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Tuesday, March 2, 2010


mountain laurel

More snow today. It's not quite dark yet. 27degrees. Slight wind. Snow blowing all afternoon since around 11. A few hours ago I estimated it at 3 inches going by the track the tires made. By now it's 4 or 4.5. The snow is letting up now that it has met its forecast quota. All is white again. White as snow. It will be a shock when we get back to the world of color. Now it's white and the gray of tree trunks and limbs. Makes me think of Zurich, Switzerland, in the snow. Zurich is all gray. All the city is gray. A lot of old European cities are gray. Pablo Neruda of Chile wrote a poem of being in a gray German city in snow, looking out the window he saw the big white dancing horses run around in a circle for exercise. The whole scene black and white. The horses rumps reminded him of oranges from home, the colorful world of Latin America, the memories he needs to cheer him up in a world where everything is dull European gray.

Set out for town to go by the dump and drop off some bags of detritus, from there to the Circle L on the far side of town toward Glade Valley for lunch with Jim Winfield. We get together for lunch about once a week and talk for a couple hours. Today, it didn't seem to click so well. It was like we were both somewhere else and weren't really connecting. He's been entertaining some great big questions about himself, the nature of the ego, cosmic questions and I give him plenty of space for that. Sometimes he's half giddy when he's found a new insight. Today he was awfully much in his mind. Usually is, but today more than usual. We talked plenty, nonstop. I doubt there was ever a full minute of silence at the table. We have very different ways of seeing things, and many that are similar. For one thing, we've both become curmudgeon old turds.

Winfield was a little bit downhearted because he got this notion he wanted to go to Chile or Haiti to help the relief effort, both places he knows well, and speaks the language both places. He knows the people. I believe he sees them in his mind's eye all the time, imagining what they're going through, wanting to help out. The bureaucracies that organize the relief won't have him. He's too old. His doctor recommends against going. You're too old. It didn't stop his longing to go. He asked me what I thought was behind his wanting so much to go. I said, it means you care. He accepted that. It felt better to him than what he'd been thinking, that it was an ego thing. I reminded him what he already knew, that he was perfectly suited for one place or the other with a lifetime experience, a natural for help with relief. His compassion pulls him to it. I'd say it's only ego in that everything we do is ego. There's no way around it. But it's an ego that benefits others in a hard time. Not a destructive ego, but a nurturing ego. That's plenty ok for motivation. It's not like it's unseflconscious narcissism streaking a baseball game.

I've known some people along the way who have a really interesting interior life they don't tell about and no one sees. Like Winfield used to keep his butterfly collection under a chair, because he wasn't proud of killing all the butterflies. It eventually found its way to the wall. I really enjoy looking at his collection of African masks and carvings. When he was in Zambia, these artifacts were funneling out of the Congo that was in civil wars in the eastern mountains. He had the good fortune to be there when they were available. He doesn't feel like he's done the right thing, taking them away from their culture, from where they belong, but they'd already been removed and there was no going back.

We sat at the table by the window and watched it snow as we ate. Neither one of us was anxious about it. He has a Suburu all-wheel. My front wheel is the same as 4wheel. With a snow shovel on the floor of the back seat, I can get out of anything I can get into, unless it's down a bank or into a tree. We started before the lunch people came in and were there after the place had cleared out. I enjoy talking with him. One of our greatest differences is the way we see what I'll have to call time. He sees it "linear," in a straight line, from start to finish. I see it a circle that makes a spiral. Like January 1 through December 31. A circle. A cycle. The next year is another circle connected to the one before. 6,000 years of civilization makes a really long slinky. I can't see that there is time outside the human mind. Cycles inside cycles, infinitely.

He mentioned a big Buddha he saw in, I think, Thailand. He said it is customary to rub the Buddha's big toe with a prayer. He said the toe was worn away from all the touching. It brought to mind a bronze statue of a saint I saw in the Vatican, whose front half of his foot had been kissed away over the centuries. The nub was smooth as smooth gets. Then we talked of a story in India that defines a Yuga, an Age, as the time it takes for a bird that migrates back and forth across the Himalayan mountains holding a silk scarf in its beak that touches the mountains as the bird flies over, until the mountains are worn down to plain. Geologists say these Appalachian mountains were once like the Himalayas. Rain, snow, cold and heat wore them down. These mountains seem like they are maybe more than half way toward plain from the Himalayan origin. Possibly a yuga can be calculated from the time these mountains were at their biggest to now and project in future how long until erosion is down to plain. That's a lot of millions of years. Then what's a year? A unit in the human mind.

We watched the snow unconcerned. When it was time to go, he offered to take Nancy Hunt, who worked in the kitchen and is his neighbor, to her house so Roy, who is in Galax, won't have to come by and pick her up. I went on up the road to Kermit's. Thought it might be a fair chance he wouldn't be too busy today. One man in the chair finishing up as I went in. Kermit and I watched it snow and talked. Ernest Joines called and told Kermit the Jubliee is off for tonight. Billy Dancy, who played banjo, was driving a truck down around Boone, said it's terrible. I told Kermit of an incident I saw on the way into town. The road was techous, like the old feller said, meaning it was slicker'n greased owl shit.

4 cars were directly ahead of me approaching town. They were awfully close to one another for this road condition, telling me not one of them was experienced driving on ice. I stayed way back. Way back. About in front of the VFW chicken bbq pit, the car in front hit the brakes. That was it. Went sliding this way and that. The next car hit the brakes. It slid into the front car. The 3rd car hit the 2nd car and they slid around like bumper cars at Myrtle Beach. The one in front of me left the road to stop. I had plenty of time to slow down gradually and stop. Fortunately, no one was behind me. None of the cars was damaged. Slow motion at slow speed. Everyone hit the refresh button drove on. One woman in a Jeep Cherokee pulled into the VFW parking lot to turn around and head back home. The 10 second Youtube moment gave me a clear picture of what was under my tires.

All the way home from town I was super cautious. I'd already had my education for the nature of this snow. It's the kind that insists you never lose traction. Never. The moment you lose traction you're gone. It won't be bad whatever happens at slow speed, but it's not something you want to happen at all. It was a slow drive with no one in front of me and no one behind, snow a couple inches deep and only a few tracks ahead of mine. By the time I turned onto Pine Swamp Road at Whitehead, the snow there was 3 inches. Along Air Bellows Gap Road only one track was ahead. The tires looked like a pickup. It turned off at the bottom of the mountain and I blazed the trail to the top, a time or two coming close to losing traction in the zones of the frozen ruts, but prevented it. My road was virgin snow all the way to the house. I was glad to get the car off the road. But it was a fun adventure. I have learned my car.

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