Monthly Archives: July 2007

A rough chronology of the last week or so

Wizard Island in Crater Lake

A week ago: we realized that our decision of the week before that I would stay home to take care of the rabbit instead of going to Seattle as planned — a decision prompted by the lack of boarding slots at the House Rabbit Society — was perhaps not exactly the right decision. After our friend Andrea volunteered to check in on Thistle from time to time, we made new plans. I would drive up to Seattle with Becky to visit her sister’s family and then I’d drive back a few days later, and she’d fly back a few days after that.

Wednesday: realized that my schedule would not likely permit a visit to Nina. Sent an apologetic email explaining such. Accidentally sent the email from Becky’s account, which scared her given my choice of subject line: “Some Sad News”. Consoled myself by deciding to call Auguste for a coffee visit on my way through Oregon heading south, perhaps with a stop at Powell’s Books. Asked Auguste for his phone number. Got some work done. Cleaned house. Went to sleep. Had fitful dreams populated by bitter abandoned rabbits.

Thursday: Put a year’s supply of food and water and a toy into Thistle’s cage and locked him in. Left house painfully early, drove up I-5 to Weed with a visit en route to a blasé woodpecker in a rest stop south of Red Bluff, and then passed through one of my favorite parts of California on our way over to Route 97. Headed north into Oregon through Klamath Falls, rolled into Crater Lake NP around 3:00 in the afternoon. Committed various wilful and wanton acts of blatant tourism. Slept on ground in a forest after reading myself to sleep with The Snoring Bird by Bernd Heinrich, which took some time seeing as it’s a fascinating book.

Friday morning: Drank coffee. Drove to wildflower area. Took some photos. Drove to next wildflower area, this one with a short hike involved. Had forgotten to secure gear in camera bag at previous stop: dumped expensive camera and more expensive telephoto lens onto dusty gravel parking lot from about waist height. Annoyed nearby parents with small children by responding to incident with a short, guttural Anglo-Saxonism. Determined camera, lens still worked. Went on wildflower hike. Fed mosquitoes. Marveled at greenness. Moved on, took more photos of the lake. Harassed innocent corvids. Left park and headed toward Eugene.

Friday noon: stopped at roadhouse on road between Chemult and Eugene, intending to buy coffee. Found that owners had preserved the recipe for the Best Baklava Ever, said recipe having come from owner’s Cretan grandfather. Bought baklava.

Friday, remainder of day: drove from Eugene to Seattle, pausing for an hour and a half to savor the zero MPH average speed of rush hour in Portland. Likewise savored the increasingly insistent blinking of the dashboard alternator light, beginning just south of Tacoma. Made it to Mercer Island, ate dinner, played with kids.

Saturday morning: took car to garage. Verdict: alternator failing. Briefly considered trying to nurse car home over two days. Realized this would probably involve semi-permanent stay wherever the alternator finally failed, probably in Albany, Oregon. Revised plans yet again: I would come home as scheduled, but via other means, and Becky, whose schedule was looser, would get alternator replaced and enjoy leisurely solo drive home in a week.

Saturday afternoon, evening: took Whidbey Island Ferry to appropriate island. Drove, got coffee, hiked, checked out campgrounds, waved wistfully from the Port Townsend Ferry terminal in the general direction of Nina, ate best salmon ever and best mussels ever in Coupeville, made scary noises in abandoned army fort to make three-year-old niece shriek in delight. Drove the long way home through Deception Pass, incidentally bringing me to the northernmost point I have occupied in my life at 48°27’45.02″N.

Sunday morning: arose painfully early. Drank coffee. Went back to bed. Got back up. Was dropped off at Seattle Amtrak station twenty minutes before scheduled 9:45 AM departure of Coast Starlight. Boarded Coast Starlight at 10:50. Left Seattle at 11:10, approximately 25 miles per hour.

