11:00 o’clock And All’s Sort Of OK

We had gray skies and Camelot rains here the last couple of days and this morning as I was making my rounds inventorying the trees here at the top of the world I was suddenly struck with the realization that one of my oldest friends was not doing so well.

We’ve known each other for over 25 years and have weathered many a storm together. Although old and past its prime it always appeared to be strong and vital and nowhere near ready to give up and lie down as so many of its peers have done. It has withstood one hundred and one mile per hour winds. Incredible snow loads. During the storm of the century the snow was half way up its trunk. Every bird that could peck holes in its slowly softening trunk have done so. Flickers, woodpeckers of several varieties, anything that could make a hole in it has. It has been the home of legions of Canyon wrens, black-capped chickadees, even a family of bluebirds. It has participated in life to its fullest.

Through it all it has stood steady and resolute, Nature’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Defiantly strong in the face of all adversity while its lesser brethren gave up, tottered and fell to the ground to begin their long journey back into the earth that had nourished them for so many years. Not so my friend. It was as if it seemed to say “Is that all you have? Come on throw it at me. I can take it.”

As the years passed we both have been through our storms together. As each wave of turmoil swept over me I would look out and there my friend would be leaning into life with a strength I envied and tried to emulate, not always doing the best job of it, but buoyed up by seeing my old friend still standing firm. There were the successes too, some monumental, at least in my life. Great huge highs that were caused by family, or business, or simply being in a place that I loved as much as life itself. Always I shared it with my friend just outside the window.

Sometime ago I went and stood next to it feeling the texture of its rough and weathered surface. Pieces flaked off beneath my fingers yet it still seemed vital and present. Not fragile, not at the end of its road. I even pushed at it, testing whether it was as firm in its stance as I thought it was. It didn’t budge. I thought, well there’s a lesson there bucko. Keep grounded, keep a firm grip and you can make it too.

Of course at that time I wasn’t taking in the fact that time marches on and all things change. Now I see that the slow passage of our journey together has finally caught up with my old friend and it is calling its name. It is a tired old tree now. I fancy that if I look real close I can see it shiver in the wind, slightly swaying. Then I don’t. I really don’t want to see that. I’ve always thought that my friend and its sons next to it have represented the hands of a clock. The hands pointing to eleven o’clock, measuring our friendship in its own slow way. I, unable to see the slight movement of its hands but knowing they were moving even if I can’t see them do so. Now it seems the hands have stopped moving for my friend, even reversing themselves a little. If their position is eleven o’clock now, it is inevitable that as it must do, they will move to nine o’clock some time. When that happens my friend will have completed its journey.

Soon my old friend and I will part company. I to a new place where hopefully there will be new old friends. It to its final journey and rest on the earth that has sustained it all its life. I hope that it waits to complete its mission until I’m gone. I need it there to be strong and resolute in its constancy so I can be too.

 

 

3 O’Clock

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Time passes differently in the desert. It conforms somewhat to our notion of how time should behave. It gets light in the morning and dark at night, and high noon is roughly what shows on the face of your Rolex when both hands point straight up, but it doesn’t feel the same. And as you know if you’ve ever spent time alone somewhere like this desert at Coral Pink Sands Dunes State Park, time is as much a feeling as it is the passage of seconds and minutes.

You can come here with your time if you want. The dunes don’t care. Have your schedules on your smart phone set to tell you how long you can stay, how long before you have  to go if you want to make it to Zion before the afternoon rush for rooms begins. But be careful when you step out onto the sands here. Watch out for the fact that the hands on your watch may move but the passage of time here on the dunes doesn’t always agree. Finding a place to sit where you can watch the winds sculpt the dunes into new shapes, erasing footprints, sharpening the edges of the dune tops until they look as is they could shear the wind in half, or slice little eddies off the breezes to form new ripples down the face of the sand. That’s when you notice that the 15 minutes you thought you were spending has actually been an hour and a half. The desert is showing you how time works here. It’s not your watch that’s at fault. It’ll work just fine when you get back to people places and that time takes over again.

Forget also about making it the 45 miles from here to Zion in time. You’ve been caught by desert time. Sitting there watching the sand change color from a yellowish-tan to a rich, deep coral as the sun moves across the shifting dunes, listening to the low moan of the winds as they scrub across the dune tops, feeling as much as hearing the low humming that comes from the movement of untold billions of sand crystals rubbing together, as the wind slowly but surely pushes the dunes along, moving these massive collections of sand some fifty feet a year. Sitting there you’ve been moved with them, not very far, a short journey actually, but as a new part of the desert you’ve been added to the structure and affected by it, unaware that your presence has been noted and taken into account. You’re on desert time now.

It’s time to put your smart phone away, pull your sleeves down over that watch and tune into desert time. Make other arrangements in your mind as schedules don’t work well here in the desert. But it’ll work just fine if you let it happen and don’t fight it. It will still get light in the morning and dark again the evening, noon will come and go just like always, it’ll just feel differently is all. Once you understand how that works you’ll find its a pretty good system. If you need to know things like hours and so on, the desert will tell you. As you can see by the image above it’s three o’clock. Now that you know that, does it make a difference?