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Friday, February 17, 2017
2:10 pm mst
LIFE IMITATES ART: ZOMBIES CHOOSE PRUITT TO LEAD THE CHARGE TO DEVOUR THE ENVIRONMENT
2:08 pm mst
I have never cried over a cabinet confirmation
vote before. I've been angry, even furious, but I've never cried... until the US Senate voted to confirm Scott Pruitt as the
head of the Environmental Protection Agency today. This is a deliberate and aggressive move to end all protections for Mother
Earth. I'll take it a step further: it's a consent to legalize and even encourage aggressive new raids to rape and pillage
our Mother Earth in order to profit more. Today, I sobbed when I learned that a majority of greedy senators said, "Aye.”
Translation: Take away all the protections and let mega-corporations kill
What motivates this kind
of egregious attack on the one and only agency charged with safeguarding our source of all sustenance? Maybe instead of trying
to wander around in the heads of a bunch of greedy $Senators$ trying to understand their thinking, we should take a cue from
what’s been going on in our culture (both in art and in reality) for some time, and call this what it is: THIS IS A
ZOMBIE ATTACK BY GREED ADDICTS! There is no logical thinking behind this, there is no understanding the minds of these folks,
this is an addiction that causes those who are being consumed by it to ultimately abandon all humanity.
Anyone who has ever known an addict has likely witnessed the deterioration of that addict's very
personhood. The process may be slow enough to encourage confusion and an inability to see the escalating scope of it, but
at some point, the disease becomes so pronounced that there is no way we can fail to recognize it. It seems to me that we
citizens who have not become infected by the disease are now like the parents, family, friends, or neighbors of addicts. We
have been unaware or in denial about the severity and the escalation of the addiction going on in our communities, even our
homes. And then one day, as in countless books and films of late, we suddenly open the door to see a total stranger, a monster
wearing the clothes of someone we once knew—but that someone is now inhabited by a perverse and terrifying zombie drive
that will stop at nothing to get one more greed-high, devouring or destroying everything in the process. These zombie-addicts
that we still want to believe are human, people we once revered and trusted, these addicts who are now stealing from us, endangering
us, in charge of our precious resources—these greed-mongering zombie-addicts now inhabit and dominate the government!
We have watched them with outrage for weeks now, as they increasingly dropped all pretense of ethics and morality and began
to aggressively eliminate all barriers once safekeeping our democracy in favor of feeding their greed habit.
Today, we look at a majority of our representatives in congress, and even the White House, and we
see many of them transformed into salivating monsters, eager to grab/devour/dominate all they can, no matter the end result
for the rest of us. I would say that our country desperately needs an intervention, but today I believe we are under zombie
attack and we may be well beyond that point. Every day that we refuse to see what is really happening, every day that we delay
taking action, every day that we try to deny this overwhelming realization that we have given the keys to our country to zombie-greed-addicts,
we allow the epidemic to spread. Now that the zombies have removed all restrictions to devouring the Earth, we may not have
anywhere safe to go.
Meanwhile, apart from all the Twitter feeds and news reports
and Facebook posts, Our Mother—who has been trying to communicate with us via the effects of Climate Change for decades—now
presents us with what perhaps might be a more immediate, graphic symbol to break through our denial and help us see what is
happening. She offers us a mirror that echoes what is going on in our government, our culture. Have you seen it? Did you get
Her message? Perhaps, in the midst of all the chaos, you missed the metaphor. If you did, I ask you now to consider the Oroville
Dam and think about that eroded spillway and the danger that awaits the innocent countryside and its citizens beneath it and
far beyond it. Here is a symbol that is hard to misunderstand. Our Mother speaks to us through the magnificence and power
of nature, and when we listen to Her, when we watch for Her messages, they are really hard to miss. The Oroville Dam crisis
is Nature speaking to us not only literally, but in a terrifying foreshadowing story line. Here, our Mother shows us that
when we allow the forces of disease/destruction to erode that which protects the people, the environment, our values... when
we ignore the disastrous effects of allowing our morality and our ethics to deteriorate unchecked... well, don’t think
just sticking a finger in the dam is going to stop the flood. Today, the US Senate just voted to make it rain, and there is
precious little high enough ground remaining for any of us to be safe.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Little WILD Thing
1:30 pm mst
Chaco is fourteen weeks old today, and
we are starting to see more and more of his wolf appearance and wolf nature. As shown in this quick snap I took with my phone,
he carries his head low, and has begun to demonstrate that characteristic lobo lope.