Sunday afternoon, evening, late night:  Sat on train in Tacoma. Noticed great blue herons along shore of Tacoma Narrows. Watched more green. Thought of things the oddly familiar green made me feel. Determined to write something or other about it. Sat on train in Olympia, Centralia, Kelso-Longview, Vancouver. Reflected that regardless of the town, each one, like most other such in the US, chooses to display its butt crack to the railroad. A trip across country on Amtrak would likely give one the impression that the USA is populated mainly by rusted out junked cars, with distinct minority populations of ominous discarded barrels and torn sofas. Sat on train in Portland. Did not call Auguste. Sat on train in Oregon city, Albany, Salem (which presented an unusual manicured face to the tracks), Eugene. Realized in Eugene that Coast Starlight also goes through Chemult and Klamath Falls. Wished in vain for unscheduled baklava stop. Slept for a few minutes after leaving Klamath Falls. Woke to watch the moon illuminating Mount Shasta.

Monday: Dawn in Redding. Train was variously on time, an hour late, or three or five hours late depending on which Amtrak employee one asked. Sat on train in Red Bluff, Chico, Yuba City. Arriving in Sacramento, it turned out that “three hours late” was the correct answer. Luck held: my connecting train to Richmond waited across the platform when I got off the Coast Starlight. Rode past mouth of Pinole Creek, coffee in hand. BART train was waiting for me at Richmond Station, cab at the end of the BART ride, rabbit at the end of the cab ride.

Tuesday morning, 12:52 AM: coffee finally wearing off, having had two hours of sleep since Sunday morning, I am going to bed.

Earthly exuberance and tourism


One of the nice things about living in a place where the earth is thin-skinned. This is a geyser at the north end of the Napa Valley.

The fact that it’s a blogger that said this has not escaped my amused notice

But insofar as people who are interested in literature make themselves come across as horribly unpleasant people whom one would never want to meet or speak to, and whose primary interest in books is as an adjunct to the vicious hatred of human beings, then I think it’s natural that lots of people won’t develop an interest in literature.

Matthew Yglesias, whom I would characterize as tilting at windmills were that not an elitist, misanthropic literary reference.


These perfect strings, unbowed and yet singing
the music of the spheres, a symphony
of light on folded fabric, light that drives
all things before it endlessly and slow.
These ancient seeds to ride the crests. They ride
the troughs, they fold themselves inward and hard
against the nothingness, they fold themselves
and wait, only a flickering, sluggish spark
banked well against the ages. Given just
a bit of damp, their fire rekindles staid,
deliberate, an epochal reveal
unfolding, filigreeing. A chaos
from old, entropic order they distill,
life prised from mathematics’ bony hand.

What the blogger had for breakfast

The secret to cooking omelets is to use a pan on a much lower flame than one would for fried eggs. A 12-inch non-stick skillet is ideal for three-egg omelets, and should nonetheless be lubed with a bit of good cooking oil — olive oil being my favorite — and the oil allowed to heat thoroughly. If the omelet filling requires frying before you assemble the omelet, you can do so in the same pan, but be sure when you remove the filling that the pan is smooth and slick. Add more oil if necessary and let it heat.

The base of the omelet is plain, unadulterated egg, three or four of them, beaten with a fork until nearly uniform, with perhaps a stripe or two of white among the yolk. Making sure the pan’s surface is uniformly hot and slick, with oil coating well up the sides, one pours the egg mixture into the center with a flourish, then lifts the pan and tilts it so that egg covers the entire bottom, running up perhaps a little on the sides. If the pan is the right temperature on its medium flame, the sides will cook through almost instantly while the center remains a pool of liquid. With a bamboo spatula, push the cooked sides slightly toward the center — an inch or so — tilting the pan to flood the space you’ve freed with egg.

In three or four minutes, the egg should be nearly cooked through with only a bit of uncooked liquid atop it, in the center, and bubbles may have formed in the center above the flame. Shake the pan by its handle: the egg should move freely in the pan. If it does not, use a lower flame or more oil next time, or both. If the egg sticks in the pan, gently try to lift it free with the bamboo spatula. It may tear, in which case you may as well just fill the omelet at this point, cutting your losses.

But if the egg moves freely in the pan clear the kitchen of onlookers, move the pan to a place where you have a few feet of airspace, and breathe for a moment. Toss the egg into the air with a flip of pan. A round-sided, well-oiled pan will send the egg toward the front of the pan, up the side and vertical into the air, where angular momentum will flip it and gravity pull it back into the pan, upside down. This is easier than it sounds, but if trepiditious you can always run through a few dozen practice eggs.

