December 25 (1978, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1986, 2005) “Inexorable paths of least resistance”

12/25/78   hour or so before dawn. venus and a crescent fourth-quarter moon hanging low in the east… yesterday was a strange day. the high spot was throwing rocks into the pond in the dutch flat diggings with young alex henderson. a layer of ice on the shady side of the pond was thick at the edge, then towards the middle of the pond. if a rock hit it and broke through, just right, large bubbles of air would become trapped beneath the ice, and, assuming manta-ray forms, glide mysteriously towards the center of the pond, and freedom. whole armadas of bubbles were launched on their inexorable paths of least resistance; bubbles ranging up to four feet in width, or as little as a few inches; bubbles coalescing, bubbles splitting in half, bubbles momentarily linking wings to glide together toward their destiny. certain holes in the ice had very strong attractive force, and bubbles created thirty feet away would converge, from various directions, on the hole ~ and disappear.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/25/79   morning. the snow has finally arrived: at 3 a.m. i was awake and could hear that it was still raining; when i awoke, there were about four inches of snow on the ground. it is falling lightly now.

i was lying about here yesterday and feeling good, listening to music. i had told steve that i would pick him up around noon and drive him into lake of the pines, where he would pick up a friend's truck and continue up to red bluff to be with his parents for xmas.

but my truck ran out of gas at the cable; it was raining hard; and i didn't want to jeopardize my recovery from this cold. so i didn't walk into alta. after i returned to my cabin, i was thinking of dave nelson, who's had a tough row to hoe and all his vehicles broken down ~ i loaned my vw for a few days, and told him of a few idiosyncrasies ~ but, to my horror, yesterday afternoon i recalled that i'd forgotten one thing—to tell dave about the brake pedal assembly, which is set up in such a way (i don't know how to fix this, it's a mystery) that the brakes gradually tighten while driving until they are on all the time, at which point the engine is under heavy load—at any rate, I agonized over that oversight on my part—there is a simple, temporary fix that no mechanic in his right mind would consider, and it merely relieves the pressure, not the cause. but i forgot to tell him and now today, cold or no cold, snow or no snow, i go forth, gas can in hand, responsibilities to attend to.

~ well. just walked up to the meadow. beautiful in the snow. must get some x-country skis. it's snowing heavily. the NWS says that this is the most intense storm in two years. if i do get gas to my truck, there is some question as to whether the road is passable. since i'm out of cigarettes now, i'll give it a go. my cold is much better now.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/25/80   way before dawn. Is it time to open the presents yet?

Well. The road work is all done—Hacker's part of it at least—and passed County inspection by Art Davidson.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

December 25, 1985

Morning. A film of high clouds covers the skies; there was a bright red gold glow in the east before dawn, and sailors should take warning, take warning; for my part, I think it will be a while before we see another storm. Two days at least, and perhaps two weeks.

Today's agenda, let's see, calls for going up to Sugar Bowl early and skiing repeatedly down the slopes. Then I'll spend some time with Mom and Rich, and then, back to Dutch Flat for a party with Alex and Teri and Fred and whoever.

The radio reports that Mt. Aetna in Sicily erupted. My mom writes that she has a present for me that thrills her. Perhaps the present is a plane ticket to Europe and I will be able to go to see Aetna for myself. I could use a year or two in Europe. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/25/86   Just before dawn, fire murmurs, clouds glow color, coffee grows cooler, gas l mp hisses, and the “a” sticks stringently…

The e stern sky glows with extr vagant brightness, bright gold bene th the cloud-b nd suffused with blues, or nges, greys…


You know, dear diary, that despite my disbelief in astrology, I sometimes seem to witness quite clearly an invisible psychic link between people, a link which sometimes itself seems to exhibit connection to the World out There, that is, a sort of excitement is shared on Full Moon; and certain days just burst with joy, say, when sunny weather first holds sway after a storm, and we all feel it.

Well, these are not very convincing proofs of any real link.

It's just that at times—like today—I can feel the pressure of a general mood upon my psyche, or at least I seem to feel it—and of course an important difference inheres between actually and seemingly feeling something; and “feeling” is a bit amorphous to begin with, if we wish to be “scientific” about it.

Dear diary, not to snivel unduly, but you should realize that practically every word with an “a” has been a struggle to type; for the key flails forward to strike the page, but then just hangs there, usually, taking its own sweet time to get out of the way of other keys—so that often a tangled mess of keys must be pried back into position… ”


[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sun Dec 25 08:27:51 2005
To: Tony Mindling
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: Christmas Greetings from Cool
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD :1101107:East_Knoll_102.JPG:
> Good Morning, Russell --
> I took a walk up the North Fork yesterday from the confluence, after stopping for a photo of the rising fog along the MF. A gorgeous morning, fresh, moist, and clean after the big rain of Thursday. Except for the NF, which was very turbid. The thunder of the Lake Clementine spillway greeted me from a mile away like a distant freeway as I rounded a point. Up closer the spilling water was brown and the lake itself was very turbid. I'm thinking that at high flows sediment that was dropped into the reservoir when the NF was running lower is remobilized. Here are three of the pics from my ramble.
> Have a great Christmas and a joyous New Year

Beautiful photos, thank you, Tony! And Merry Christmas, and so on!

The North Fork came up big again the other night, over 11000 cfs, and that is high enough to remobilize these little sand bars still around from last May 19th's flood event.

A picture taken last spring looking across Green Valley to Giant Gap, from east to west: at the east end of Green Valley is what I call East Knoll, here, with a grove of Kellogg's Black Oak in spring leaf.

Best regards,

Russell Towle

Looking westward across East Knoll, the southern pinnacles of Giant Gap at right.

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