Yesterday, we went to the vet for
a checkup, to get the vaccinations he can tolerate, and to have his nails clipped. They almost had to put the clinic in lockdown
and call the SWAT team to accomplish the latter. From the sound of his screaming and shrieking and the look of the three-person
team it took to hold him down to trim his nails (not to mention the blood smears everywhere, because while he fought and wriggled,
he caused one of the techs to get into his quick and that resulted in some bleeding), you would have thought they were peeling
his skin off. Noticing the wide eyes and stunned faces of the reception staff as we checked out, I could only imagine how
relieved they were to see us go... until the next scheduled appointment!
Although I work constantly to handle Chaco in
play, in the training we do, and especially when he is sleepy, he periodically reminds me that no matter how much I do, he
is not just a dog. He is a WILD thing. As such, his training is limited to what we could hopefully expect of a great heaven
beast like him... which will not be the same things as a domesticated dog is willing to do. And even in play, Chaco will occasionally
have totally unexpected periods of going "wild," and get completely out of control...his eyes like two amber lasers,
his legs bolting as fast as they can take him from one end of the area to the other and around and around, over and over again,
his ears back, tail straight out, his jaws open with tongue flapping. As he performs this amazing high-intensity storm-dance,
he vocalizes constantly, growling and yipping, running as fast as he can and for all he is worth—rejoicing that he is
a wolf, that he is a wild thing, that he is Creator's finest expression of a four-legged predator this side of a grizzly,
and that he rules his world. It's an amazing thing to see! When he does this, I am reminded of why I invited a wild thing
into my life in the first place and that I wouldn't wish him to be any different, so long as he and the world around him are
safe for him to be as he is. This requires diligence, sacrifice, and responsibility on my part, all of which are met with
Seeing Chaco go "wild," I think of how we, as humans, talk about going WILD, or about being WILD about something.
Sometimes we mean "going insane" or getting totally out of control. While the wolf pup genuinely seems "out
of control" when he goes native on us, if I take the time to evaluate what is going on, I don't think of it that way.
I remember that he is expressing his true nature, and I am happy that he feels safe to do so. While he does it in ways that
are tornadic, even inconvenient, sometimes annoying, they are not threatening or harmful. Is he really out of control, and
if so, what was controlling him? The domestication of life among humans and other four-leggeds or his instinctive nature?
In the safe environments we provide for him, it is both kindness and treasure for him to have opportunities for his wild nature
to be expressed safely. This calls us two-leggeds to live differently, as was the case when we were blessed to live with Tiwa,
and with Mountain before that.
And there is this, too: sometimes when we humans speak of being WILD about something, we mean that we are so in love with
something, that we feel such unrestrained passion that we cannot resist whatever is pulling us out of our social constraints...our
"wiser" mind. When we feel that much joy in something, or about life itself, we cannot find a better way to say
it than that we are WILD about it. That's what I see in Chaco when he goes WILD. And I'm just WILD about him.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
WELCOME TO THE BONEYARD
3:51 pm mst
might have noticed my silence these past few months. It's a rare thing for me, but to tell you the truth, I haven't known
what to say to you. This, from a wordsmith who can usually figure out a darn fine way to say almost anything.
I decided to cowgirl up. And actually, I have a lot to say to you, but I'm afraid not much of it will
seem like good news—at first. Maybe in retrospect. Maybe when the dust settles and we can all see what we have to work
with. But, unless I'm really, really wrong, we are not going to have the same things
to work with that we take for granted now. Did you see THE BOOK OF ELI? Think of that with respect to publishing. One blogger
called it the Publipocalypse. Right on the nose, if I'm any judge of things. I'm going to continue to
use that term myself. It best describes what's happening, in my estimation.
