December 16 (1975, 1977, 1985, 1986)
Lessons from Black Elk ~ Piped Water. Finally! ~ The Meadow. Finally!

12/16/75   sunny, clear day. i have been so absorbed in my truck that i have hardly taken a look around me, or within me, for what seems like weeks. ‘black elk speaks’ has been a welcome relaxation. i have been feeling wired, every day, all day long, as though i was a student drinking coffee while cramming for exams. i walked down the trail to wren shack last night at midnight, and i was gritting my teeth and thinking seriously. if it's not the jeep, it is the land, and how to get more of it, and wanting greg and susie to come up and see it and give advice. or money, I must make some money, sell everything I have maybe. no. not everything. but non-essential items, perhaps. i would like to go out to canyonland today and just walk around. maybe pull out a bush or two, and retrieve some cable I have stashed out there.


i have been learning some good lessons from black elk. i am reminded of my days of using lsd, when i would wrestle with my dreams and fight for the Light. that is, i would be shown the way man is supposed to live, under God; as black elk says, turning my face to my brothers and sisters like the fresh tender young grasses turn their faces to the Sun, guileless, openhearted, loving. and i would be shown myself, juggling masks and dealing poker, so to speak, an armor-plated robot with a frightened child within. i thought of lsd as an explosive charge which i set to destroy my armor with. my worst bum-trips were when i would set a very strong charge and yet maintain my armored angularity through it all anyway. the conflict was intense; the approach, misconceived, perhaps. at any rate i finally gave it up, and turned to God and yoga to unchain my heart. but it all seemed to be like being lost in a maze, and being able to make incredibly good intellectual, spiritual, emotional, mystical sense out of the maze ~ and yet never find my way out! the frustration i felt when i finally realized that in spite of all my gyrations i still was unquestionably lost in the maze, after years of struggle that spawned in self-conscious manifestation my entire adolescence, prompted me to jettison all my ideas about myself and the world over the side of the ship. not that that is possible; but my failure in the face of the maze gave me a very cynical attitude towards endeavors predicated on being stuck in a maze. in those days, año nuevo, i knew many people who were putting a lot of energy into spiritual solutions to the maze, and though i identified strongly with them, i unwillingly cast myself as an elite outsider, who had been through it and knew better. my own position i found it hard to communicate to my friends then, for they were immersed in the full enthusiasm of their engagement with the ‘Quest’, which for me had been a couple of years previous. what i was trying to do was, without adopting any framework or system of belief, look about me with my own eyes, within me with my own eyes, and see for myself just what was going on. i knew that if the world at large was seen as a maze, then no question about it, one was lost coming and going. work hard and hoist yourself up ~ you got a bit more light and a fine view of a large maze. so i was trying to melt down the edifice of my ideas about myself and the world, which had been cast into the form of a maze, and hope that i could clear the air enough to live and love unentangled. i adopted a skeptical attitude towards all the outward forms of religion, eastern or western, towards astrology, reincarnation, sufism, gurdjieff, surat shabd yoga ~ the whole shot. this i did at a time when my wholehearted participation in such beliefs would have gained my wholehearted inclusion in my peer-group at that time. i opted for the study of natural history in its broadest sense ~ the physical universe ~ rather than the study of man's religious ideas about that universe. did that release me from conflict, or allow me to live and love unentangled? no. and the abandonment of religious values left a vacuum that i am beginning to feel must be filled. that's why i say i am learning some good lessons from black elk.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

[Top margin of this page: “Water in the house (via pipe)!]
12/16/77 afternoon, sky of grey, sky without texture, a cold sky after an icy night. it has seemed on the verge of letting loose and snowing all day, but no.

today i finally got the sink hooked up ~ the drain pipes still leak but it works! turn on the faucet and there it is! water. have about 20 feet of line buried ~ actually, if i get on it, i could probably bury the entire line in a few days.


went on a long walk with neil yesterday into the diggings and part way into the bear river canyon. his old stomping grounds. we always hope to stumble on a gold boulder or two.

ron and neil and i have been fantasizing a lot about doing a community up on moody ridge, buying up all the land on the rim out to red spur from here. neil wants to tunnel into the volcanic ash somehow and ron wants a teepee on a cliff and a pond on a cliff. ron and his brothers seem a little closer to buying 40 acres near the pond. 80 acres lies between there and here, that perhaps a friend of rick sims will buy, although it lies under the stigma of having 40 acres within the ‘640’ zone.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

December 16, 1985

[...] 8:21 in the morning, another sunny, beautiful day. Saturday evening I went to the Monte Vista and spent an enjoyable several hours with Makoto and Bruce and Gary, the crew who are building Rick Creelman's Japanese house here on Moody Ridge. [...]

