22 December 2012

Archival footage: The cleft of the rock

The following post was originally published at FlagstaffBiking.org on August 14, 2004.

You now know that it takes at least 30 minutes for rain to run down Mount Elden... and that in that time it will gather and regather until it rushes out the bottom in a series of tall cascades... and that it comes on with a roar like a train before it fills the dry wash nearby with a foot of new water.

You note that no matter what its form, you are nearly always impressed by the action and presence of water.  And you're sure, because there is a little spring nearby, that you're not the first to see these magnificent effemeral falls... the Eldens probably saw them every summer... others too most likely.

But you are nevertheless awestruck and intrigued... you intend to investigate... but you wait for the hail stones to stop.  You sit and you watch as water drips down the rock overhead and rolls slowly inward, progressing against gravity across the inverted face of the rock... because of cohesion... you recall learning that in a high school science class years ago.

You listen as the storm changes from hail to rain... you know the weather is still close because the lightning and thunder flash and crash simultaneously... so loudly when it is near! And each peal humbles you a little... and you muse that even mankind's most war-like and prideful members are regularly humbled by this display.

You watch as the bands of showers pass, increasing and decreasing in frequency, in intensity... water and thunder are the only sounds... and you listen to them. You feel your legs stiffen, then fall asleep... you pull youself into a ball, your knees drawn up nearly to your chin, seeking warmth and a drier place... you squeeze yourself back into this cleft of rock... a little bit further in... and you watch and wait, as the drips advance inward.

You gaze intimately at lichen... up close... and you spend time, real time, staring at it. It is intricate. And you ponder its greenish-yellowishness, marveling at its tenacity and at its obscurity.

You see the new leaves on the wildflower just beyond you... you watch it shiver in the rain... you wonder about its existence, its fleetingness, and its purpose... and then of your own... you feel compelled to compare the wildflower to the nearby seedling pine... you muse that for perhaps a dozen years the little pine has always been outstripped in terms of height and majesty by the annual flowers and weeds around it... but you remember that the pine will likely outlast them all... that it is its slow start which gives it solid footing for the future... you plan to explain this to your students somehow, this idea that we should all aspire to be more like pines than weeds... and you sense a beautiful story therein, too... you mull that over... but in the end you are dissatisfied with your feeble rendering of it.

You regret your hasty decision to just-go-ride, grabbing your highly-water-resistant jacket in your haste rather than search for your truly-waterproof one... you feel the saturation pass through your jacket as it invades your shirt... you recall learning that some cancers spread in a similar manner where tissues adjoin... and you recall your friends who are suffering from the disease... and you pray for them... and then you pray for others.

You feel small.

This is good shelter.


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey