November 2005

A final alpine fling before winter

By Art Goodtimes

NAVAJO LAKE TRAIL … Imagine a couple of aging geezers hiking by moonlight in the shadow of Wilson Peak. Jimbo’s a few years older than me. Not that you’d measure his athletic prowess by age. His rigor and outdoorsmanship have long been the envy of our Norwood circle of friends … He was famous, when younger, as the BLM’s bootless ranger. The uniformed summer hire who’d come traipsing into your desert camp, barefoot, in the heat of the day, miles from the nearest road … And he’s the one who brings us fresh Scow Bay oysters (the best!) from the coast, when he comes back to Naturita Canyon to check on his canyon orchard. And this year was a record harvest – Golden Delicious, Rambo, Northern Spy. All dozen or so of his trees seemed to fruit – an unparalleled output for many a year in this apple-challenged clime of ours … Well, he always tries to interest me in some sort of wilderness trek when he’s here. Usually I’m too busy. But darn, I was game this fall. He proposed a hike up from Wood’s Lake, starting late in the day, and coming back by moonlight. Intriguing, I thought. I’ve always loved moonlit jaunts … And so we did it. Rousting Roudy Roudebush and horsehair crew at Woods Lake. Dogging it up to treeline, in time for a majestic sunset over the Dolores Peaks. And then making our way back down the trail, with just the cloud-reflected moonlight to light our way. No flashlight all the way down. And neither of us fell, or lost our way (although we did whistle a bit to let the bears know we were coming) … It was a delightful way to remember why we love this mountain paradise of ours. One last alpine fling, before the cold weather sets in.

POEM AS PROSE … Newspaper don’t like long poems. So I’m condensing the following piece by long-time Western Slope editor, teacher, writer and Headwaters organizer George Sibley of Gunnison … Turning it into a kind of prose poem (and taking some liberties with the punctuation). Prose or poetry, it’s great to read aloud. George performed it for a bunch of us at the recent Silverton Mountain Writing Workshop. And he’s kindly given us permission to run it.

SOMETIMES RECOVERING WRITER … Hello. My name is George, and I’m a recovering writer. Sometimes, anyway. Sometimes I’m recovering. Sitting down with the newspaper when I wake up early. Going to the processed word rather than the word generator. Reading what I’m supposed to read. Trying to think about what I’m supposed to think about. Thinking that no news, nothing new, is good news … But all that while my addiction is latent, lurking. And I’m thinking about words, words lining up in front of me. Words like shots in the dark. Shots like lightning before me, lighting me up. Words pouring into me. Out of me. Words dancing on the table in front of me. Words. Words. Me drunk on words. Words pouring out in a flood of feeling. Flood of meaning. Flood of words. Trying to say the unsayable. Speak the unspeakable. Make it all make a higher sense. High. High. High on words trying to say something. Say -- something, please. Something. Anything. Usually just drunk on words. Soggy. Smitten. Words down the drain. Down the head of the thirsting soul … But sometimes – well, once, maybe, or maybe once imagined. The words fired. Took fire. Burned with the white heat of joy, anger, anguish. No hate, no fear, nothing but the joy beyond fear. The love for, for .... Well, drunk again. Drunk on words. And where they take me. Take me ... Sometimes I’m a recovering writer. But mostly I’m just drunk on words and where they take me.

FIRST WORLD? … Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mph winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.

MYCELLIUM RUNNING … Paul Stamet’s revolutionary book on how mushrooms can help save the world has just come out from Ten Speed Press. As Michael Pollan, author of “The Botany of Desire,” has written, “Stamets is a visionary emissary from the fungus [kindom] to our world, and the message he’s brought back in this book, about the possibilities fungi hold for healing the environment, will fill you with wonder and hope.” … It’s an audacious read. Stamets starts with the premise that mycelium – the maze of one-celled strands that make up the underground latticework roots of a mushroom — is nothing short of “the neurological network of nature.” These mycological membranes are “aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind.” … This is a radical change in perspective from most scientific researchers. Stamets views mushrooms as biological equals. He takes a Deep Ecology attitude towards the object of his study and experiments. Rather than treat mycelia as expendable lab mice, he honors them as sentient beings and seeks to learn with them, not just from them. And he credits his experience with Psilocbye species – his “mushroom spirit teachers — as engendering this novel approach to the study of mycology … But this is not a New Age paean to psychedelia. Far from it. This is a practical hands-on compendium of experiments and discoveries relating to a new field of science that Stamets has dubbed “mycorestoration,” that is, engaging mycelia for healing habitats through mycofiltration, mycoforestry, mycoremediation and mycopesticides … And the how-to nature of this treatise relates to another startling premise Stamets uses in advancing his ideas about mushrooms – random selection is no longer the dominant force of human evolution. For better or worse, according to Stamets, conscious human processes in politics, economics and biotechnology now appear to hold the key to our species’ future. This may not exactly be the “intelligent design” theory advanced by our faith-based brethren, but it’s a significant change in the history of the world that appears to be happening, almost unnoticed, all around us.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.