Somehow you have stumbled onto this web site and I wonder what you expectrecipe for butterscotch brownies, chapter from a new book a la Stephen King, advice on writing, diatribe on political correctness? Sorry. What I have in mind is something more like a monthly letter with odds and ends relating to the high-altitude writing life, for I live in Wyoming at 8,200 feet abutting the Medicine Bow range of the Rocky Mountains. That location is one of the basic drives in my lifeplace, weather and work.
It’s still the first week of the month and only some aspen leaves have fallen. An unseasonably early snowstorm ten days ago, just as I returned from New York, made everyone who loves skiing (that includes me) act crazy, imploring the Mountain Snow Troll to bring it on. It didn’t last, and I had to go to Texas the minute the last flake fell, down to the hard heat and drought. I was in Kyle, south of Austin, doing a reading for the opening of the Katherine Anne Porter childhood home which will serve as a writing center for South West Texas University. Writers Dagoberto Gilb, Tim O’Brien and Leslie Silko were there as well as students and poets and playwrights and people from the community. I enjoyed a tour of the Johnson family’s Halifax Ranch, edged by the beautiful but drought-stricken Blanco River. A rare caracara flew above the trees at the edge of the river. Whitetail deer burst from every thicket. Our guide pointed out a barely visible horse-crippler cactus with curved thorns like a sail maker’s needle. On the way out our host stepped on the brakes rather than run over a tarantula. We all got out and looked at itit stood still, waiting for whatever was going to happen. It seemed handsome and young, about two and a half inches tall. A tickle with a long stem of grass sent it galloping into the brush.
A week later I was back in Wyoming’s high country. The grass and aspen are the color of sunlit honey against the deep green lodgepole forest. It has been a terribly dry year not only in Texas and New Mexico but in Wyoming and Montana and Idaho and Colorado, and wildfire and grass fires made the usually crystalline air hazy with smoke. The fires are out now and that emergency over until next summer. Again we implore the Snow Troll for plenty of the white stuff.
As always, when I go away, I returned to bushels of mail and have spent the last five days sorting and answering it, trying to get near the writing table to work on a novel in progress. I am distracted by the bird feeders which hang just beyond the window. This is new. They were some distance from the house, hanging in small trees, until this morning when I found both feeders on the ground and entirely empty. I’m not sure if the marauders were mule deer or a hungry bear. The bears, severely affected by the drought, have been coming down from the mountains in a desperate search for calories before the winter sets in. But the deer like bird seed as well, especially the Estes Park mixture, and will rattle a feeder out of tree with their antlers. There were no tracks visible as the ground is drought-hard and unyielding.
The bird feeder mystery is solved: I caught two fat raccoons swinging from the feeders (now suspended from metal hooks off the back deck) in the hope they would fall and spill the tasty seeds. The feeders must be fetched in every night now.
Days later: the weather continues warm and sunny. There are distant shots in the mountains as it is elk season and there are hunters everywhere. No mountain biking while the nimrods stalk the trails, even clothed head to toe in blaze orange. Two neighbors, Uphill Bob and Downhill Bob, stopped by this morning and Uphill described a bullet whistling past his head as he was out prospecting on a remote creek a few days ago. Danger lurks everywhere. Someone left a print-out story in the post office concerning a bicyclist in Jackson who, a day or two ago, was coming down a bicycle path at speed when he hit the speed radar equipment set up by the local cops squarely in the middle of the 5-foot wide trail. The bicyclist broke his neck.
Six writers will be on hand this weekend at the University of Wyoming’s Art Museum, Boundary Country writers as part of the wonderful Landscape 2000 exhibit. Those writers are Dagoberto Gilb, Rhea Cote Robbins, Diana Abu-Jaber, Anne Landsman, Junot Diaz and Francisco Goldman. On Saturday night we’ll all have a big party here. I planned to make a large rabbit pie and ordered the rabbit many weeks ago from the local butcher. Today he told me it was "on backorder" so we’ll have to go with something else. Shopping in Laramie is studded with disappointment.
It may snow tonight. Cross your fingers.