Later, with that chore out of the way, I went down into the low country alone for an afternoon hike. It was mostly sandstone country, covered with a thin veneer of soil and a few scraggly, desert plants. I noticed that the north-facing sides of the east-west, stone washes were always covered with a thick layer of sand, while the south facing sides were solid stone. I theorized that it was because the prevailing winds from the south dump their loads of sand when they break over the edges of the washes.
About an hour into the hike, I descended into another stone wash where there was a beautiful pool of water left from the recent storm. I dropped my walking stick, took off my hat, removed my glasses, stripped out of my binoculars and camera, stretched out on my belly, blew gently across the surface of the water to push back the sprinkling of dust, and drank deeply of the pool. I noticed a fresh coyote track in the damp sand at the edge. Perhaps we shared a drink from the pool.
There was a sort of forensic purpose to my hike. My destination was an area across the canyon from a most beautiful petroglyph. The petroglyph was a long-ago target of the unthinking, the uncaring, or simply the stupid. There are several pock-marks from the impacts of bullets on the panel. I was wondering if there might still be empty shell casings in the area. I wasn’t able to find any.
I received three gifts for my birthday, a box of Whoppers from Barbara, a bottle of “Pain In The ___” habanero hot sauce from a daughter, and a pencil that is green on one end and red on the other from some children. We are not extravagant people.
The activities of my birthday suggest that life goes on and it is still good. But, I have come to a decision that has been difficult for me. It is about time I cut back on writing these “Idle Thoughts” columns. I am becoming that old guy who tells the same stories over and over again, and I don’t want to embarrass myself in that way.
I wrote my first column for the Blue Mountain Panorama in August of 1995, and later for The Times-Independent. I don’t think I have missed more than two or three times writing weekly in more than 17 and one-half years. It shouldn’t be any wonder that I have about run dry.
It is said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Examining life is pretty much what I have done in these columns. In an examination of my own life, there are a number of people who stand out for their positive influence. Among them are Neil and Becky Joslin of the Panorama, and Sam and Adrien Taylor of The-Times Independent. I never thought of myself as a writer, but they gave me a forum and the expectation that I could be.
Writing, like photography, changes the way one looks at things. For all these years I have been on a constant hunt for something to write about. I have been more alert, more aware, always composing phrases and paragraphs in my mind. I worry that without the challenge of writing, my mind will deteriorate even faster
I’m not sure I can stop writing, cold turkey. But it really is about time I cut back, at least a little. We’ll see if there are negative withdrawal symptoms. Who knows? Maybe it will be good not to have to come up with something each week, and not have to worry about being that old guy who keeps repeating his stories.