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Losing and Reinventing a Certain Outdoor Pleasure (plus "team" update)

'Be careful of what you wish for' is an old saying that deserves respect. In years past I suffered and obsessed over Dry Heat in June. In the Southwest it is the hottest and most oppressive month.

But then I did something stupid: I got good at avoiding the Dry Heat! I've been cool all May and June, while everybody else has been whining about the heat. You can credit Luna NM and Springerville AZ for this tragic turn of events.

Alas, the lack of June Agony makes it hard to experience the usual Ecstasy when the monsoons finally arrive near the first of July. How great it would be to flop on the ground during a monsoonal thundershower and scream, "We're saved!" It would be reminiscent of something Bertrand Russell once described:

Whatever we may wish to think, we are creatures of Earth; our life is part of the life of the Earth, and we draw our nourishment from it just as the plants and animals do. 
I have seen a boy of two years old, who had been kept in London, taken out for the first time to walk in green country. The season was winter, and everything was wet and muddy. To the adult eye there was nothing to cause delight, but in the boy there sprang up a strange ecstasy; he kneeled in the wet ground and put his face in the grass, and gave utterance to half-articulate cries of delight. The joy that he was experiencing was primitive, simple and massive. The organic need that was being satisfied is so profound that those in whom it is starved are seldom completely sane.

But that can't happen this year. Instead I felt surprisingly weak when Arizona's high country had cold rain for most of one day. Cabin fever flared up instantly. (Just try boondocking with dogs on a rainy day!) I just couldn't believe that this was happening at the Fourth of July. If some of my commenters were here camping with me, they would have tried to cheer me up. You know, 'emphasize the positive.' But that would merely have anesthetized me with sugar-frosted aphorisms. Instead I chose to wallow in the brutal truth that I had lost one of my favorite outdoor pleasures: enjoying the onset of the southwestern monsoons.

But there was something promising in this disappointment. Somehow there must be a beauty here that replaces the one that I've lost. It didn't seem like sunny Arizona at all. The sky was dismal, with low clouds and faint light; so faint and eery that it belonged at some far northern latitude...

...It was reminiscent of one of the most moving movie endings that I know of: "The Dead," directed by John Huston just before he died. It is based on the James Joyce's short story of that name, included in his "Dubliners." It starred his daughter, Anjelica Huston. 

Most of the movie is boring since it is all dialogue, indoors, on a winter evening in Dublin. But there is a lot to be said for patiently suffering boredom through 95% of any movie, opera, or even football game, for the sake of a few brilliant moments at the end.

Towards the end of the soiree in Dublin, Anjelica Huston was coming down the stairs, but then stopped -- froze -- to listen to an Irish tenor, singing a plaintive and nostalgic song from higher in the building. Framed by the stairway and a stained glass window behind her, with the light hitting only her architectural face, she gave a memorable and moving performance by hardly moving, and without saying a word.

A few minutes later she told her husband the story of lost-love and early-death that had happened to her early in life. She collapsed into bed and wept herself to sleep. Her husband (Donal McCann) was devastated by her story. He went to a window and looked out on the moody, soggy, dim, Irish landscape. His spoken words closely followed Joyce's original words (

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun
to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling
obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on
his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general
all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central
plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and,
farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.
It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the
hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the
crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on
the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling
faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of
their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

It was a perfect confluence of story, cinematography, and spoken dialogue; or maybe it was the perfect vocal delivery by the Irish stage actor. But it left me speechless. Perhaps there is nothing more exquisite than a beauty that you are just barely able to imagine, especially if it occurs just after a period of gloom and melancholy. 'Barely able', but you must!

Exercise-and-Boondocking Team Update: Ted and I have camped in an ideal boondocking location for a couple weeks, in marvelously cool weather near Springerville AZ. We've had quite a few hikes and walks together. Some were hikes that lasted a couple hours and crested volcanic knolls with 50 mile views 360 degrees around. Some were just 15 minute doggie walks at sunset.

Our outdoors interests only overlap about 30%, but that has worked just fine. I go mountain biking with my dog instead of Ted, since he doesn't mountain bike. He rides his Kawasaki motorcycle to town to do errands, or just to get around and explore. He has a cat (groan) rather than a dog. He has a rig with fairly low ground clearance, so we've taken pains to get calibrated about how much roughness he can take compared to my rig.

Nor are our generator habits identical. I only have 280 Watts nominal of solar panels compared to his 350 Watts, but I need more electricity because of my 12 Volt (compressor-driven) Whynter refrigerator. But this hasn't been a problem because we can space out; also my generator is one of the small, quiet ones. It's really only the large construction-site generators that bother adjacent boondockers.


XXXXX said…
It's a rehearsal really. As life progresses, everything is slowly taken away from us. I know this is a depressing thought but it is reality.
The movie, an inside the RV experience, had the capability of bringing you to a place similarly beautiful as an outdoor experience that you prize so highly.
This should be proof that the inside experience trumps all and that we are capable with our own thought and awareness to create this source of strength within ourselves.
As life progresses and Nature begins to take back all that she has given us, the inside experience is all we have left. A commentator in your last post suggested as much with the concept of freedom but, of course, it applies to all experience.
Anonymous said…
"As life progresses, everything is slowly taken away from us." -- George

Or maybe everything we thought was us, but really wasn't, is slowly taken away.

And we are left finally with a bright core that is the star of the essential.

A spirit sloughing off it's entanglements for the final journey home.
bayrider said…
That film is masterful, no other film has ever made such a powerful impression on me. Not being familiar with the story I was getting restless and wondered where it was going after maybe an hour of watching the holiday party, but it was a perfect setup. It just put a bolt right through me when it abruptly transitioned from the bright warmth and clownish gaiety of the party to Gabriel's unexpected and startling vision of death underlying and awaiting all of humanity and through all the ages, past, present and future. A brilliantly expressed morbid and melancholy vision the likes of which I had glimpsed myself and had always been uneasy with, it hit me like a punch in the gut.

here's the entire soliloquy:
bayrider said…
Blogger swallowed my comments, sigh.

Anyway, The Dead is a brilliant film that has always stayed with me. The entire masterful soliloquy can be viewed here:
Thanks Bayrider, I'm glad you love that movie. And thanks for the YouTube link.

But I warn readers that it is the "setup" of the movie that really nails you at the end of the movie. If you "cheat" and just watch soliloquy, you might wonder why Bayrider and I are praising it so much.
George and Anonymous, marvelous comments and very poetic. So much so that I almost feel like I'm quibbling to say that I don't really agree with the substance of the comments about "spirit."