I've been talking to
friends, other authors, editors, agents, and readers about this in friendly conversation for several years now: The physical
book is going the way of the petroglyph and the scroll. I have not heard one echo of agreement, except from
the evidence I see around me. Everyone argues:
- But there are a lot
of people who prefer to read a book-book, they say.
- I sit in front of a computer all
day. I don't want to read a book on a device of any kind, they say.
- There will
always be books, they say.
- If it happens, they hedge, it's going
to take a long time. Maybe next generation.
And why do I have to always be the one to say the
emperor has no clothes? Believe me, this is a lifelong role of mine. I'm always the one calling the ball, doing the intervention,
pointing out the elephant in the living room, announcing the bad news in a calm voice and getting everyone into a lifeboat
while they argue with me and fuss with the straps on their flotation vests—and the ship we just exited sinks. Am I some
kind of canary in a coalmine? I don't know.
But here's when I had my real-there's-no-going-back
divination: when I first saw the iPad. I know, I know, they had the Kindle before that, the Nook, the Yugo,
the Sony E-Reader, and more. But the iPad was the contender that I knew would strike the final blow in a knockdown battle
and put the publishing world—as we once knew it—out cold on the mat. Why the iPad? Because it was sexy. In color.
Did everything (well, almost everything—I guess it still can't make coffee, but it can program the power for the coffee
maker to come on and then wake you up when the coffee is ready, so it's close). It was the one. A Kindle
is a reader. A Nook is a reader. A Yugo is a reader. An iPad is a portable music player and stores an entire library of music;
it's a photo display and editor, an email port, a movie/video/television player, a web surfer, a game console, a writing tablet,
a drawing pad, a portable piano and guitar, a plethora of business tools, a sharing and display device and more. You can journal
on it, make spreadsheets on it, create slideshows and videos on it, log your calories and workouts on it, get the news and
the weather on it, have it wake you up and lull you to sleep. There is almost nothing you can't do on an iPad, and what little
there is, they will surely upgrade into future versions. And honestly, I'm not selling the iPad. I just see it poised and
ready to deliver the kayo punch to the current publishing empire. Does that mean it's the ideal reading experience? Maybe
not. But maybe it's a sacrifice you're willing to make, given all its other capabilities, if you're going to go E. And believe
me, whether you want to or not, if you want to continue to read newspapers or books for the next ten years, you're almost
certainly going to go E.
Why? Because the iPad is the fourth horseman. The Publipocalypse is now. The
devastation is already widespread. The first horseman for traditional publishing was the chain booksellers, although they
didn't intend to be, for sure. Hoping to promote the proliferation of books, they made big deals with the publishers that
led to a trend of over-publishing, over-wholesaling, and over-returns. Not to mention the huge bite they took out of the stalwart
independent booksellers who had always been there cautiously and prudently buying only those books the publishers printed
that they thought they could sell, and making sure their customers knew about them.
The second horseman
was the internet. Here's an example: see if you can find a definition for—and some background on the first use of—the
word Publipocalypse. Go! Do it now!
- How many
of you put on your hat and coat and went to the library to peruse their hard copy of The Encyclopedia Britannica, and their
collection of periodicals to get the latest information?
- How many of you pulled down your brand new, most
up-to-date physical copy of the dictionary from your own shelves just for the definition alone?
- And how
many of you went online and searched on the ‘net?
So what if you want to know what
the weather is going to be tonight? Or if you want to know what Obama said because you missed the State of the Union address?
Do you wait for your local newspaper to arrive? Look for the latest issue of Time Magazine? While
you may be still reading hard copies of the paper, magazines, and books—when you want something now, you almost
certainly seek it out online. The whole world is trending towards On Demand. Even television. It's
the same with the news. And with books. If you want it now, it's out there. Just not necessarily in physical form.
third horseman was Amazon. Amazon is the new Wal-mart. Consider what a huge bite of the book market it has taken out of the
pockets of independent booksellers—not to mention authors and publishers. In any business, your margin is your lifeline.
