Working hard on our manuscript "Wild Rides, Wildflowers." An excerpt:
10 January 2000, Midway,
Sam, as I
hoped, my sister’s house is good for my visiting boys, even if the word
“visiting” evokes plenty of anxieties. Here’s a conversation from the weekend:
“Dad,” Ben asks, “could I have $5
for a field trip?”
“Sure,” I reply,
“anything for a good educational experience. Where are you going?”
state capitol building,” he says.
history class?” I ask.
exactly,” he answers. “I joined the Young Republicans.”
the Orem High School Young Republicans,” he says, grinning.
want me to pay for it!”
“Dad, don’t get your shorts in a
bunch. There’s a girl I like in the club.”
12 March 2000, Strawberry Peak
In falling snow I drive up Daniels Canyon, early Bob Dylan blaring from the tape deck: “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues,” “I’m in the Mood for You,” and a foreign song he claims he learned in Utah, “Talkin’ Hava Nagila,” complete with yodel. Sam’s busy, my boys are with their mother, and I’ve got an appointment with my therapist.
By 8:00 I’m climbing through new snow with the rising sun at my back. Over the course of five hours I hear the distant dentist’s-drill noise of two snomos and the motors of a small airplane, but otherwise I am enclosed in deep solitude. The powder deepens as I climb, and it’s not long till I head for south-facing slopes where a solid crust under the new snow makes breaking trail a bit easier. The rhythm of skis and poles. The glow of my sweating body. The chatter of birds. Hoar frost on aspens. Icicles hanging from conifers. The snowshoe tracks of hares. A squirrel’s chatter. Erotic folds of snow where a stream peeks out of a sinuous valley.
The wind-blown snow at the top of the ridge is like powdered sugar. Clouds brush the ridge. Closed-off interior white-outs alternate with sudden sunlit openings and my soul circles from Mt Timpanogos to the Uintahs, a vast mountainous expanse I overlook from this vantage point at the top of the world. I rip the skins from my skis, eat an orange—the brilliant color shocking in the white-and-blue landscape—gulp the last of my water, and shove off through aspens in swinging bent-kneed turns that burn my thighs. “Don’t think twice,” my therapist suggests, “it’s all right.”
16 March 2000, Great Western Trail, Mt. Timpanogos
Dear Mr. Abbott, of the Catalyst:
I am taking the time this afternoon to write you a letter concerning the article you wrote about your son’s joining the Teenage Republicans. I must admit, I found it rather amusing, but to be quite frank, on an intellectual level, I found it to be lacking. Please allow me to take this opportunity to inform you about the wonderful opportunities that the Teenage Republicans and the GOP have for all those “who have an ear to hear . . .” namely, your son. . . .
Chairman, Utah Teenage Republicans
“An advocate of family values and the Republican way of life.”
“We’re reaching a wider readership than we thought,” I explain to Sam as we wheeze our way up the mountain.
“By the way,” Sam says as we roll off the mountain, “Greta just wrote and said the April issue will focus on recycling and gardening. She wondered if we could address the theme in this month’s column.”
“Riding up this damn hill again and again ought to count as recycling,” I answer.”
19 March 2000, Great Western Trail, Teasdale
“Look at the mistletoe infestation,” I point out as we top a hill overlooking a dense stand of Utah junipers. “It’s on nearly every tree. Dwarf mistletoe is an important parasite on some trees and shrubs in Utah and is quite host specific. The species we are seeing is probably Phorodendron juniperinum, juniper mistletoe. Many mistletoes cause substantial damage to their hosts. But more interesting is the evolutionary connection between specific mistletoes, their hosts, and associated mistletoe birds.
“Some mistletoe species only occur on one kind of tree and their fruits are eaten mostly by mistletoe birds that inhabit the same trees. The fruits are laxative and the birds get the runs. But they have evolved a behavior you can’t believe. They squat, shit, step up-branch, squat, shit, step up-branch in a repeating pattern, planting mistletoe seeds as they go. And the really interesting deal is that the shape of these birds is slightly different from that of a typical bird. They are more upright so that when they shit they hit the branch rather than pooping off the edge into the forest.”
“Sounds like a crock of shit to me,” Scott opines.
“It’s the god’s truth,” I say.
“It’s Darwin’s truth,” Scott corrects me. “But the best part of the story was the little dance you did while describing a mistletoe bird pooping up a limb. I hadn’t much figured you for a squat-shit-step dancer.”