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Saturday, January 26, 2013


     robert mangold, distorted circle with polygon, 1973

The mountain is covered with ice. I'm glad it was not as predicted. Forecast said freezing rain and snow from Friday around noon through Saturday. We got about a half an inch of very fine granules of ice on top of freezing rain that put down a half inch layer of ice on the roads under the half inch of ice granules. The little bit of texture made walking on it easy and driving possible, except for a steep grade up or down the hill. Even four-wheel can't handle that. After the precipitation we had frozen fog the rest of the day. I walked next door a third of a mile to Allan's, face advancing through the oncoming faint breeze with tiny flakes of ice so small they can't be seen, only felt on the face. It was not unpleasant. In that way I preferred the return home with that little bit of breeze on my back. Then I didn't even know the air had these microscopic pieces of flying ice.

From inside the house I could see against distant background the slight rain of the ice that looked like a snow of tiny flakes. The temperature was below twenty. I wore two pair of sweatpants, a tshirt, a long-sleeved tshirt and a sweatshirt under a good warm coat and a neck scarf my friend Pat knitted for me many years ago. Two hats. Gloves. The shoes I wore were my regular shoes. With no insulation under the floor, my feet are cold all the time anyway, so why would a little bit colder matter? I was warm everywhere but feet, face and hands. Gloves tend to make my hands colder than they would be without the gloves. I bought some driving gloves for this winter, but never wear them because my fingers freeze in them. I wore the gloves anyway. Hands were not quite as cold as they would be without the gloves.

A gray squirrel from the woods across the road is foraging for sunflower seeds I threw out there an hour ago. I'm glad the squirrel has decided to pick up snacks here. I like to watch squirrels. Every move they make is quick. I've seen them jump from tree to tree, flying through the air with all four feet extended and open to grasp a limb not half an inch thick. They are the monkeys of our forests. Two red squirrels live in the trees around the house. They pick up bird seed too. Several bluejays, thirty or more snowbirds, a pair of cardinals. The male cardinal is a rooster. Another cardinal comes in and the cardinal that claims this feeding station for his territory runs the other one off immediately. A few sparrows. Some nuthatches, a pair of woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and two different kinds of buntings. These are the winter birds. Finches come in summer with the doves and wrens. I feed them twice a day when it's cold on the belief that they need plenty of food energy to get them through the long cold nights. They're growing too. The oil in the sunflower seeds gives their feathers a luminous quality. I know they love it. Birds have a certain vanity about their feathers.

My friend Justin came by in his 4-wheel pickup with his wife Crystal and his kids, Vada, Cheyanne and Landon. They took me with them riding around on the ice on back roads. Justin loves to put the truck in 2-wheel and spin around curves sideways and he's good at straightening it up as soon as it's necessary. He can't "drift" a pickup with big tires made for grip on dry pavement. I know he can drift a car through a curve, a rear-wheel drive car, but I've never seen him do it. We went around to back roads and had a ball. At night headlights warn of approaching vehicles, which there were none of in the roads we took. Only one set of tracks in front of us, somebody doing the same thing we were doing. The kids slept. Drifting is from the movie, Fast And Furious: Tokyo Drift. It's a good movie if you like car driving action. Drifting is running the rear wheels so fast they can't get a grip. It smokes the tires like after a nascar race when the winner holds the checkered flag out his window and drifts in circles, sometimes sending up a cloud of smoke the car disappears inside. I found a video of a guy drifting up the California mountain highway, Mulholland Drive. He left two black lines all the way up the road. Justin is a good driver, a very good driver. His dad taught him well. One exercise he passed to Justin was to drive with outside wheels on the white line. It helps to know where the edge of the road is in relation to the front edge of the hood. It's about keeping it in the road. I'm relaxed when I ride with him, knowing what an excellent driver he is. I felt as comfortable riding with his dad in the past.

We passed a place where Crystal told me she almost killed a girl. Of course I asked for the story. The girl was her friend and she'd been screwing Crystal's first husband before he died. Crystal found out soon after he died, Crystal wanted to "beat the crap out of her. I wanted to really hurt her." Crystal knew a town detective and went to him asking how far she could beat the girl down and stay out of jail. He advised her not to do it. She told me what she intended to do with the girl. It was wicked. She talked to Justin about it. Justin has a great deal of experience fighting, and he talked her out of it. The problem, Crystal felt, was that once she got started beating her she wouldn't stop til the girl was dead. She said, "I was a grieving widow!" Crystal grew up with two older brothers. She can fight. She talked herself out of it by realizing she probably would beat the girl to death, and didn't want to go to prison over it. She knew she would "lose it." She said, "I was out of it. He had just died. If she'd broken my nose, I wouldn't even have felt it. I would have destroyed her. It's best I didn't do it." The girl left the county and hasn't come back. I'm thinking somebody told her Crystal was seriously looking for her. And she knew what that meant.

You'd think you don't see much riding the roads at night, but all three of us were satisfied we saw an awful lot. Several years ago my friend Joyce was visiting from Charlotte. I took her for a ride on some roads after dark I thought especially nice. Headlights were good, houses were lit up, the road carried the shape of the landscape. Old fence posts. I thought I was giving her a good mountain experience. When we returned she told me she didn't see anything. It was night. That knocked a big one out from under me. I thought, but couldn't say, Are you blind? The time my mother and dad drove here from Kansas, I knew they'd never been in these mountains. They drove through the mountains quite a ways from the western edge to the eastern edge. In the central Blue Ridge that's a good distance. I asked mother how she liked landscape on the drive. "I didn't see anything. I just watched the road." She was the passenger. So how do you know in advance, before speaking, who is satisfied with just seeing the road and who needs to see landscape? It's a stab in the dark. This is how we find out. Trial and error.


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