Take a big chunk of your margin, and you might compensate, flex, adapt, and barely make it. Whew! You
got through that! Amazing! Take another chunk, and you are in dire need of a transfusion. Take a third,
and you start to flatline. Witness the epidemic of closures of fine, long-standing independent bookstores. This month, the
legendary Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles closes. This is not a minion, folks. This is one of our giants. And it is one of
hundreds, perhaps even thousands that have closed, are closing, or will soon close. And it's not just the independents: Borders
is on its deathbed. Even if this chain manages to survive this time, it is badly wounded. I report all this with tremendous
sadness. And this sort of urgent desire to yell: Retreat! Retreat! Take cover! The sky is falling!
seems obvious, but perhaps it helps to remind you: If there aren't booksellers to purchase the books wholesale and get them
to folks retail, the publishers don't make any money and can't hire editors, copy-editors, layout artists to do covers, text
designers, publicists, and so on. Even for print-on-demand! If there's no money to provide the staffing, they can't do the
work, they can't produce the books, and they can't pay the authors. If they can't pay the authors . . . well, you do the math.
why not self-publish your own e-books, you ask? Seriously, some of you have really asked me this. What are
you thinking?! Are you smoking crack? I have enough trouble churning out a book every year, doing the research,
doing the plotting, the writing, the initial editing, honing, and refining, and doing the promotional things I do to keep
my audience buying. Now you want me to be the publisher, editor, copy editor, cover artist, publicist, distributor, salesperson,
and financier as well? I don't think so. And besides, how are we going to establish a bar, a level of quality, a measure of
status of writing so you—the consumer or bookseller—don't have to sift through a million pounds of horse-dookey-buying
and trying every wanna-be-author's work to get to the good stuff—if you ever do before you give up reading altogether
because so much self-published work out there is total crap? Agents and editors were and are the Olympic Trials of publishing.
They set the bar. They establish a set of standards that must be met before books are published. Still, I'll admit, some mediocre
(even some skanky) stuff occasionally sneaks under the wire, but most traditionally-published (as opposed to self-published)
writing is getting better and better and better. The competition, the hard-target-aspect, it culls the pack down to its leanest
and best, or at the very least, its most determined. And it makes for better books. Good books. This is good for Story. I'm
sorry to report that (from what I have seen) letting every joe who thinks he has a good idea for a book (but not enough skills,
craft, or determination to rise through the maze to the top) publish—well, it just makes for more books.
Not better books. And it is certainly not good for Story to have an overwhelming glut of horse-dookey
on the market. My apologies if I have offended any of you who have produced a really good self-published book. There are always
exceptions, and I even know of a few.
But I digress. Back to the status of the physical book. Still not convinced
that the physical book is doomed? Still protesting and saying you know lots of folks who will continue to buy physical books?
Consider photography's path in the past couple decades. A friend recently told me that the last Kodachrome plant in Kentucky
just closed. Go ahead, look it up and confirm it. (Did you go to hard copy news sources or the internet? Based on your answer
to this alone, I could rest my case.) Many photographers long preferred film and the traditional SLR camera, the darkroom,
and the art of developing. But not enough. Not enough to stem the tide of digital instant gratification, on-demand photo processing,
and the ease of infinite storage and nearly eternal preservation in virtual space, not to mention the rampant possibilities
for digital manipulation and editing. Hence, the last film-making plant for Kodachrome bites the dust. Are some people disappointed?
No doubt. But decreased dollars equals doom for any business. Just remember that if you care about the physical book. Or about
good books in any form.
