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Monday, June 27, 2011


 a landscape of my world

one of ten trillion reasons i love the mountains

My mind is somewhat rattled after the day's big adventure. Wine and snacks at Joe's with about 10 others, all of us regulars at Selma's coffee shop in Sparta. I arrived late because I thought it started later than it did. Maybe an hour there talking and listening. From there most of us drove to Tom Guy's house on the side of Bullhead Mountain, for burgers, hotdogs, potato chips and chili. All of it good. Tom grilled on the deck. There, we sat on decks and ran our mouths, eating, and drinking wine or beer. Tom's house was built by him alone with hired help for aspects along the way in the construction he couldn't handle alone. It is a beautiful house, very well built, well designed. The outdoors consist of the woods coming up to the house, decks at different levels. It's a gorgeous place. Old mountain laurel and rhododendron around the house.

About 3 hours there talking with people I enjoy. We've become a small private club, Selma's regulars. We all like each other and even though Selma was not there, intended to be, but was having severe headaches, we had a good visit in the spirit of her coffee shop. We are the ones who love Selma. We're Selma's fan club. My friend Tom was there, who is writing a memoir of his experiences in a life of espionage. He's quite a character. I like to listen to him talk about some of what he got into. He doesn't talk much about the details of missions, though I don't think he's holding back, just hasn't got there. And it's not like I want him to tell things he's uncomfortable telling. I like to listen to him. I like some of his sayings, like, "When guns come out, run like hell. Moving targets are hard to hit." He told me of a time he was in a car somewhere in the Middle East being chased by "terrorists." He said his weapon of choice was a pistol grip sawed off shotgun, double barrell that shot 6 rounds. "Inside twenty yards you can't miss." When the terrorists were chasing him, 3 in the car, he hit the brakes hard, stopped the car, jumped out and blew them all away with his shotgun. Pop, Pop, Pop. He said, "I loved that shit."

He said now that he's retired he doesn't like guns anymore. I don't know him well, but can see him getting into some tight spots and having a thrill from it. He's a small guy with probably a very high rate of metabolism and had to be doing something high intensity to satisfy his fast mind and body that needed to be active all the time. I told him about a scene in the Steven Seagal movie I saw last week, The Keeper, where his girlfriend wants him to tell her what the trick is about a barroom game that impressed her. She put a long nail-like spike under an upside down tall paper cup and shuffled it around with 2 other cups. Three cups and one has a spike. She shifts them around. The trick is to pick one and hit it all the way to the table and it not have the spike in it. The cup he hit didn't have the spike. She was impressed. "How'd you know?!" He said he didn't know. 'The trick is, don't give a fuck." Tom bent over laughing, said, "Out in the field you can't give a fuck." He's lived his adult life going head first into death defying activity looking for information. In one place he was sent in as a telephone repair man who went into houses of insurgents remembering and reporting every detail he saw, who was there, what was going on.

He told me of a Russian operative who was sent to be a maid for 5 years for a US diplomat. Then she defected and went to work over here in the same field. Tom was saying that a time in Bogota, Columbia, he was talking with a guy who was a Communist there. The guy was telling him Soviet Union was a better place to live than USA. Tom said, you go down to the Russian Embassy when it opens in the morning, any given day, and see how many people are standing outside the gate to get in. None. Then go to the American Embassy and see a line of 500 people waiting to get in. He has a fairly large degree of patriotic zeal, though not political. He's all with USA right or wrong. I suspect a few degrees of his patriotism is the love for that kind of work and our government was his employer. He was a true believer. Give him the order, it gets done. I like to listen to tales of his adventures largely for his telling of them. He tells me about his experiences the way I want to hear it, the emotional involvement too. The fear charged him. He didn't like those moments of extreme fear, though he misses them and doesn't want any more, now that he's retired. I would like to live long enough to read his memoir when it's finished and published.

The weather was just right for outside on the deck socializing. Wine and getting lectured for smoking a cigarette. Clear sky with occasional puffy white clouds. On the way home I saw big pink clouds, the big ones, several miles high. In years gone by when I'd go into the woods to spend the day at and around the waterfalls, with blanket, book, paper, pen, for writing or sketching. The purpose, to stay a full day in one of the beautiful places in my world, sit there in reverence all day. Think and think until my thinking runs down and no-thinking sets in. Sitting there without purpose, no reason, but to stay or base myself on one spot, like a flat rock near waterfalls, especially one in the stream. I have several places along the creek, all the creeks around here, where I like to sit and let my mind settle. Driving home I saw a mirror smooth pond beside the road that set me to thinking about zen mind, the polished mirror, the water smooth as glass. It was a circle in the meadow of the sky's perfect reflection. I wanted to stop and get a picture, but somebody was behind me and I chose not to. It brought to mind a haiku by Japanese poet Basho:

It is fall and a full moon.
I walked around
the shore of the pond all night.


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