The egg flipped, you return the pan to the stove, draw an imaginary line bisecting the egg, and put your filling in the center of one of the halves so designated. An omelet’s filling is best arranged with an eye toward symmetry, the eventual flavors in combination in each bite, and prevention of loss out the sides. Fold the omelet: cover the filling. A few more minutes on the flame will meld flavors, warm the filling.

I have in this past week filled omelets with handsful of herbs from the garden, savory and oregano, sage and sorrel, chopped fine and added raw or sauteed first in olive oil and then removed to a plate to await the eggs. I have filled them with wilted dandelion greens. I have filled them with Genovese basil from the farmer’s market, a bit of sticky white chevre and a couple tablespoons of chopped walnuts added in a moment of blinding inspiration. A few days ago I rummaged through the kitchen for omelet filling and found a jar of pickled fern fiddleheads, a gift from Kat, and a piece of goat brie we bought before our hike this month, and made a Kat omelet of fiddleheads and goat brie. Or that same cheese and a sauce of roasted dried chiles. Sometimes I add to the eggs, before beating them,  a pinch of truffle salt: an extravagance of twenty dollars when I was employed, three ounces black Abruzzi truffles ground fine and mixed with sea salt, and if we use a pinch a day our truffle salt budget will run ten dollars a year. It is one of the best things I have ever tasted, and adds savor to the eggs, though it would not have worked well with today’s basil and walnut omelet, I am thinking.

Tonight I took three long japanese eggplants, fried them well for our dinner with basil and garlic and oregano from the garden, and about a quarter cup of olive oil. Tomorrow comes the Imam baldi omelet. It may be worth it, this waking up.

Little quake

As we slept last night the earth, sleeping beneath us, woke. Just a nudge, a little flinch, and then Earth fell asleep again as car alarms blared and glass in Berkeley donut shops fell to the ground. From our vantage point it was a strong rolling, a sudden crest of wave and then surcease.

The earth’s skin splits itself here. The center of a giant rift runs not twenty miles to our west, the bases of these hills strands in its fault-braid, and the ocean scrapes northward along it. All of California will follow it. All of California the curl of wood before the chisel: the land from Truckee to Colorado is stretched taut, and any moment that great rupture east of Baja will propagate, leatherbacks will spill into the Salton Sea, Death Valley full of yellowtail and whales. The bottom will drop out of some Nevada valley, 6,000 feet or more, and surf will wash the future creosote.

That might be fifteen million years from now, or only ten. Last night was one shock in several billion, a moment when Deep Time and our time intertwined, and no one hurt though thousands will be someday. I felt the first rumbles and began to wake, did not wake fully until it had passed, and in between had lifted myself up over my waking wife to mantle her, ready to try to hold up a ton of plaster and beam should it fall.  A pathetic chivalry and futile, but we ride this trembling piece of earth our whole lives and would do well to hold on to someone close to us.

Pine needles

East side Sierra

The line between sleep and wakefulness is indistinct at the best of times. After four hours’ driving in the dark on roads not visited for a decade, peering into unlit corners of the woods hoping for an empty space and finding none, dark massifs looming and receding with only a void of stars to betray their contours, the boundary can vanish as eyes in the wooded verge when the low-beams pass. A lifetime spent not getting lost, or at least not badly, and twice in an hour I found myself turned around on the June Lake road and heading back the way I came, without meaning to. One had best go back to the point of origin. I went to Lee Vining, took a breath, filled the tank, then tried again.

And in the campground, another bout of getting lost. The Off-Roaders have enjoyed the place to death. Why go fifteen feet out of your way when just enough space exists between those pines there to make a new, more direct road? Twice, ensnared in a web of two-rut, I thought of simply parking, sleeping until either daylight or the horn of a blocked F-350 woke me, but I found a place to make a cup of tea, to roll out my sleeping bag in pine needles and pumice.