So, let's say you're a die-hard fan of physical books. And maybe I'm one of
your fave authors. Say my book comes out on Friday. (It doesn't, not yet, but say it did.) You could have my book on your
iPad or Nook or whatever at midnight on Thursday night. Or you could pick it up at a bookstore (if you can still find one)
any time after Friday, but you have to spend the time, gas, and effort to go there, and maybe they have a copy and maybe they
don't—you would have to call to make sure, and besides you would also have to get out of your jammies to go there, and
it's the weekend already after work on Friday night, so... Which do you choose?
If you said the physical
book, despite the inconvenience and the need for storage, I'm happy about that. Because I can almost buy a
gallon of gas with my royalty from a physical book sold at retail price, so if enough of you buy it in that form, then I can
afford to come see you and sign it for you and the publisher can afford to send me on tour and get reviewers copies so we
can let the world know about the book so it has half a chance of selling, and then if it does sell, the publisher can pay
to have an office and even maybe coffee in that office so everyone can stay awake while they read the latest submissions.
But I cannot even buy one small bunch of green onions (never mind organic) with the royalty I make off of an e-book. In fact,
if Amazon has anything to say about it, I might have to buy them a small bunch of green
onions for every e-book they sell. So I probably can't come see you and meet you and shake your hand and maybe even teach
you a writing class or whatever. Unless they invent cars and planes fueled by green onions, (and scant few of them per mile).
Or unless every single one of my fans who used to buy hardcovers now personally buys at least a dozen e-book copies of my
new book—and why would they? Now, take this model and extrapolate it across the whole industry, for all your favorite
authors, the books you read and the books you buy for reference, the magazines, the newspapers, and more. If you don't see
a serious shakedown coming, I submit that your head is somewhere deep in the beachfront strata.
can be done? I suppose we could try to organize a revolution of reading fans who would defiantly devote ever more of their
hard-earned funds to staunching the bloodletting and trying to prevent the demise of the physical book. You could vow
to buy at least several physical copies of each new book by your favorite author, buy them from your independent bookseller
to keep her in business, buy them at retail so the author and the publisher actually make money instead of practically having
to pay the retailer, as with online book sales and e-books. You could vow to give additional copies of your favorite books
at Christmas, on birthdays, to your senior center and VA hospital and you could sequester an entire amped-up-budget-line-item
of your annual income for this cause, giving up Starbucks or ding-dongs or ho-hos or pantyhose or horse-feed or your gym membership
or whatever to make this possible. No more bringing a bag of Amazon-bought books to the signings at the hard-strapped
local mystery bookseller to get them autographed when I'm there, you could promise. No more
waiting until the latest comes out in pocket-sized paperback because they're so much cheaper—I mean,
so what if your kids are hungry, right? No more waiting on the list for the library copy—you
could pledge, because you know the physical book will go away if millions of you don't ante up big-time and support it. But
can you really do this? I could be wrong, but I don't think so. And even if you did, I am not certain it would work for long.
Remember the Kodachrome plant.
Change is inevitable. We are truly in the midst of a revolution away from
the physical and ever-more toward digital and on-demand. People are downsizing, de-cluttering, getting rid of stuff, going
green, and limiting their space-gobbling possessions in favor of . . . well, space. But also ease of access and storage, preservation,
and more. Many of us will always have our shelves of beloved dust-magnet books, but we will likely also have our e-books,
e-newspapers, and e-everything we can get.
Is this a bad thing? I don't think it's black and white. In some ways, it
is scary, and in other ways it's exciting. One thing that is for darn sure is that authors and publishers and their partners
in crime are going to have to figure out a new model for making a living. And by that, I mean, we are going to have to look
at new ways to make sure we can earn enough to survive while still producing quality literature, (as opposed to the idea of
getting jobs sacking groceries). I'm talking about new sales models and royalty structures and e-book pricing and so on. If
you want good books to keep coming, we are all going to have to consider the price and the value of them. The medium is probably
inevitable and indisputable—we're talking E. But in the meantime, if you still want physical books, I say buy them while
you can! And buy as many as you can. Treasure them. Like precious, soon-to-be-ancient scrolls, which
they will no doubt rapidly become.
