Moments Taken for Granted

There was howling last night.  That’s somewhat rare, so close to town.  Oh, there are wolves around — at least two packs have territories that touch the outskirts of town — but no wolf with more brain cells than your average shoelace wants to come anywhere near all that noise and chaos.  Worse, none wants to come anywhere near all those damned humans.

Wolves are too smart for that.

On the other hand, this town is an all-you-can-eat buffet for carnivores right now.  The elk are in winter-mode.  That means they don’t spend any energy they don’t have to.  To us, a field full of elk laying down to warm themselves in the afternoon sun is a wonderful picture. To a wolf, it’s the irresistible call of the dinner bell.

I had to leave the house yesterday (more on that later), but couldn’t actually get to my truck for a good thirty minutes.  Now, I don’t mind when the cute girls are hanging out around my yard…

I don’t mind, even, when the guys are standing around and acting all nonchalant and cool while they scope out those girls…

But the grumpy grandma?  The old biddy with the stink-eye and a chip on her shoulder the size of Montana?  Yeah, she’s less fun to have in my yard.

Oh…and before you ask, waving your hands and saying “Shoo!” to a 500+ pound animal with a bad attitude and a propensity for breaking things with her kicks isn’t generally a recipe for success.

Needless to say, I was late for my appointment.  Of course, it helps that I happen to live in a place where “I couldn’t get out my door because there was a bear/bison/elk waiting…” isn’t just an excuse, it’s one we’ve all had to use.

Hey, at least it was only thirty minutes!  A friend of mine was once trapped inside a bathroom for two hours because of an ornery bison!

Okay, so why did I have to leave?  A test to see if the COVID is gone.  A test to see if I can — finally — rejoin the rest of the world.  Now I just have to sit and wait for the results.  36 hours, the testing lab says.  My friend, the nurse, just laughed at that estimate.  “Minimum 48 hours,” she warned, “and quite probably more at this point.”

It’s the “big” cities, you see.  Okay, “big” for Montana.  Anyway, as soon as Yellowstone “closes” for the winter, my little town once again becomes nothing more than a few hundred people living at the ass end of nowhere.  Hell, even Amazon deliveries take an extra day.

Oh well, there is hope…and that is what matters!  I don’t actually have anywhere to go, nor anything to do, but as soon as I’m officially free,  I’m gonna go run screaming through downtown Gardiner just because I (finally) can!

Streaming shows and movies got old by about day two, by the way.  Since then, it’s been nothing but books and video games* and work on background material for stories.  I did try to actually write some scenes — some flashfiction, too — but my concentration just wasn’t there enough for that.  

*Yes, they’re childish.  On the other hand, I am quite literally nothing more than an overgrown adolescent at the best of times.  C’mon, we’ve already talked about this! I tried being an “adult.”  I spent years burying my sense of wonder and magic and joy at the simplest of things.  I did that, and it almost killed me.  So, now, I take a stupid amount of joy in playing mini-golf, making fart jokes, dreaming about the ways things should be, and in general being an arrested adolescent.

One of the worst things about watching the world through your window is just how much you miss.  You don’t always miss it, however.  Picture the scene…

I’m sitting there, feeling better.  I pop out my door to stand on the deck and get some sun.  The girls are visiting again, of course.  They brought some boys with them, this time.  There are a good dozen elk in front of my place.  But that isn’t what got me.  That is, in fact, pretty normal for this time of year.  No, what got my attention was the tableau at the edge of the yard.  There was a big boy, there…

No, really, a big boy, with a rack to make any trophy hunter go weak at the knees.  And nose to nose with him, nervous as hell, was a teenager.  A young boy whose antlers were nothing more than the shortest of bare poles…

It was so perfect, that scene.  The big bull, in full glory, interacting with the young kid, all spindly legs and awkwardness.  It was almost human, that scene.

Okay, okay…that’s anthropomorphizing to the nth power, but it really was the feeling that came with that scene.  The bull in his prime, sharing a quiet moment with the adolescent so desperate and hopeful that he will, one day, grow up to be like that…

A month ago, it wouldn’t have happened, of course.  Even in the dying days of the rut, that teenager wouldn’t have dared to come anywhere near a bull like that.  Nor would the bull have allowed it.  That particular fight wouldn’t have lasted any longer than a 7th grader in a UFC match.

It was only a minute or two before the two moved apart.  The lure of the still-somewhat-green grass for one, and the warm sun for the other, was too strong to resist.  An all-too-brief moment, like so many others up here.  A moment, like those others, that I take for granted far too often.

It was a moment that I failed, by the way.  Oh, I didn’t fail it in any metaphysical, spiritual way. No, I failed it in the most practical way: I didn’t record it.  Remember that bit of writing advice I’ve given so often?  You know, the one that says “when a thought comes, you write it.  Right freaking then, you write it.”  Well, that applies to photography just as much as it does to writing.  When a picture is there, you take it.  Even with nothing more than a cellphone camera, you always take the picture!

I didn’t take the picture.  That’s as bad, to me, as forgetting that great idea that came at three in the morning because I couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed and write it down…

The Perfect Evening

Well…I didn’t sink the boat.

I didn’t sink the boat and I got to spend a week on the water.   A week that was about three years too short…

As good — and as needed! — as it was, that wasn’t what I sat down to write about.

Nope.

I sat down to write a post about the death and destruction of our shared spaces.  About the lack of “commonality” that is one of the big things tearing at our society.

I sat down to write about that, but it is topic that is going to take a lot more thought and planning than I had done before I can really do a decent post on it.

But I still have the urge to write…still have the urge to put out something.

I’ve lived all over the US.  I’ve travelled all over the world.  I have — not to be an arrogant asshole — been places, and done things, that most people only dream about.  Aside from the images captured in my photography and my writing, I have the memories and experiences that are as real to me now as the hour I experienced them.*

*Yeah, yeah, it’s that “perfect” eidetic memory thing.  Welcome to my world.

I remember climbing a hill on an island off Croatia’s shore, only to stumble into a meadow with the most vibrant purple flowers I have ever seen…

I remember the oppressive weight of walking through a block of old-school Stalinist apartment blocks in Poland…

I remember standing in a gas chamber in Auschwitz…

I remember walking into Saint Peter’s Basilica for the first time and thinking, “Good God!”…

I remember the smells and sights of the souk in Marrakech, and of the spice market in Nice…

I remember the adrenaline — the chaotic mingling of fear and excitement — of my first face-to-face encounter with a 750 pound grizzly…

But do you know what sticks with me?  I mean what really stays in my mind…and in my soul?

65DA41BA-92C5-4FA8-84C8-81BA51576E3DI remember sitting on a hill not too far outside of Kyoto, an hour or two after sunset, and watching the fireflies.  The barking of a family of foxes in the distance…the stars coming out overhead, clear and bright…the humidity holding the heat for far too long…the fatigue in legs and mind from a day spent exploring a place in which — in spite of speaking the language and knowing the culture — I still felt more alien than I ever had before…and the, well, freaking magic of fireflies…

Look, I had seen plenty of the damned things in my life.  I went to (my second) college in Maine, for heaven’s sake, and we had no lack of the damned things up there…

I had seen them, but never before had I come close to the experience of that evening.  Never before had I experienced that kind of power, that kind of magic.  Never before had anything touched my soul like that evening.

It was perhaps the most perfect moment I have ever experienced.

For every shitty, miserable moment I have experienced, and have written — and there’ve certainly been enough of both — there are just as many of those special moments of power and memory to offset them.

Even more, there is the magic of the fireflies…