Pumice is an aerosol inverted, a suspension of air in stone. South Pacific sailors have encountered massive drifts of it vented into the sea by volcanoes, pebbles and stones and rocks afloat in conglomerations ten miles long and a few feet high. They appear solid, but step out onto them and they part beneath your feet. The sea will swallow you up. And so I should have known better than to try to sleep on a mountain of pumice, landlocked as it may have been. Land did its best to swallow me.

At 8500 feet each breath brings just three-quarters the oxygen of a breath at sea level. Come up from sea level in a day and the body strains to adapt. I lay motionless on my back, my heart pounding, Cassiopeia above me and curling westward. My eyes strained to adapt as well. The moon was new and dark. Only stars lit the landscape, and though there were thousands more at altitude the day’s fire smoke masked their light. There on the surface of the earth, thin air alone and pines between me and the faint stars, noise off the highway two miles east, I waited for sleep.

Sleep did not come.

Or if it came it came suddenly, with vivid dreaming of reclining on the surface of the earth beneath the Jeffrey pines, smoke-masked stars casting pale light on my upraised hand, the galaxy a pumice raft of light afloat in a sodden sky, and me in conversation with myself. Or was it me? There seemed two people there, not me alone, and though the other flitted in and out of mind like a postponed task forgotten, his presence, or hers, was still distinct. Call her her. A discrete person, there or created out of mind’s whole cloth, and keeping me awake at that. I rolled onto my side to close my eyes, to smell the soft breezes that coast along the ground, rich needled humus and the butterscotch of Jeffrey pine bark, and she would tap my shoulder and remind me. Open your eyes and watch the sky.

I must have been dreaming. I must have. There was no one there with me, no task assigned, and yet aside from her soft whispered reminders the dream was wholly unimaginative. To lie on the ground in a particular spot among the trees, to fall asleep, and then to dream that you are lying on the ground in that spot beneath those trees? A possibility prosaic enough that it is extraordinary. The pine branches fifty feet above blocked swathes of starlight, and the breeze played around the nape of my neck as the tarp crackled beneath my sleeping bag, a meteor streaked from the White Mountains to disappear somewhere near Tuolumne Meadows and I jerked alert, and then her nudge and a voice telling me I had work to do.

There is a third possibility, of course, a straddling of the realms of wakefulness and sleep. This could have been some sort of fugue, a mental trauma, the nervous grief and isolation and excruciating love of the last months boiled over in my head in a froth of metaphor. I am no mystic, or at least I am not when Coyote is not in the room. I already think in broad and capitalized terms about Purpose, about Time and Love, about The Land. No need for hamadryads or devas: even skeptical and sane I can pan the landscape’s placer for bright meaning, discern the personality of place. But she was there, and real, or dream-real, or mere star-story froth from this aching tête brûlée, she was telling me I had work to do.

I had to fall into the land. No mean feat, this. Even with my skin ripped off this year, as porous to the land as I was that day, to meld into that pumice-land would have exfoliated me to the bone. I tried my best, once I understood what was being asked of me, and yet each time I thought I had melded with the land a nudge and voice would tell me that I had only fallen asleep.  To meld one must sleep, but be conscious of one’s sleeping: to mind well the skin-boundary between viscera and vastness, but forget which side of the line you’re on. Mere sleep stops up the sleeper’s ears, deprives the land of voice. My voice, or hers, or the ten thousand things I hear only when awake? I don’t recall. Maybe all of them. Six hours or more I lay there, Cassiopeia spun one-quarter turn, until I saw the beginnings of dim light toward the east, and then I fell asleep for real. I dreamed improbable events with people I had not seen in years, placed myself two thousand miles from the pines and pumice, and woke for real when raven’s metallic hork rang above my head. A Steller’s jay stood on my food cache and when I rose to chase it, the least chipmunks raised a shrill alarm, but not for me: a red-tailed hawk had swung low over the spot where I had slept, and curved around the base of the far pines and on.

A public service message

I got home from my short trip to find that 1) The Theriomorph had posted an abecedarian and 2) a former regular had emailed me to let me know she was de-linking this blog because I am taking too long to stop writing about Zeke.

You wouldn’t think those two things were necessarily related. You would be wrong, dear reader; so very very wrong. It’s clear that — for instance — the abecedarian (or abecedary) is an underused literary form and thus the yin to the yang of email that tells people not to write about something dear to their hearts, an over-used literary form even if only one person ever does it.