Books are going interactive. You can already see evidence of that. The media
will likely continue to hybridize with film, music, photography, research tools, and more. This part is really exciting to
me. And like movies after the advent of videotape and DVDs, like the traditional music business after Nabster and iTunes,
I do believe the publishing world can reinvent itself. I do, and I'm on board for that. I think it could make for some really
interesting developments. It's a brave new world.
But, at the same time, I cannot help but look around
at the shambles of the old one—the boneyard of what once was. The Rocky Mountain News and countless
other newspapers have gone under. Author friends I know and love have had their contracts
cut, despite producing excellent work. So many wonderful booksellers are losing their life's work and sole means of support
as they close their doors and watch their dreams dissipate into ashes. Reduced tours, decreased advances, review coverage
cut, well-qualified, established reviewers being replaced by amateurs with no critical training. And don't get me started
on self-published books. Not that some of them aren't exceptions, but... I'm talking industry-wide ramifications here.
back to that film, THE BOOK OF ELI. If you haven't seen it, do. And consider the role of one man determined to save a book
from annihilation. Now, I'm not asking you to trudge through a dangerous landscape with a six-shooter, no water and a broken-down
iPod. But if you love books, buy the authors you love and show your support—in whatever form you choose to buy them.
It's really in your hands what happens next. Welcome to the boneyard.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
3:42 pm mdt
For months now, I've
been disappeared. Yes, gone, vanished, whoosh! Not there. Off the grid. No official status, unknown, black ops. (If you have emailed me in the
past few months, sent me a message on Facebook, even maybe called me, you already know this.) It started a few months ago
when I did some research that required me to take time away from phone, friends, email, etc. When time came for me to resurface,
assume my old identity and reappear, I found myself stalling. I knew if I opened my inbox there would be hundreds of emails
awaiting me. I figured if I got on Facebook, I'd have about a thousand messages. I feared that if I answered the phone everyone would know I was back, and I'd
be officially Undisappeared. I couldn't bring myself to do it.
The thing is, I liked being nowhere, no one. Maybe it was temporary insanity
(or the continuation of insanity, depending on how you might have viewed my mental status prior to this episode). Or burnout
from four years of almost-constant touring and promoting, or FITBSD (Fill In The Blank Stress Disorder—you name it,
I got it), or perhaps I just needed some time away. But I relished being gone. I started taking extended trips, mini-vacations,
hikes, trail rides, long drives, whatever I could muster to divert me from the daily grind. I couldn't get back in the saddle,
so to speak. I promised myself that I would sit down and read and answer all those emails tomorrow. Or next week. I would
make a list of all the things I ought to do and then schedule them on the calendar out in the future somewhere, but not today.
No, not today. Today, I was disappeared, and the wind could blow right through me, there was no sign of me, no sightings,
not a glimpse, not a peep, not a tweet, not a blog or a blurb or a blot to be found anywhere.
The rest of The Pack tried to
prompt me back to reality. "Hey, it's been a couple months since we did an issue of the WILD News," Eric would say.
Lee Ann would ask:
"Do you want me to book this speaking engagement, or that book festival?" She was getting all sorts of requests,
and she needed answers.
How did they even find me to ask? I was so invisible, I didn't even cast a shadow. I was like the wind, I stayed mobile,
whirling around, never in one place for long. Either racking up the frequent flyer miles or the wear and tear on the all-terrain
tires. Or reducing the tread on my hiking boots. Or whitewater-washing the skin off my kayak. Not home. Not here. Gone.
Now, mind you, I did
show up for things that I drop-dead needed to do. The bills got paid. I went to the events I'd scheduled. I didn't cop out
on anything I truly had
to do. But I felt like a ghost. Transparent. My body was there, but my spirit was... disappeared. After a while I settled
down—back in my cabin (and believe me, that took some doing). But even though I was now physically in one place, I stayed
disappeared working on my current project. Writing. And more writing. All-nighters with characters that demanded a voice.
I love being with my characters, and I love writing, so this is good. But...
