Monday, January 2, 2012

Shaking my fist in the wind

A couple of days ago, in an act of shaking my fist in challenge to the forces of nature on my 50th birthday, I took down the Christmas lights in the gale force winds that blew over the Palmer Divide that morning. 
Though I only flew off the ladder once, and didn’t break anything at the bottom of the 20-foot fall from the eves, it was a beautiful reminder of my place in the battle of elements… and my chances of winning.
In Carl Hiaasen’s novel “Sick Puppy,” a recurring character called ‘Skink,’ ties himself to the top of a bridge in the Florida Keys to commune with an incoming hurricane, reminiscent of John Muir riding out a Sierra gale in the treetops.
‘Skink,’ a.k.a. Clinton Tyree, once upon a time was a football star, a hero of the war in Vietnam, and a populist governor of the state of Florida, reflects Hiaasen's own political tastes, and Hiaasen freely admits to creating him because he wishes such a man really existed.
Muir on the other hand, describes his now famous adventure of climbing to the top of a 100 foot tall Douglas Spruce to experience first-hand the force and beauty of a fierce Sierra wind-storm. This adventure takes place in a tributary of the Yuba River in December 1874. 
John Muir writes, “The sounds of the storm corresponded gloriously with this wild exuberance of light and motion. The profound bass of the naked branches and boles booming like waterfalls; the quick, tense vibrations of the pine-needles, now rising to a shrill, whistling hiss, now falling to a silky murmur; the rustling of laurel groves in the dells, and the keen metallic click of leaf on leaf--all this was heard in easy analysis when the attention was calmly bent.”
Blowing around out there as fog rolled over the Ramparts, and bouncing in the bushes on the side of the house, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was creating a man defiant of howling winds and unafraid of nature on a whim — a man created just because, I wish such a man really exists.

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