Yesterday Dave and Al (a gold miner from Green Valley who is living in a trailer up at Dave's this winter) and I hauled gravel in to The Bad Curve using Dave's truck and trailer. As we were putting the last load on, Harry Binder and son drove up and we found that Dad had asked him to put in a ditch around the curve and then some rock. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/16/86   Tuesday morning, before dawn, Venus high and bright, fire chuckles. Slept well last night; made no return for more burning; just stretched out on the couch, listened to the game, and faded into oblivion.


Ah, midday, on one of the sweetest days all fall, so sunny and bright, so warm, so very warm, so clear, blue blue sky, so fine.

I was just working a bit in the Great Western Alcove; I took the saw up there and cut a few bushes, then grew restive and cut down the two little oak trees within the Alcove; also made a pass through the Upper Alcove, cutting out a few young pines, etc. etc. Finally the meadow begins to assume the aspect of my dreams.

The Meadow: I first glimpsed its potential in '75, when I crawled through the ceanothus to find little islands of grasses. I climbed a pine, in that summer of '75, in the upper meadow; one which I have long slated for removal; and was startled a few weeks later to see that a porcupine had climbed it and gnawed through the bark; so that even to this day, the porcupine wound is clearly visible, having forced the tree to send up a new leader. Many many of the pines lose their tops, sometimes repeatedly lose them; and they have been high on my list of trees to remove for all this time. Many have already gone; many left to go.

[…]  I'm trying to save money by staying home today; rolling up butts, getting by on little food.

Back again, after a major combustion of ceanothus. Oh my, what a day, what a tremendous day. After cutting some more and loading the pile up, I stood off and admired my work. Actually, I crossed the meadow to the knoll and sat just barely in the shade of a large pine, keeping the sun from my eyes, and smoked a joint of shake. Yes, this has been an economical day. I'm going to try to hold off, go into town tomorrow. Anyway; imagine; 3:50 in the afternoon, balmy, thousands of gnats floating erratically, or, on the other hand, making determined flights from somewhere to somewhere else; by some amazing optical effect, something like the scattering of feathers, these backlit bugs glowed quite visibly even at a distance of two hundred feet; and by focusing carefully, I could see the occasional gnat five hundred feet to the southwest, out over Ginseng Ravine. There may have been some one-thousand-foot gnats as well. (Feathers scatter or refract light in some unique manner—birefringence or something.)

A landmark day, in terms of clearing; for I removed the four Alcove-oaks, and the other alcove-pine; and I cleared the great kit-kit-dizze patch high in the Southwest Segment of the Great Western Alcove, cleared the tangled clumps of ceanothus from the patch, I should say; for, unlike some, I like kit-kit-dizze, also known as mountain misery. But this afternoon I freed up a section of the patch, which leads up into the high grove of big oaks; and finally, finally I can see the Alcove, the Great Western Alcove, as I've always imagined. Just a few bushes remain to clear, while above, the Northeast Segment needs a lot of work, and the Upper Grove needs a little further clearing of understory. Then: then I will be able to link telemarks down through the Grove and the Patch into the Meadow, with a vertical fall of about 150 feet. Many many douglas firs within the Grove should probably come out; the Grove itself, as views into it improve, appears to be one of the most beautiful places on my property.

Finally the two dogwoods stand alone, as I have always imagined. I can't possibly express how lovely the meadow is, especially by morning or by afternoon, when shadows slant across the grasses, now a light and refined gold in color, a bleached gold… so so so beautiful.

Now sun has set, and I shall recline; worked hard, yes, my muscles are sore.

Wow. Beautiful up there, all right. Stoked the pile again, lit the entire Alcove, stepped away to watch. It's perfect. Perfect alright. Just as I'd always dreamed. Still a lot of brush to clear up there, a lot to burn that's already cleared, and a lot of branches and stunted oaks to cut; then it will be really really perfect, all right.

The angular distance between Mars and Saturn is such that when I stretch my arm out, and site across my index finger, I can just barely fit its narrowest part of the finger between the planets; the knuckles, any one of them, hide both planets at once.

Perhaps two degrees?

The meadow by moonlight shows silver streaks which bend across the contours in the most pleasing way; merely by studying the bends in the pines' long shadows one can infer the shape of the land. The moon is quite full, and shadows run cross-wise to the meadow's length.

Several deer were up there browsing away.

[...] ”

[Russell Towle's journal]

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