My desktop had disappeared, too—not in that weightless
and formless way, like me. Instead, it had been obscured by piles of unanswered (and unopened) letters, junk mail, old lists
of should-do items I hadn't done, unfiled papers, unread newspapers and newsletters and magazines. In a fit of phobic projection,
I began to fear my desktop computer, which is the one I use to do business, answer email, all the "non-book-writing"
stuff. My laptop (which I use to write my novels, journal, etc.) became my new BFF. It didn't ask anything of me, was always
ready to take up the story where I left off and help me vanish into it. And it was mobile. I could take it anywhere in the
house and still not be at my desk.
As if that weren't enough to avoid getting back into gear, I dreamed up a construction project here
at the cabin and we launched into building it: an arbor over our deck for shade. The heavy snows this past spring had cost
us some key pine branches in the Ponderosas that used to provide copious sunscreen over the deck. I wanted to write outside
again—away from the mounds of papers and the inbox full of unanswered emails inside in my little office, both of which
seemed to be crying out for me to return to structure and accountability. I argued (that's right, I talk to myself) that I
needed to be in nature for my creativity to flow, but I needed shade to do it. And, I remembered how Mountain used to love
to lie out on the deck while I sat beneath the pine branches and wrote on my laptop. I missed that. I missed him. The arbor
took shape, a friend created some stellar deck furniture, we got one of those cool outdoor rugs and some solar lanterns, and
I once again had my outdoor writing studio. A way to be home and yet still disappeared.
As soon as the arbor was finished and ready
for use, one of those powerful summer-in-the-mountains storms boiled up suddenly out of a blue afternoon sky. The sunny weather
shifted rapidly to pounding rain, then pelting hail, the marbles of ice accumulating on the surface of the deck so deep that
it looked like a good snow had fallen. Again, I was reminded of Mountain (who passed beyond the ridge some years ago about this time of year), because four
days after he left us, we experienced just such a hailstorm. I remember that day vividly: I went out on the deck and felt
as if Mountain had conjured the hailstorm himself to reassure me that his spirit had completed the four-day journey beyond
the ridge, and to remind me how quickly things can turn and change. I felt as if he were telling me not to worry. Not to grieve
too intensely. To everything a season.
And now, cue the Twilight Zone theme! Another notable event took place that same day just as we finished the arbor: my friends
Rick and Sandra called with fantastic news: Mountain's totem was finished, culminating an eight-months project that returned
a precious item once lost, then found, then recreated by these two artists into a new, even more precious and sturdy pendant made from Mountain's
tag. The beautiful work these dear friends poured into this totem—their creativity and generosity—made this simple
treasure even more beloved and special. (I will post a photo of it with this blog so you can see.) Suffice to say, this amulet
made a long, long journey to get back home to its rightful place around my neck after being lost in another town, another
state, another part of the country. After months of being disappeared itself, this magic charm of mine was returned, transformed,
and was once again a part of me. For me, the totem now embodied not only the spirit of a wolf who became my teacher and best
friend, but also the kindness of a total stranger who found it and reached out across the miles to return it, the love and
creativity of friends who recreated it, and proof of the true goodness of life, of the gift of being here now.
And so it was that when Mountain's
totem Undisappeared, I did, too. When I first felt the weight of the pendant around my neck in its latest incarnation, I felt
as if blood took the place of air in my veins. I was becoming solid, substance and form again. A day or two later, I took
to my little office (a/k/a the Sky Chapel) with a vacuum cleaner, duster, trash can and a letter opener and I found the top
of my aspen desk again. I tentatively contacted a few friends, phoned the other members of The Pack and told them I was alive,
and I started to be in the "real" world again. Every day, I wrote on the deck under the arbor, but I wasn't avoiding
the Sky Chapel or my desk any longer. I was unvanishing, beginning to cast a shadow once more. I still haven't made my way
through all the emails. But I will, eventually. I'm back in the material world. Undisappeared.
2014, Sandi Ault, All Rights Reserved
Music by Sandi Ault,
Photos by Tracy A. Kerns and Sandi Ault unless otherwise stated