Friday, October 07, 2016

these are wild times. everyone is just a little worried trump might get elected, and start a race war, or build a wall, or whatever. when i'm in new mexico i figure we might end up on the other side of it, since he doesn't know one mexico from another, he might even build it in mexico missouri or whatever. but in any case, we feel safer, high in the mountains, 9000 feet, fall descending, and true to form, my instincts kick in and i go out and gather apples and firewood.

the apples make really good apple sauce, but the firewood gets burned up pretty quick and i have to go back out for more. of course we ordered two cords of logs, and it's quite a bit of wood, but we're not really sure how long it will last or whether we should lay in another cord or two just to be safe. we have propane too. we are not off the grid. i sit here on my blogger, and i play boggle, and i do google, whenever my students plagiarize, i'm all over google.

still have my job, but it's back in lubbock, and i have to drive four and a half hours each way, on mondays and tuesdays. that, my dear blog, is where i've been. it's a long hard drive, even though it's only four and a half; it goes over the oil fields, the cotton fields, the wide open grasslands, so dark, so totally empty, that you see absolutely nothing at night. coming back this way you end up in the mountains, and you wind around so sharply that it tends to wake you up and keep you in the ball game. cliffs drop off sometimes on either side. you see a wild mountain go straight up from your passenger-side window but you can't follow your eyes because you have to pay attention to the road. and there are deer and elk out; why they like to come out and stand out on the road, i have no idea. some people say they like to lick the salts off the roads. i had no idea the road had any taste at all.

so i'm out there, every week, crossing the time-zone, teaching my class and coming back to the high mountain refuge up here, where it's cloudy and cool and the colors have pretty much changed already. rest of the southwest, it's warm, they're waiting for it to cool off, but way up here, it's already happened, and we're thinking electric blankets and warm jackets. writing them right into our budget. i go out and gather more apples and more sticks; it's like gardening, i do it more for my health, and my anxiety, than for the economic benefit one might get. but i did plant the apple seeds. i figured if they were doing so well - there are about eight trees right around the corner - then i might as well keep them going around this way, see if i can get some apples for the future generations. not sure my plan will work. but they're red, juicy, delicious, and they seem to do well at 9000 feet.

came through artesia one night with 120 miles left in the gas tank; cloudcroft is about 95 from artesia. but cloudcroft is 6000 feet straight up. by mayhill i had only 30 miles left in the tank, and 25 to go. in mayhill my credit cards didn't work; my wife had changed the zipcode. i couldn't imagine that, and set out to see if i could get 25 more miles off the car. about halfway the car started flashing hard at me and i pulled over. you don't want to offend a car by letting it go bone dry anywhere. this is more true nowadays than it used to be - i once let a car go bone dry all winter. but my point is, there i was, way out in the high mountain, one thirty in the morning, out of gas. i called my wife, woke her up, and she agreed to come get me. actually i had a bicycle in the car. i'd never even thought of it; i hadn't used it in texas. i probably could have ridden the last ten miles on the bike. but i didn't think of it.

so there were these huge elk out in the middle of the road, maybe a half dozen of them. my wife was driving the van. they ambled out of the way and i wondered, later, how they would have responded to a bicycle rider. it's still an open question. they were doing their road thing, licking the salt or whatever, maybe it's that at the road, they can finally reach and eat the grass without actually stepping in it, or whatever.

the problem is that all this stuff adds on to my week. i grade papers like crazy. i try to set up my blackboard so the students get a shot at everything they normally would. we have an actual online class every thursday. i look forward to thanksgiving of course, when i'll take a thursday off. i will continue to drive hard, seven or eight more times.

up here, on the mountain, i play my banjo off my porch, and it's close enough to the center of town so that i feel like people are listening. elk and deer come up and take what they can get off the fruit trees down below. hikers pass by every once in a while. out in the mountains, colors are changing in raging glory. i take my wife out there every once in a while.

one day, i'd come home from lubbock late and woken up early, which is my usual routine. she said let's go out to the mountains, i need a walk, i need to get out of here. we picked a trail that took us back behind a mountain on an isolated road. we got about a mile or two into it and saw a couple of bears. it was a mother bear and a teenager bear, best i could figure. they gave us a dirty look from the trail way off ahead, then ambled off, up the hillside and out of sight. we walked by the spot, making plenty of noise, grateful that they didn't spring out at us. it was a long path; we were way out there. but we had a story to tell.

and, it uplifted my spirit considerably. people around here weren't especially surprised; they see bears all the time. but i myself haven't seen a bear, especially a wild one, in twenty or thirty years. or more. and the thing is, we all got along fine. i told them that i told stories about them (true) and that i never made them out to be bad guys or anything (also true) and that as far as i was concerned, boys and bears could get along fine (true) and that i was the boy in most of the stories (well this one might not be totally true, but was pretty much true). their silence spoke volumes from back on the hillside or wherever they went off to hide. we might have been the first human beings that teenager had seen all year, or in its life. the trail was in its blazing glory, and it was way isolated. the ones near our house are urbane in comparison.

we forgot, though, what it was like to live in a truly small town (<1000). it's a bit different. it'll give me some color, if i can get my writing chops back. i've been set back a little; wrote a few stories (see below), but i'm way behind on the poetry. just being on the road, you would think, would be enough. actually i wrote about eight on the way to lubbock. but only two on the way back. i was tired. it takes it out of you, this hard traveling. it's all i can do to remember my toothbrush.


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