12. I think we're all ready to vent right now. I've felt fortunate to find places to park for weeks, or even a month, at a time. But I am more than ready to return to work. Hang in there. This just can't last forever.


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