On The Mountain

I woke up in the dark yesterday morning to the sound of rain on the roof. I am still temporally misaligned. My timezones, present and past, are sliding closer, but it will be another few days before things are right. By the time the sky had started to lighten, I had been awake for a couple hours, partly from the jetlag, partly from thinking too much. Since the dog needed some exercise and I had spent plenty of time already this week in fog, we made tracks for the hills.

The rain was stopping and the clouds had started to break by the time I was on the trail. Above me on the hill was the first light of sunshine. When I reached the viewpoint, I regretted not bringing a camera (the better to see things with?). The valley was still wrapped in fog and to the east everything was misty and beautiful. The kind of morning that makes you think of prayer as a rational activity.

Being in the state I was, the only thing I could think to pray was “help, help, help”, which I think is a pretty good prayer in general. Then I stood there with my arms out and the dog running in circles around me. And at that moment the fog decided to slide up the hill and gather all around me, so that the valley below and the mountain above became vague outlines and then disappeared altogether and I was left on a small point of land surrounded by air that glowed as if it were lit by angels. Things stayed like that for a few minutes, all ablaze with crazy, golden light, until the fog slid past and the sun climbed into the clouds above and things went back to normal.

I’ve read about something like this happening before, but those people wanted to build tents and stay there. I can’t do that because I have a job, and because there are rattlesnakes. But it did make me want to stop for awhile, especially when climbing down into the valley meant going back down into the grey. So I sat there and said “thank you” out loud a couple times. Then I went down the hill.

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Gallery: Courage

Courage gallery thumbnailI just returned from a trip that included some time in St. Petersburg, Russia. I don’t write very much about the work that I’m involved with on this blog, but I wanted to share these pictures. These are some of the kids that I spent time with last month. They let me intrude in their lives in a variety of ways, one of which was to take portraits of them. Maybe it’s just me, but I like these pictures and I think they’re alright just as photographs. But there’s more to it than that.

Each of the kids in these photos has a story to tell which includes more difficulty, pain, and struggle than most of us ever will face. Each of them have been abandoned (or worse) by parents, survived the Russian orphanage system, and are working to make something better of their lives. I felt privileged to work with them. The photos in this gallery are dedicated to them and to their courage.

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Antlers and Bon Jovi

panzio.jpgSpotty internet and a tight schedule have kept me from writing here, but this morning I am compelled to use a few moments while at breakfast…

We are in Hungary now, and have been for a week, with a short jaunt into Serbia. The town is called Zalaegerszeg, which is fun to say – “zalla egg er zeg”. I’m sitting drinking a mean cup of coffee in the dining room of our panzio, which is a cross between a motel and a bed and breakfast, or in this case a hunting lodge. We’ve got antlers on the wall, Bon Jovi “Living On A Prayer” playing on the radio, and wireless internet at the breakfast table. How great is that?

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Traveling: Russia

I’ve been on the road again for the past week and a half. Not that you would have noticed from my track record here. But I’m spending two weeks in Russia and then another in Hungary. I have not had much access to the internet while here, so I haven’t been able to post, but I hope that will change before long. In any case, hello from St. Petersburg.

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Gallery: All Visitors Must Report To The Front Office

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Here’s something I shot this week.

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Bilbo Baggins on Courage

I don’t pretend to understand what you are talking about, or your reference to burglars, but think I am right in believing…that you think I am no good. I will show you. I have no signs on my door–it was painted a week ago–, and I am quite sure you have come to the wrong house. As soon as I saw your funny faces on the doorstep, I had my doubts. But treat it as the right one. Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.

– Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit

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A Tribe Of Yucca

Yucca Tree Tribe

Red Rock Canyon State Park, California

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Did you see…

…Perseus last night, lobbing fireballs every which way? I drove myself out to the desert to sleep, well, not really to sleep, under the meteors. It was impossible to close my eyes with the sparks flying back and forth. What fun! I met and made friends with Andromeda. She was looking radiant, chained though she was. And her mother and father were there too and they spun together in one vast wheel above me with Pegasus the winged horse in the lead.

Early in the morning, the Pleiades leapt up in the east, late for the party, grasping at Perseus’ heels. Finally at around 2:30, I fell asleep, only to wake again in a few hours to find them all spun round above me. Someone had moved the sky while I was looking away.

A few more fireballs slashing their way across the sky and then they all faded into the blue as the sun rose. And I crawled out of my sleeping bag on the top of that picnic table in the Mojave Desert and got in my car and drove home.

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Currently reading: Typography

Narrow row houses flush with the street are found not only in urban slums but in the loveliest of the old Italian hill towns and Mediterranean villages. A page full of letters presents the same possibilities. It can lapse into a typographic slum, or grow into a model of architectural grace, skilled engineering and simple economy. Broad suburban lawns and wide typographical front yards can also be uninspiringly empty or welcoming and graceful. They can display real treasure, including the treasure of empty space, or they can be filled with souvenirs of wishful thinking. Neoclassical birdbaths and effigies of liveried slaves, stable boys and faded pink flamingoes all have counterparts in the typographic world.

– Robert Bringhurst in The Elements of Typographic Style

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Life Can Go On Now…

…I’ve finished Harry Potter 7.

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Mt. Shasta: Why Driving In Northern California Is Nice

mt shasta from california highway 89

I had been wandering for a long time in the tall timber when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw this. It surprised me. How it got behind me, I’m not sure. I was tempted to think that it had moved, or was sneaking up on me. But, in my experience, the mountains sit still most of the time (my faith is clearly not quite as big as a mustard seed). I’ve decided it was a miracle. Which explains it nicely, I’d say.

