Today at a supermarket in the Catskill Mountains I saw a bottle of vegetable juice adorned with remarkable labeling: “100% Juice with Added Ingredients.” What manner of adjective is this percent? I wasn’t totally sure. I stood there longer than I should have, pondering which language game I was being invited to play. What were the rules? What exactly was at stake here? Whatever could this mean? The middle of the supermarket juice aisle is no place to philosophize. Others needed access to the goods. Nobody else was reading labels, much less subjecting them to hermeneutic scrutiny. “Just who do you think you are?”
A decent respect to the needs of my fellow shoppers required I suspend further thought till the drive home, wherein I passed a pizza parlor housed on the first floor of what appeared to be a haunted house next door to a junkyard, then an erstwhile fairground long since overrun by scruffy trees, among them a single staghorn sumac, then a shuttered bar and grill where I used to have dinner and drinks with my dad on our way home from visiting my mom in the nursing home, past that was the occasional burned-down summer resort of yesteryear, but mostly it’s like motoring through a Hudson River School painting with gas stations and utility poles and oh so very scenic. I do my best thinking while driving because that’s usually when I have no thoughts at all, just like taking a shower or posting on Facebook, but today I got stuck behind a smoky old pickup, license plate hanging by a single rusty screw, great big Stars and Bars draped across the back window, just as we were passing the untended historic graveyard with its big Civil War monument smack in the middle of a manufactured memory.
And that’s when it hit me: 100% American with added ingredients.
Kids love the beach. They might not appreciate the turquoise water, or the sailboat churning along the horizon, or the mountains looming across the Caribbean Sea a country away. But that’s why being a kid is so innocent. You get to just be and play. As an aside, it sure is hard to leave this scene and go home to minus-15 Farenheit wind chills. But kids, like adults, love snow too.
There we were, driving down a two-lane road in lovely central Massachusetts earlier this month, when 20 wild turkeys bolted across it. Do these guys know how close we are to Thanksgiving? I wondered. Or how much it hurts to get hit by a car when you weigh 10 pounds and most of that is feathers? We didn’t stop to inquire, but I imagine both answers would be no.
The collies sit for hot dogs as well as cheese, what good boots these are, this Election Day summit of Wittenberg Mountain, heart of the southern Catskills, broad picnic scenery, drowned towns of the Ashokan, no porcupines persecuted in or on our account, onward then to Cornell and Slide (highest in the range, hides itself from near view), “not real mountains” some say outside knowledge, blowdowns and memories of vistas since obscured, dark waves of forest succession extend into stroll down unfrequented side of peak along abandoned trail of steps buried in leaves, eye of limited service here, foot feels through sole the forgotten path, around and down and down, down past “Posted” signs into thick ferns and composting drifts of bygone summer shade, descending sun, fast-fading registry of deeds, a party pushing through, fourteen-plus cliffy miles come to an end, into the car and go, stop at Brio’s for hamburgers ordered off the “Doggy Menu” lovingly hand fed by tuckered-out vegetarian ward as he downs a beer and another.
With all the uncertainty swirling around us this morning after Election Day, lest we not forget that life will go on, the sun will continue to rise, and ski season is headed our way. This little gem of a skimobile, captured during a quick stop in Truckee, California, two weeks ago, gives me hope.
When we emerged from the cocktail lounge, it became clear–largely because daylight had returned or maybe had become something other than it ordinarily is–that we should have stuck to beer and ignored what was happening on the television. In any case, now we had to find a ride home and figure out all over again–or maybe for the first time–who we were and how we got there. You went first. The rest are still waiting for your call.
Don’t worry, this is the last foliage photo of the year from me. It was taken in a northern Colorado Wilderness area on September 23. After hiking in six miles to reach our campsite, we spent four days staring at this scene. It almost became mundane … until we had to leave; then it became sad and even more beautiful than it had seemed all along.
Fall is the shoulder season in mountain towns. But that doesn’t mean we lack things to do. Wood needs to be split and repairs must be made, all before winter arrives. Since we never know exactly when winter will arrive, this tends to create a sense of urgency. Thankfully, most days the colors above and around us help that urgency melt away like the snow will melt away, seven months from now.
Nature is wild. Maybe that’s stating the obvious, but sometimes you have to say it anyway. It’s frickin’ crazy what colors appear as the seasons change. When we came upon this scene early on the world-renowned Monarch Crest trail outside Poncha Springs, Colorado, I stopped in my track and admired the tundra like an alien. It was hard to convince myself to stop staring and start moving again, but eventually we proceeded, down the glowing mountain.
Sometimes I drool during a long mountain bike descent. I collect what I can at the bottom, maybe lick my mouth just to be sure the remnants aren’t egregious, then reflect on what caused the drool—usually some sort of physical and mental bliss on dirt. Involuntary smiling is another symptom of an awesome descent, as my old friend Ross demonstrates here in the middle of a peaking aspen grove this week.