October 12 (1975, 1976, 1982, 2003)
Trying to Get the Picture

10/12/75 [...]

~ a midday engaged in [...] scrounging around the ‘ruined orchard’ village site. found a bead and lost it. took my dad up to my ‘cedar perch’ to see the view unobstructed by trees. thinking off and on of cabin designs, and indian story designs, and what to write in this journal. thoughts of my life. ‘in my life I have addressed myself to…’ california's natural wonders, god and higher consciousness, my friends, drug experiences, anthropology…

[...] i've found numberless indian campsites in the mountains, and gazed at the scenery without seeing while turning a flake of obsidian over and over in my hand, trying to get the picture, trying to feel what it must have been to live back then. it's hard. my clues are so slim. jaime de angulo's books were a revelation to me. really, the myths and legends of a people tell me much more of what they are than their tools. i have been trying to pierce the veneer of modern white man's civilization that is threatening to smother california ~ i have tried to recreate what it was, in my mind's eye, struggled for years to integrate into unity what is now chopped into numberless little squares by lines of cement and greed (lines of greed = property lines); struggled to tear away the heavy cement veils of our cities and suburbs, to release the living, breathing world ~ the world as the indians knew it. the varied texture of the vegetative cover ~ oaks and laurels and pines just different types of nerve endings ~ ‘and God Himself… became california.’ in all of this i have tried to get at the raw, throbbing, living, conscious reality that we have superimposed our deluded ideas upon. it's there, unbroken save in appearance ~ but appearance matters very much. the appearance of our towns cities suburbs is an insult and an affront to God and Nature (words are so tricky). that doesn't mean that God will strike out in anger and push us all into the ocean ~ we humans can manage our own self-destruction quite easily without His help.

in order to make good contact with the reality divine that we have plastered our delusions over, i have walked thousands of what we call ‘miles’, studied plants, rocks, winds and their histories—i wanted to know which plants are natives and which are introduced; for california, in its unique expression of divinity, is dressed in a richly woven and brocaded garment—that i had to see in its true colors.

well, i have been working on this vision for years now, and i've been thinking that i'd sure like to share it with people. from the rippling waves of water to the rippling waves of stone, that means from the ocean to the sierra, i've seen it, and it is good (it is god). it is so good. and varied. i mean, the tuolumne and the american rivers are both sierran rivers, they drain the west slope, and they are so different. yet so alike. yet so different. to apprehend the niceties, the detail of their individuality ~ to hike their canyons from top to bottom, inventory their plant populations. i used to fantasize about hiking every fork of every sierran river from top to bottom. and every divide of every river. climb every peak. well, why not? what a lovely way to spend a lifetime! and how i would love companions in my reconstruction of the divine body of california! through the years we would unfold page after page of luminous script, amazed, delighted! i have had in my mind the thought and the hope of these friends for years now ~ we would explore together and walk together these paths with heart.

[...] yesterday i was fantasizing about being psychoanalyzed—about doing a word association trip with an analyst, designed to reveal my unconscious feelings about the world myself, whatever. i was imagining what kind of hidden contour lines would be revealed in the map of my soul ~ and just then a wren started buzzing softly ~ sounded like he was beneath my cabin ~ and my cabin is my conscious mind, of course, so wren was fooling around where? in my subconscious mind, in my basement, in my bedrock. wren is pretty right on, i must say, i've got to give him credit ~ he is on the ball. good ol’ wren. a nuthatch came to visit and clamber around for a bit yesterday ~ i stepped to the window and looked at him,. clinging off balance to the side of a beam. ‘you're a pretty little fellow,’ i whispered, watching him closely. lot of those guys around, flocks of them, these october days.

i am wondering about that spot atop the cliff i want to build my little cabin on. it is within sight of the green valley trail, that's what bothers me.  [from that spot] a lot of country is visible. conversely, it is visible from many points ~ from the river, from the lookout on sawtooth ridge, from giant gap ridge, from green valley trail, from the southern pacific tracks. on the other hand, the other spot i have considered building on, though it lacks the view upcanyon to the crest, is not visible from the trail and on the whole is better screened. i am thinking that it might be better to leave the cliff-top unsullied by even the pretty little cabin i would build there, and when i want the view, walk over there. true, it would be fine to sit beside a crackling woodfire in january and watch snow banners on the sierra crest, but ~ is it worth it? i'll have to think about this before i jump in. ”

[Russell Towle's journal]

10/12/76   i've been nailing up siding today, and walls 2, 3, 4, and 5 are completely covered, wall six, partially. ran short on building paper but have some framing to do anyway on walls one and six. also rafters could be put up that bear on the already sheathed walls. i contemplate giant gap's south wall, in fine crosslight right now. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

10/12/82   Tuesday morning, at dawn; some classic Indian Summer weather, clear, warm, dry, cool at night; maples turning rapidly, oaks a little bit, dogwoods a little bit. Flights of Canada geese go by.”

[Russell Towle's journal]


I haven't been writing here much, thinking that my email in and out messages form a good diary. There is much which doesn't get in to my correspondence, tho.

Right now—for several weeks now—I have been working towards getting the [understory of the] Big Cabin closed in. Digging and digging. Mixed concrete for the first of over 400 square feet of slab yesterday, with Greg's help. Greg is now 12. Janet almost 14.  [...] And so far as work I seem to have nothing any more which brings in money. Once in a while I get a couple hundred dollars from Bill Newsom. For I have my "North Fork Trails" email list, with something like fifty people on it, and it's something like an effort to protect the environment and preserve wild places. It has led to the formation of a group called the North Fork American River Alliance. We meet once a month at the DF Community Club. And sometimes the email list generates letters to elected officials or to TNF or to CDF about various issues, land acquisition in the North Fork, timber harvests, etc. etc. All that is well recorded in my email record for the past several years—the list began in late 2000 I believe. My North Fork American web pages bring new people in occasionally.


This past year I have gone on many fine hikes with a man named Ron Gould. We look at old maps and GPS trails. We did the traverse of Giant Gap on the line of the Giant Gap Survey together. All this recorded in my emails.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

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