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Open Space

Ash Creek Wildlife Area, Big Valley, California

My house is among trees and I’ve taken a liking to the grasslands. I’m hoping to resolve this conflict before long, but in the meantime I’m taking walks in places like this. The dog likes it, especially when it is cool and damp outside and when there’s a ball to chase. I like it because I can see in all directions which is good for watching the sun rise and set, tracking the wind as it approaches, and lying down quietly and listening to stillness of the open space.

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Smith Rock State Park

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Driving North

I left Southern California at 4:30pm on Thursday. Over the San Gabriel Transverse Range and down into the Mojave. Unfortunate that I chose to make a 1000 mile overland drive on the hottest week of the summer. I stopped to get food in Palmdale. Too hot to leave the dog in the car. Too hot to take him out. But something must be done. So he skipped across the blazing hot parking lot to a place in the shade while I went inside.

An hour later the highway changed numbers (14 to 395) and I’m in Red Rock Canyon. The wind was incredibly hot and dry. We only stopped for a short time. Shadow, almost blown over by the wind, looked around in surprise. What kind of place is this?

One quick stop in Olancha to take pictures and chase rabbits. I took the pictures. The dog chased the rabbits. The sunset was beautiful. Suddenly the trip started to be an adventure. Back on the road, the air was beginning to soften. Pulling into Lone Pine, the open windows brought the scent of water and green grass and my head spun with delight. Have you ever smelled something that made you sad and happy and dizzy all at the same time? Strangely, my first impulse was to somehow record the experience. Camera wouldn’t do it. Neither would the audio recorder. How do you record a scent? In this day of gadgets, the smell of a thing is still unconquered. It is the most immediate of experiences. All along this drive, I found this again and again. There is no way I can ever share those moments. You had to be there.

Bishop for the night. Super 8. Terrible. Please, I never want to stay there again.

In the morning, the front right tire is flat. Perfectly appropriate finish to my stay. I’m up and ready to go, wanting to count off the miles before the sun starts to blaze. Instead I change to the donut tire and find a tire shop. They will open at 8am. It is now 6:25. So I sit still and listen to see what it is I am to learn from this. Finally by 9, the tire is fixed and I am back on the road.

The road climbs upward and eventually back down again to Mono Lake, a beautiful and alien lake. The Caltrans Adopt-A-Highway sponsor sign says “Another June Lake Liberal”. I feel like visiting June Lake. I weave my way through the sagebrush down to the edge of the water. Tufa formations. The salty water is beset with flies. The shoreline is black with them. The dog sniffs at them and then jumps back in surprise. The sun is hot. Time to drive.

Now the 395 crosses into the border of Nevada. The sky goes white hot and I swear to myself that I will do my best to never visit Carson City again, much less Reno, for the rest of my life. There is nothing there. 106 degrees Fahrenheit. No reason to ever go there again.

Crossing back into California, I forget to look for the sign marking the border. But suddenly I am noticing that things are cleaner, the road is better, the signs are in good order. I realize I am already over the line and, for some reason, breath a sigh of relief. It is nice to feel at home.

At Susanville I decided to take a detour. I won’t spend the time to write about Mt. Lassen other than to suggest that, if you are driving in the area, you take the time. I mean it.

Late afternoon, driving flat out and fast for Alturas. The long slow summer evening stretches out across the valleys and make me feel peaceful and in love with the land. More of the smell of dirt and sand and water and summer. Ash Creek Wildlife Area feels like a holy place. The barn owls peer down from the rafters through the murky darkness. The avocets stalk gracefully on the mudflats. Finally it is dark and I am safe at home at the Rimrock Motel.

In the morning, I climb northward out of the valley into the high desert of southern Oregon. Lakeview is small. The people who live here must either never drive their cars or they drive them for miles and miles. There are no other options.

And finally to Bend which seems a little like a heaven on earth. The evening skyline is one of the best. I’ll try to post a picture of it. Any town which features “floating the river” as one of its main attractions on a summer afternoon has my vote. And the fact that as you float, you float right past the back door of the Gap makes you realize that this is a different kind of place. Here they use SUV’s to carry their kayaks, not to ensure that they have lane changing rights on the evening commute.

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Lassen National Forest

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Road Tripping

Happy 4th of July everyone. Hope you’re staying cooler than I am. But I shouldn’t say that as it may just a sneaky way of trying to get sympathy. Which I don’t deserve since I am leaving for a short road trip tomorrow. I intend to drive up along the east side of the California Sierras, through Mammoth Lakes, past Lake Tahoe, and then one way or another into Oregon, finishing my drive in Bend.

Shadow Greeley the Wonder Dog will accompany me. He doesn’t know this yet, but I’m sure he’ll be amenable to the idea. Especially if there are rabbits along the way. The rabbits are even more fun than the squirrels because they can run faster and they don’t usually ruin the fun by climbing a tree. Although if a rabbit were to climb a tree, I’d really like to be there.

Anyway, more to come later.

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Africa 2007

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Defense

Nevertheless, I would advise you against defensiveness on principle. It precludes the best eventualities along with the worst. At the most basic level, it expresses a lack of faith. As I have said, the worst eventualities can have great value as experience. And often enough, when we think we are protecting ourselves, we are struggling against our rescuer.

– Reverend John Ames in Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

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Zippy 2.0

As you can see, I’ve changed the blog software. Woohoo, it’s a good day.If you’d like to see the content of the previous version of Zippy, you can still visit at http://www.peterschrock.com/zippy1/notes.html.

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