~ yesterday my brother richard came out, and we hiked down to green valley. we made a detour, leaving the trail about halfway down, and visited several old asbestos mines. some interesting masses of asbestos fibers lying about, like old white cardboard. we tried to find the old east branch of the green valley trail and finally picked it up near the confluence of molly ravine and section line ravine. there i noticed again the serpentine breccia, for which i have no explanation. losing the trail but finding an old ditch, we crossed the section line creek and contoured eastward out of the ravine. there i found a fascinating meadow, oozing with water, and dotted with dozens of large blocks of volcanic ash ~ the welded tuff (?) that outcrops on my dad's land and at rick sims' place. if considered as an indigenous outcrop, these rocks are about 1500 feet lower then they should be according to previous geological interpretations, which assert that the north fork canyon was not cut into the west slope of the sierra until many millions of years after the volcanic ash was deposited on the old land surface. my sense is that these blocks and their associated river gravels are landslide deposits that originated near casa loma. i was unable to determine the depth or horizontal extent of the deposit. i would guess i saw an area of about 50 acres that had a scattering of volcanic ash boulders. heavy brush limited my investigations.
we hiked to the east end of green valley, where we met some fishermen ~ yesterday was the first day of trout season ~and visited the marble cliffs at the entrance to the upper gorge. then back along the high trail ~ incredible wildflowers, i've never seen so many yellow star tulips ~ to the east meadow which completely delighted rich ~ although he's been to green valley several times, only to the west end ~ where we hung out for the rest of the afternoon before beginning our ascent about an hour-and-a-half before sunset. it was a mellow walk out, though rich was a bit out of shape and focused entirely on getting there, instead of being here, which is easy to do on that trail. he left for home immediately upon reaching the top, and i felt very alone and sad upon reaching my cabin. the last light of the day was kindling fire in giant gap. the grosbeaks were singing sweetly. i sat on my porch while the light faded, and got into my feelings. when i came back in, i laid down and started feeling so grateful to all my friends ~ greg and susan & janet and merrill & bigfoot & neil & gary & ron & dana & susan and tim ~ and when i thought of tim ~ a true and loyal friend ~ tears came to my eyes. in a reverie i fell asleep, and didn't get to bed in the loft until after midnight.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“4/30/81 Just after dawn ~ grosbeaks sing. I sit with my coffee and play some melodic themes from Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto on guitar. My heart feels so full and sweet, like the birdsong, like Rachmaninoff's melodies. A few wisps of cirrus above, soften the light.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“4/30/83 Morning, rainy morning. A few sunbeams made it into the canyon earlier, now all is gray once again.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“4/30/87 Thursday morning, and it is raining, actually raining, which seems incongruous after temperatures soaring into the 80s and 90s.”
“Visited LaLande yesterday, and found him ensconced in his yard, watching birds, as usual and always, at this time of year. He is fussing with his yard every day, planting this, moving that, tying one tree to another, bending them this way, that way, fixing them in curves, moving this rock there, setting out tiny ant feeding stations to get them trained, trained to keep their place, rather than wander indiscriminately all over the yard.
The LaLande Yard has a brush fence within which birds love to hide; oregon juncos, rufous-sided towhee's, hermit thrushes, black-headed grosbeaks, hummingbirds, and so on. Seed is scattered within the brush enclosure, and a little homemade pond-qua-bird-bath is nestled into one end of the fence. Hummingbird feeders hang here, there, everywhere, some at great distances, out in the forest, for just as every rock and every flower and every ant feeding station has just one and only one correct place, so, particular hummingbirds seem (to Ron) to insist upon particular spots in which to feed. For Ron there is only One Way, and he is Always Right. When he rides his motorcycles, a spare jacket or, actually, any paraphernalia at all have only one correct position on the cycle: neatly bound and folded, they are cunningly strapped into place with bungee cords.
Conversation, at this time of year, must only involve birds, or, perhaps, a painting in progress; any other subject introduced will quickly and even brutally be abandoned, in order to remark upon which Anna male fights hardest, which Anna female is smallest, the preferred fighting strategy of the Rufous hummer (which, Ron maintains, lies in wait near to the ground, and always, yes always, attacks rivals from below)—a female Anna alights on a twig nearby, and Ron remarks upon a tiny ruffling of her feathers atop her head: see, something is on her head, something must've fallen on her from some tree or another, and she doesn't even know.
All this amid the Harley-Davidson insignia emblazoned everywhere about his cabin, the biker-fantasy paintings and posters, the weapons carefully hidden that nobody knows about, in case, just in case, enemies sneak close—a knife here, a sword-cane there, a pistol god knows where—perhaps, I reflect, not a bad idea, in these times. There is order in the LaLande world, and a constant battle to maintain order amid forces always tending to disrupt, to unravel, to leave ends hanging loose. There is only one way to do anything, and Ron is always always always right. Except yesterday, when I correctly identified a songster as a black-headed grosbeak, correctly, tho flying in the face of Ron's steadfast and sarcastic rebuttals: he maintained it to be a hermit thrush: he has listened to their song every morning now for weeks, who am I to tell him differently, and while I patiently explained that the song of the black-headed grosbeak resembles that of a robin, and that robins are thrushes, hence, while I myself have (regrettably) never knowingly heard a hermit thrush, I would not be surprised to find their songs resembling those of the grosbeaks, the song in question, the song we were hearing at that instant, was, I was sure, very, very sure, was that of the grosbeak—meanwhile, he spouts sarcasm and denigration, pities me my ignorance, until—until the songster emerged into full view, and the issue was settled: a black-headed grosbeak.
