Maybe it is time again to take up the pen in the night's dark hours as I once did, a young fellow home from the night shift at Tall Tales Book Shop, desk at the window looking out onto the MARTA parking lot across from the rail yard and piggyback facility. Bottle of wine at my elbow in tradition of Byron at his palazzo. Is the passion that animated me then still buried somewhere deep within, if only a flicker, a spark, that may compel this warm scribe my hand to scrawl vision across the page? Or is it nothing more than shadow of a memory scarcely distinguishable from imagination? Remember, though, imagination is precious.
Sylvia asked if she ever sent me her Memoir in 6-word memoirs. I do not recall it so looked through my collection of handmade books she has given me over the years. No, 'twas not there. I found instead a forgotten treasure from 2008, a collection titled Outside Chances, with this thought by way of introduction:
Albert Camus, who probably wasn't much of a runner but looked incrediby cool striking a Humphrey Bogart pose with a cigarette in hand, observed that writing was one of the few pure things in his life. So it is with me. Running is another pure thing.
I later came upon this by Camus: "The little morality I know, I learned on the soccer field and the stage, which remain my real universities."
The collection includes a short poem about running, an essay about running, livin' on Tulsa time at Christmas with Trani and the family, thoughts of Uncle John and Aunt Margaret, the cousins, friends, some poets and some painters, and a second essay about an arduous hike with Wade and Xuehong up Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge and another less arduous trek at Ramona Falls in the Mount Hood Wilderness Area.
We set out for Dog Mountain at 7 one Saturday morning in April 2005.
The sky darkened as we got out into the gorge, and it was raining full bore by the time we passed Multnomah Falls on the way to Bridge of the Gods, where we would cross the Columbia into Washington.
Geniuses that we are, we figured we had come too far to turn back without giving the hike a shot…
We followed in Xuehong's wake up the mountain as she marveled at every little flower that bloomed along the trail, her joy pure and infectious. She kept saying, "I want to see those flowers," the one up at the timberline said to turn the mountainside yellow when they bloom in the spring.
I caught my second wind about halfway up the trail, which leveled off briefly here and there, but never for long. The temperature dropped noticeably the instant we stepped out from the trees up near the peak, the wind picked up, and the sky spit rain that Wade compared to hail bouncing off the back of my black windbreaker.
We came the wrong weekend for the flowers in bloom, but no matter. The view of the Columbia River and the gorge back to the east with wisps of fog and cloud and rain below us made it worth every step and gasping breath, flowers or no flowers.
At Ramona Falls we found astounding sheer rock walls and took in lovely views gazing down at the river.
Then there is the waterfall itself. When Xuehong came around a bend in the trail and saw the falls, recessed back in shade and shadow, the water bright and silvery, sparkling as it cascaded down around patches of green moss on outcrops of rock, she cried out, "This is so beautiful! This is so beautiful! This is so beautiful!"
Wordsworth and Tintern Abbey come to mind as I contemplate these scenes.
These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love…
It has been ages, far too long, since I hiked the magnificent trails out in the Columbia River Gorge. In the interim though countless miles have been covered in urban wandering around Portland, Eugene, Astoria, San Francisco, Seattle, Bellingham, Vancouver, even Tulsa, along streets and byways, through bookstores and museums, idles at little cafés for espresso and journal sessions. These memories and the sensations they prompt carry their own measure of tranquil restoration.
Memo from the editorial desk: This piece takes off from a shorter journal entry the evening of Monday, April 4.