Ring of Fire

Hot Springs County is in the center of Wyoming. There is a park there, miles of open land filled with steaming pools of mineral water. The county seat is a modest town named Thermopolis. From Yellowstone in the northwest, southeast to Laramie and Cheyenne, Thermopolis is a remote attraction amid open range run with pronghorn antelope.

thermopolis_hot_spring

By treaty signed in the late 19th century, the Shoshone and Arapaho nations agreed to cede the land blessed with steaming mineral springs to the federal government. A prime condition of the treaty ensured the healing springs would stay free and open to all people forever. This is still the case. Thermopolis contains a few hotels and commercial pools built with soaking baths, slides, and water features. Between these venues, the State of Wyoming runs a simple bath house. It is, indeed, free. The heavy minerals in the water are said to be healing and will tarnish silver jewelry hours later.

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Wyoming State Bath House

Due to the high temperatures, as well as the danger of thermal spikes, it is safer to soak where the temperature can be regulated. This is true of most volcanic hot springs, though odds are better with some than others. A geothermal surge is unpredictable and deadly. (There are stories of tourists boiled off the bone found floating in open pools.)

The word “lava” comes from the Latin word lavare, to wash or bathe, referencing streams of fire that cut like rivers. The Yellowstone Caldera is a 37-mile pool seething with molten rock atop a super volcano. Streams of liquid rock-fire, magma from the outer core of the earth, bubble up through 21 fissures cracked open on the Big Island of Hawaii. In earth-time, it was yesterday when Mount St. Helens exploded, though today marks the 38th anniversary of the eruption.

I saw the volcanic peaks of the Three Sisters in the distance yesterday, when the morning clouds cleared.

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A Sanctuary More

bute_in_snow“For there is always a sanctuary more, a door that can never be forced, a last inviolable stronghold that can never be taken, whatever the attack; your vote can be taken, your name, your innards, or even your life, but that last stronghold can only be surrendered. And to surrender it for any reason other than love is to surrender love.”

― Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

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A Trout

Brook_TroutI signed my first writing contract a few days ago. A creative nonfiction piece, “Shiny Things I Found in the Gutter,” was accepted by The Tishman Review. It will appear in the summer issue at the end of July.  This was another milestone on my stumbling journey trying to find the words. Writing and fishing have much in common. Sometimes one is at the right shady pool below a riffle when the trout rise. Or, more often, not.

I was fortunate to work with TTR’s new creative nonfiction editor, Hannah Howard, whose memoir “Feast” was published in March, 2018. Hannah lives and works in New York City, so her emails arrived before I was out of bed. (Read an interview with Hannah here.) TTR publishes a quarterly issue of art, fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction with each issue available in a variety of formats. Go give the latest issue a read.

Read the rest at The Tishman Review.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Morning Thunder

There was a lightning strike one morning while I sat on the back porch watching the rain, tucked under the eave, cradling my coffee cup. The trident strike forked above the hills to the west directly before me. I counted the seconds until thunder, four, and then came the boom of the rolling report in a wave. The dog hustled off to squeeze herself beneath the bed. The lightning was lavender against the white-gray clouds, a rare morning bolt here, where any lightning storm is rare. Spring might bring rainbows, occasionally an unlikely double bow, but little thunder.

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Downtown Double Rainbow

I waited for another flash, but none came. The storm moved north only discharging the single bolt. I went upstairs and walked out across the street in the rain to fetch the newspaper. Sheltering it inside my jacket, I turned back to the house. For a moment, I stood bareheaded in the rain, distracted. The front garden was alight: purple wisteria hanging heavy like grapes, dogwood, rhododendron and lithodora blooming, a profusion that appears all at once in the spring to overwhelm the senses like the riotous confusion of a carnival midway after sundown.

Once I lived out on the plains, where the dirt was red and the rivers muddy with ochre. I came from this verdant valley, bordering rain forest, to prairie. There was only horizon out there on the open plain. I was at sea. I itched to get my back up to something, some hill or canyon wall, a modest butte, but there was nothing, only cloud. Until one day, the rising spring clouds, blooming thunderhead towers, became my mountains.

Every spring afternoon there was a thunderstorm on the plains. When the sky grew green and bruised in the southwest, a tornado might form from the wall cloud. In the very buckle of the Bible Belt, where warm moist air from the gulf meets the dry cold air flowing down from the Rockies, a dry line forms. That’s where a tussle between the two clashing atmospheres spawns thunderstorms, super cells, tornadoes. One spring I drove a dry line, it traced the highway, and I raced the coming storm to Dallas-Fort Worth airport. By the time I reached Dallas, the sky was black and swirling and I was deafened by thunder.

In a land with no mountains, clouds become mountains.

k.

 

Lady Rain

It started to rain yesterday, a slow soaking rain seeping deep to the roots. There were ten days of sun and heat since the middle of April. We were caught unprepared, still in fleece hoodies and heavy socks, sweating and blinking like pale burrowing creatures venturing above ground.

The trees burst and scattered pollen, drunken profligates the lot of them. The air was curtained with gold. When the wind turned, the moon brought rain to soothe and sweeten the saturated air, waxing bright and growing full. This gentle rain, Lady Rain, comes on the eve of May. I suspect magic is afoot.

The lupine leaves spill droplets, rivulets run from the cups of rhododendron blossom, and everywhere the growing green sighs and drinks. Magic is afoot, indeed.

rhoddie_rain

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Lines of Resistance

Water makes small choices. A trickle of liquid always moves downward, below, however imperceptible the angle of decline. When water encounters an obstacle, it seeps under and around, or crowded by a jostling flood, flows over. A single pebble might turn a deluge. There is no effort.

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Riffle Lines in the Willamette River

Study the surface of the river to learn what lies underneath it. This is the way of the spring river: to scout from the banks as the flow subsides to find what changes the winter floods brought to the channel. The water, turned by a pebble, can move boulders in the winter as it courses down from the mountains.

Bright lines shining across the current are stones covered only by shallow water marking a riffle. The water turns and dances, laughing over the lines of resistance.

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Riffle in the river

k.

Wild Hyacinth

April is greening, there is rain, sometimes slant and hard, sometimes hail. In April, rainbows may follow, forming perfect prisms, even the indigo and violet bands in the bow are bright as they bend to shimmer in the treetops.

In April, in the wet fields, among the damp shallows under oaks and willows, Camassia plants break into prolific bloom. It’s known as the wild hyacinth, of the same family as asparagus, and its roots were once ground for bread by the native people.

In April, put out all your bowls for the rain gods to fill…

camas_field

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