Archive for October 14th, 2010

The Blue And The Red

I left Juneau that afternoon to go into the Taku, one of the world’s great wildernesses; four and a half million acres of wild land and four a half million years of wild time. We rafted down the Taku River watershed, and I am writing this now, seven days later, from a valleyside high above the Inklin.

In the raft-days behind me were volcanic peaks echoing with thunder; grassy pastures zip-ping with cicadas; pastures where roses, sage, alpine straw-berries and juniper, with foggy-purple berries and a smell of sweet extravagance, bloomed; and the river ran through box-canyons of gargantuan Homeric water which hurls rafts against cliffs and sucks them round whirlpools. In the raft-days ahead will come the mystery of a massive limestone mountain with underground streams; a sixteen-hundred-foot waterfall that runs so fast and falls so slow; and finally the ancient glaciers, place of blue ice and—inexplicably—ladybugs.

Red is, symbolically, the color of mortality; blood of life and of death: blue, the color of eternity. Here in this time-diversity, they are found side by side. The blue of a glacier, the red of an—inexplicable—ladybug. Nothing is older than the blue glacier, ten thousand years in the making, ten thousand years in the unmelting. Nothing is younger than the bright red button of a ladybug hatched at the beginning of this sentence: here is the chasmic grandeur of wild time—a ladybug’s little red-letter day tickling for a minute the glacial blue ice of eternity.

—Jay Griffiths, A Sideways Look At Time

Theory Of Relativity

It’s the middle of October, and every day it’s in the 90s here. This is probably the most dispiriting thing about living long-term in this particular American desert. After a time you get accustomed to the fact that it doesn’t rain for six months, and that in July and August you must move around each day more or less in the interior of a blast furnace. But the fact that sometimes you have to wear a Hawaiian shirt and shorts on Halloween . . . I mean, jeebus, this is the northern hemisphere, and not in the tropics, and there is supposed to be about now such a thing as autumn. But no. Not here. Not much.

Whenever I perceive that I am in some way suffering, I endeavor to reach out for proofs that my suffering is really not much suffering at all. As generally it isn’t. And so, when the thermometer gleefully rose into the 100s, there in the final days of September, I dug out my copy of Benson Bobrick’s East Of The Sun (a tome that survived the Great Clearing), and reacquainted myself with the Siberian wondertown Oymyakon, known as “the world’s pole of cold”; a place that, though temperatures in winter annually drop to -90 degrees or so, in July also offers days of 100 degrees and rising. It could be worse, I reminded myself. I could live there.

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When I Worked

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