Ruminations From the Western Slope

Ruminations From the Western Slope
Colorado River near Moab, Utah

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sunday Morning Goin' Down

It rained last night so the air today is clean and fresh and the earth smells damp like bay area mornings.  I miss those smells.  Especially that warm earthy aroma of dry grass and oak leaves on summer days in the Los Altos hills.  It is a kind of romantic smell, though I was seldom in a romance at the time.  Or a job.  Or even in school. Were those warm days wasted?  Not really.  Sometimes I would just sit on a dry hillside looking out over the bay and valley below, at all the humanity knocking themselves out down there while cicadas and quail made lively noises in the sticky underbrush around me.  I’d be soaking up the sun like a lizard, my mind and body in sweet, non-committal reverie. 

I still have those moments on occasion when I get myself out into some quiet local canyons.  Only now there is more to reflect upon as more years have gone by.  Past romances good and bad, childhood traumas, political inequities, the roads not taken, the doors that opened and the doors that closed.  There is no better place to wax philosophical than a warm piece of sandstone in a hidden side canyon somewhere.  A piece of solid earth under my ass and an open sky above. 

Non-committal reverie.  Is that what it is?  In the late 60s I dabbled in protest.  But I could never get behind the strident left.  I didn't trust the left wing organizers any more than I trusted the right wing extremists.  I had my own opinions and I felt strongly about them but I didn't like being pushed or prodded.  I can remember a sit-in or two at SF State.  I remember being chased by cops on campus.  But I was never right there in the fray.  I didn't want to be a pawn in someone else's game, I guess. 

What was all the fuss about?  We made some strides in women's rights, gay rights, racial equality but only incrementally.  Psychedelia ended up being used to peddle shoes and soap suds and flowery fashions.  But at the very least, hopefully, people like me ended up with a sound foundation for a right livelihood, for developing a moral compass to get thru the weird times.  Seems we are still fighting the same battles but might never win the war.

There was a "Freedom Rally" in Grand Junction yesterday.  I saw the signs first and knew immediately what that meant.  Whenever you see the word "Freedom" or "America" or "Patriot" tagged on to an event, it usually means someone is going to wrap themselves in the flag and rail about their freedom to do what they damn well please with total disregard for anyone else.  It's kind of an obnoxious western ethic left over from the 19th century when we were pushing Native Americans off their land and harassing immigrants.  And sure enough, it was covered on the local news last night....about 200 people with nothing better to do gathered at a local park to decry taxes, social programs, health care, gun control, and the dread Obama...the Anti-Christ. 

While the Freedom Rally droned on, young teens from my daughter’s church were going around the community helping senior citizens get their spring chores done....moving trash, washing windows, doing good works locally in something called Sharefest. A chance to lend a hand to people who really need help.  They accomplished their mission quietly while the Freedom Rallyers shouted to be heard.

It is no secret that these “freedom” seekers cannot extend that privilege to cover a woman’s choices over her own body, or a child’s right to a good education, or to those elderly folks on a fixed income that my daughter’s friends were helping out yesterday. For them, it is more important to vilify than to mollify, to tear down rather than build up.  And I wonder sometimes if they ever stop to feel the sunshine, or to look beyond their own front porches to consider the core of this community.

There are fewer and fewer non-committal reveries for me these days.  And fewer and fewer quiet Sundays in my mind. My late friend Jim McGregor put it pretty succinctly over forty years ago when he wrote “If we are to survive, I think this is essential; we must trust ourselves, regard ourselves as the central core from which all understanding, all searching must move out. We cannot know ourselves and we cannot lose ourselves.  We can only hope to know what we are dealing with...” 

And I wonder if I will ever really know.


  1. Ah, oak leaves in summer...I remember that.

  2. The oak leaf thing is me, by the way, Greg.
    John Foster