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“The hermit contemplates nature, uses what he needs of it, but cherishes no notions to subdue it. …The hermit agrees to be henceforth weightless in the workings of the world, no longer counting as anything in the chain of causality. His thoughts will not influence anyone, or affect the course of events. His actions signify nothing. How light that thought is! And how clearly it foretells the final release: we are never so alive as when we are dead to the world!” –Sylvain Tesson

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In Wyoming’s Northern Absarokas, weather comes from the west. All winter long, snow piles on; wind sweeps the west side bare, and loads the east side into ponderous cornices. Traveling along these snowbound ridgelines can be nice and smooth: a ribbon of white that rolls along, indifferent to the obstacles of the steep mountainsides below. It also has its own dangers.

As the wind-deposited snow on the leeward side of the ridge becomes heavier, taking the shape of a breaking wave, it wants to rip free. A crack will form over the apex of the earthen ridge, which is hidden somewhat windward of the top of the cornice. This crack is usually covered with snow, but not enough to hold a person’s weight. It is not uncommon to plunge into one. Fortunately, they are not often very deep.

Other times, the crevasse is exposed.

Large, exposed crevasses are unusual. Usually, if the crack gets this wide, the cornice is breaking off altogether and now trundling down the mountain. The explanation for this extremely large crevasse is anticlimactic. A low-angle shoulder of the ridge caught the cornice before it could roll away.

A DAY’S GRIPES
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The video advertisement before the video will play, but the video will not.
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The video advertisements between the paragraphs of the article, and along the side bars, make the page freeze so that I can’t read the article.
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What does this bumper sticker mean: “BE A MAN AMONG MEN” (image: a machine gun)?
How can something so nonsensical also be so objectionable?
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Why hasn’t anyone started a group yet: “Hunters Against the NRA?”
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In bold print, all of the cans of polyurethane say “Quick Drying.” The fine print on the one that I bought defines “Quick” as 48 hours. Other cans consider 2 hours to be quick. I only read the bold print, and that means that getting three coats on our floors requires all our things piled into half our house for a week rather than a single afternoon.
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I finally met the dog that digs holes in our garden and poops in our lawn. He was so friendly, all I did was pet him.
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I’ve tried a hundred different ways, but, even with a whole day in front of you, there’s not enough time to do nothing and get things done.

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if the death of your civilization precedes you

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To see an elk in the woods.

To watch it dozing in the weak winter sun. Or browsing the knuckles of last summer’s grass. Or stepping slowly through the pine duff, pausing between each step, its brown melting into the forest, its outline blending into the static of dead branch and flaking bark and gangly sapling.

To point a gun at the heart of that elk and kill it.

I grew up hunting with my dad. I would tag along, that is. There were a lot of things about hunting I didn’t like: waking up in the dark, moving slowly in the cold, inhabiting hour after hour of ghastly suspense. I didn’t want any animals to die. And, I wanted us to be successful; to be done.

Despite all that, I went because I wanted to. It seemed important and the venison we ate was meaningful to me: I saw it come off the bone. I packaged it at the kitchen table with my mom and dad. All that wasn’t enough to make me want to shoot something– that would take another twenty years.

From fishermen and hunters I’ve often heard this justification: their sports give them greater intimacy with the things they love. I always considered that to be terribly self-serving. Is it not significant that, in the process, they kill the things they love?

I still think that argument is self-serving. And, there’s no sense in denying that hunting does give me more intimacy with animals than I ever had before, far more, and that I value that intimacy. I am challenged by it. It has lead me to learn more, care more, and see more. I still have never seen an animal and wanted to shoot it. I force myself to do so, it regularly brings me to tears, and then I set about the incredibly laborious business of treating this gift, this life, with as much respect as I know how.

Slicing the hide, extracting the viscera, stripping the bones–these activities, undertaken by choice, are the compulsions of a serial killer. I don’t know how to argue that. I do know that my responsibility is proportionate to my awareness: that I have a lot of hard work to do. This fall, for the first time, I saved the largest organ of the body– the skin– and figured out how to turn it into brain-tanned buckskin.

Fleshing

Ripening

Graining

Drying

Thawing

Fat-liquoring

Breaking

I will build things from this leather. Because, as a consumer, I am an agent of death. Because I am beholden to the complexity of the elk. The elk will continue to inhabit my life– it is a morbid thought. It is also a constant reminder: what I take, what I use, what I do with it. The impact of my life. The cost of my existence. Why, and for what, I am here.