I'm glad I devoted nearly a page to LaLande. It is not enough; consider the reader, unacquainted with Ron: how would such a one know what Ron looks like? Or know that he has a sparkling intelligence, strangely attired in an identity-cloak woven haphazardly from themes which include his troubled childhood, his early life of crime, his attempted suicide 20 years ago, his oil painting and the whole glorious era of the 60s and Volkswagen buses, hippies, communes, a bright era which led to Dutch Flat and the North Fork canyon, and which has over recent years incorporated a biker ethos—for all his love of order, LaLande a loves a quirk, and to be an oil painter and a biker tickles his fancy. As for what Ron looks like, well, for as long as I've known him (and I first saw him at the China Grade commune in the Santa Cruz mountains around 1972), he has had an enormously bushy beard which climbs to absurd heights on his cheeks, and long long hair, equally thick and abundant. Once in a while he cuts it all off, and one can see his very face. Underneath it all there is a kind of movie-star handsomeness, and either way one can see his remarkable brown eyes, not just brown, but streaked and flecked somehow, or at least inhabited by mysterious lights which have made many a woman swoon—he was once a disco dancer, down in L.A. His hair is very dark, not, perhaps, quite black.
If I have smoked one joint with him I have smoked a thousand, and while our friendship has followed a rocky road, I have eventually learned to just accept his narcissism. There is little or no “give” to LaLande; I can count the number of times he has troubled to visit me, over the past 10 years, on two or three fingers. So be it. He has, in effect, ripped me off on several deals, but I never learn, do I? And that is just water under the bridge.
Enough of Ron for now. I cannot pause to describe one of the fantasies which link us, that some strange benefactor will appear and pick up the tab for simply everything. Nor can I detail his love affair with Lindsay Wagner the Bionic Woman, who whisked him back and forth across the state in her Lear jet, and who once watched me play ping-pong at the Golden Scoop ice cream parlor in downtown Dutch Flat. No, enough, enough, I say.
It rains, dear diary, and the rain beats oak blossom-clusters down from the freshly leafed trees. I listened to Baroque music, I type in my journal, I strip off contact paper from a triacontahedron, I wonder how in the world I will ever lift myself from poverty and obscurity into name and fame and women and gold. That I have, almost Messiah-like, much to offer this troubled world, (I know not how to offer it), is truer than just true, yet here I am, in a tiny cabin in the Sierra, surrounded by trees and, just a ways farther off, by rednecks thirsting for my blood, a father obsessed with proving some obscure theory of trespass, of the paternal right to ruin a son's life: I was decided and determined to move away from here in 1983, but could not abandon Lovers Leap without making an effort to “save” it. I have made a tremendous effort; has it been enough? And does moving from here to some hazy “there” prevent me from continuing my effort? I think not. I think the Bay Area beckons; I think Italy and Greece long for my presence. It rains, so I will smoke marijuana and continue my re-reconnaissance of American foreign-policy via “Wise Men.”
Eventide, dwindling showers, I have consumed every last scrap of food in the cabin save one-eighth of a red potato. Spent the day reading ‘Wise Men.’”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“4/30/88 late morning, on a day breezy, cold, cloudy, now tending toward a sunny, sharply etched and billowing clouds of flaring white and clearest blue beyond, colors themselves clear and bright eyes of Athene with woodpeckers flashing down onto branches sudden in sunshine, marching in place to a much faster drum than mine, anyway, their quick yet careful and precise movements, a restlessly surging flood of stimulus and response… all those words for a red-shafted flicker? who paused, yes, briefly, upon the deadness of an oaken branch—tot verbis pico volo?
Later… It's snowing, the canyon invisible behind a wall of snowing fog, winds swirl it, whirl it, hurl it, in every direction. Snow. I finished reading a very good old pulp spy novel and when finished, only when finished, do I remember having read it ten or so years ago.
I am at a sort of slack period, no great works in hand, but much self-nagging and uncertainties over whether to enter upon the course of writing up the last round of my researches into polar zonohedra. I feel obligated to, but shrink from the labor, and wish mightily for a means to generate drawings via computer, oh do I wish.
The snow dwindles, canyon reemerges.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
April 30, 2001 ~ Moody Ridge
|This eyebrow arch of fog commonly forms in this|
spot and flows slowly westward, up and over.
|Phantom Orchids (Cephalanthera austiniae), emerging through the duff of|
Kellogg's Black Oak leaves, Ponderosa Pine needles, and a Manzanita leaf.