Alter the form and the life itself becomes something new …. I meant it when I said it but no I don’t remember what it was that I said ….. so it now becomes insignificant. Try the nearest tree if you need to pee. Hee Hee!”
“Gnarly” was a California word used by beautiful blonde beach bums and their buxom broads ….. sand always stuck to them in the strangest and most fascinating places ….. but it was nothing compared to the seals playing on the rocks just off the shoreline …. or the tons of seals that took up residence on local boats moored at the wharf.
The canyon was a tough descent on foot ….. jumping across small chasms ….. from rock to rock …. hoping that the rocks you landed on did not slip and fall …..it was a few hundred feet to the bottom of that damned canyon ….. it would have taken days for somebody to find you if you fell. — and I am certain that if you fell there … you would lie there … you would die there …. and when they found you, you would already smell …. you would smell bad ….not a scene to take a lunch in.
But the river was clear and pristine and delicious. — It ran off a glacier a few miles to the north across the border and it ran over sand and purified itself every 300 feet …. so I could lay on my belly and drink from that river like a dog ….. and I could nap on the warm rock in the middle of the stream ….. a rock that had been weathered into a smooth and comfortable bed for someone who had just walked and jumped for 5 miles down into a canyon.
Imagine the sensation and the thrill of being able to imbibe endless quaffs of pure, liquid glass …. a ten-foot-deep section of the stream looked to be only a couple of inches deep to the naked eye …. you could plainly see the fish swimming …. just reach down quickly and grab a fish …. no need for a line, a hook or a pole …. just reach down and grab the fish.
I loved the music of the wolves baying at night ….. Danny and Jim and Glenn and I all dressed primitive in our deerskin loincloths and nothing much else …. the only other person around was some old gnarled prospector who came by the camp with two pet wolves …. but he was soon gone ….after warning us to stay out of abandoned mine shafts.
The old man’s beard was scruffy and matted and reached to his beltline …as did his hair … like an old hippy ….crusty … wrinkled … weather beaten …. slim and trim … wiry … husky growly voice … helpful disposition … didn’t know whether to invite him and is pets to supper or not … so we did not …. he went on his way … singing and humming and muttering to himself …. we slept with one eye open that night for sure …. creepy!
There is something about a California night …. way out in the boondocks …. where the night is as black as black can be and the stars are so bright ….. and they appear to hang so low in the sky that you could reach up and touch them ….. and there were millions of them to see ….. the occasional shooting star frisking across the heavenly landscape …. the last embrace of the campfire dying in front of the tent ….. listen to those darned wolves …. I hope they do not think we are something to eat.
Speaking of eating ….. Danny had made some hush puppies and had fried some of the fish that the other guys caught …. Danny was from Louisiana …. He had a deep Cajun accent …. kind of wild and untamed …. but one heck of a decent guy …. just like the rest of them …. one for all and all for one ….. you know the drill.
It was not the place where one would find an ice cream shop but there was an ice cream shop in the town from which we had driven to get to the canyon.
This particular ice cream shop offered a sundae that had at least a dozen or more dips of ice cream on it and some toppings ….. it was humongous …. the deal was that if you could eat one of these sundaes, then the next one was free. —- I was never able to eat one of them and neither were the rest of our gang ….. but my young son ate one ….but he did not eat the entirety of the other one ….. that was the day that the small maverick cloud had come running over our heads, rained on us and then sped away like some mischievous dog who had just urinated on us out of pure cussedness.
This night that we camped in the canyon was the same night that I dreamed that a rattle snake had rested on my bare chest and was staring me in the face. — I was so scared that I could barely breathe ….. I finally screamed out that there was a snake on me …..the guys rushed to my aid only to discover that the whole thing had been a nightmare …. a vision ….not real ….my imagination …. (Or was it?) — I really didn’t want to know if it had actually happened or not. —- After that, we all got into the habit of checking our shoes and boots before putting them back on in the morning.
Danny and Glenn went diving in the river ….. under the massive boulders in the midst of the stream …. they dug under these huge rocks and found several small vials of gold nuggets …. the rest of us panned for gold for awhile …. I ended up with a few grams of gold dust …. we cashed it all in at an assayer office upriver a bit ….it was rewarding but hard work ….
Looking back on all this now ….. I was just 22 years old then …. young and dumb and full of it …. no common sense …..adventurous …. foolhardy ….like the rest of my compadres there in that geological depression with the river running through it …..we looked to an invisible future …. we dreamed …. we shared our dreams …. some of those dreams seemed impossible …. some of them seemed stupid ….we were alive …. we were really alive …. alive and filled with the proverbial piss and vinegar that you hear about sometimes …. it was good … the memory is still good …. and the memory comes often. —- I still have a half of a brain, I guess.
The night air was something like a fine glass of rare wine …. dark, musky, fragrant, delicious. —- a very rare wine …. a very expensive imbibery ….. the wine of the night …. poured of an eternal goblet into a crystalline glass formed by the beams of the moon overhead …. a wine that titillated the senses …. a wine reaching into the vast nether regions of our very beings ….. we drank deeply …. we shared the glasses …. we kept the glasses in our knapsacks …..until we got home and discovered that moonbeams are not something that can be captured and kept …. except, perhaps, on the negative of a film in a camera …. or in the retinal regions of our cerebrality ….images imprinted on the synapses ….for future reference …. if for nothing else.
The dogs of night quickly became the wolves of our being … for the moment totally uncivilized in our primitive gear …..the hoot of a distant owl lending a seriously macabre tonality to the symphonies that surrounded us in that darkened place …. as once was said, “Listen to them … the children of the night … what beautiful music they make!”
In places like that and times like that it is perfectly possible to get entwined in one’s own sense of self and when that sense reaches out with exploring tentacles of curious predisposition, it an intermingle with the reachings of the others and a pseudonym-like tribalism materializes …. brotherhood ignites …. a flaming torch of mutual loyalty burns… the sense and realization of creation and self inside the creation weaves a web of intrigue … that is the power youth … that is reserved for the young …I was young … we were all young.
I have never felt the Spirit of God more strongly than I have when I am in desolate places, along with my thoughts and with our blessed Savior.