So I spent some time this morning thinking both “I would really like to write an abecedarian” and “gosh, I hope no one else out there is in the same position as my correspondent, wanting to de-link Creek Running North but fearing the gun I am holding to their heads to force them to keep me in their blogrolls.” And as often happens, after a short time holding both thoughts in my head I came up with a common solution to both problems. I could write an abecedarian giving those people on the fence waiting for the starter’s gun their green light to de-link CRN, complete with reasons they might not have articulated fully!

And here it is, though as an abecedary/ian it’s not nearly as nicely alliterative as The Theriomorph’s.

The “Reasons to Delink Creek Running North” Abecedary

All those weird, impenetrable poems.
Blogs are supposed to be something this blog is assuredly not
Chris Clarke Chris Clarke Chris Clarke. Bla bla bla. Bo-ring.
Dearth of Democratic Party development and fundraising posts
Egregious bear pun threads
Frequently posts his thoughts about quitting blogging forever
Geology has nothing to do with politics!
Hates children, and is thus a misanthropic malcontent
Infuriating self-infatuation of the blogger in question
Jokes are supposed to be funny
Kisses up to feminists, people of color, queers, bears, etc.
Loves children and is thus a breeder-pleaser sellout.
Metaphors are hard to understand
Nezua comments here sometimes, and he’s a sell-out provocateur or something.
Opinions that differ from the reader’s
Progressive-bashing with special circumstances relating to inflated accusations of racism, sexism, and so forth.
Quaternary macrofaunal natural history isn’t the reader’s cup of tea
Rabbit posts (too many or not enough of)
Snarky, self-involved posts like this one
Toxic narcissism
Ultra-leftism may well interfere with the all-important goal of keeping the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee in the hands of the Democrats
Vegetation is boring, unlike the minute and debated details of the latest blog spat
White man whining
Xanthippe would have drunk the hemlock herself if she’d been forced to read this blog
Yucca brevifolia book is never going to get written if we keep encouraging this blogging behavior
Zeke posts (too many or not enough of)

Camp notes, 7/15/2007, 11 pm

mono lake

Hartley Springs campground. Arrived in camp at 10:10 pm after lackadaisy attack. I am up and up in the Jeffrey Pines, not far from where Becky and Zeke and I camped at Deadman Summit.

Arriving at night, after dark: disconcerting. The campground is a warren of two-ruts, none seeming right, and I’m not even sure I’m in a formal site as opposed to some place they put a picnic table temporarily.

Heated water. Now drinking genmai cha. In shorts and t-shirt still: a cool breeze, not unpleasant. Becky would call it “freezing,” but not “fucking freezing.”

Road noise dissipating. Bed made under a blanket of stars and pine.

How long has it been since I’ve seen the Yosemite high country? 10 years? Too long.

Called Becky from Lee Vining, at the lake visitor center. It had just rained, and sagebrush smell hung in the air thick with violet-green swallows. A fire toward Bridgeport: smoke in the air for hours. I got to the lake’s south shore around 5, sat and decompressed — record time this time. Near-instantaneous. As with the visceral whomp of the great granite domes: like a sledge to the chest. I could not breathe fully. So beautiful. Sublime. And so close.

Kestrel on fence post along 120 east of 395 as I headed toward Nevada. Not all the way of course. Slanting light and music on the stereo, and me heading alone into the interior. If there were a heaven, it would consist of such a moment infinitely dilated.

So odd this short time for the landscape to sink in. It takes usually two, three days for the city skin to slough off, the armor to be shed. I suppose that makes sense. These past months have stripped me to sinew. The bear need not pull off my skin this time.

So quiet here, save the distant thrum of long-haul truckers on 395.

Violet-green and cliff swallows, California gulls, of course ravens. Ospreys are said to be nesting on the tufa offshore, but I saw none. Tomorrow, perhaps. Instead, I sat and watched the storms across the lake, lightning hitting Bodie and a sudden front thrilling the gulls, taking my hat. Two minutes in advance of the front, a barrage of small waves.