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Losing and Finding, Outside and In

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

Rainy mornings are rare in this town. Usually our precipitation is limited to afternoon thunderstorms, late June through late August. Usually these are deluges, these gully-whompers, are over in half or three-quarters of an hour. Forty or fifty years ago, before they used concrete to hold the cobble stones in place, on occasion one of these inundations would wash out Calle Correo, rolling the rocks that paved its hill all the way down into the Jardin.

Those afternoon storms, with biblical proportions of water cascading down through town, are rendered even more impressive by the thunder echoing off the hillside. Yes, those explosions are longer and louder when their crash bounces back at you, reflected by the mountain.

Then, our high altitude is ideal for unleashing electrical storms; the proximity of earth and cloud, the close charge of the ground, drawing down the lightening. My home, high up the mountain in Vermont, hosted the same meteorological phenomenon, but more so. Those storms were epic.

I woke up early today here at Veronica's, because her cat has no sense of personal space. With Vero's son moved back to Chile the cat is looking for another body to sleep upon. But I think we've straightened that out.

Cats came into my life late. When they did I began to notice that most people treat cats as if they were people. I treat cats as if they were cats, the way they treat each other.

When one cat annoys another, there is an explosion of hostility. I don't have claws to wield, but I am pretty good at hissing. Although I've done it only a few times in all my years, I can say with certainty that a well-directed glassful of water is a very efficient feline instructional method. The lesson is learned without need of repetition. They understand right away that chewing on the houseplants or scratching the couch is not permitted around here.

And, as between cats, there are no hard feelings. The hefty beast who I shook off and swatted with the pillow predawn, is now comfortably preening himself lying on my lap while I write this. Wait a second, I have to shift his weight, because my right leg is going numb.

Lying there in the predawn darkness, my hyper-active mind rendering a return to sleep impossible, I eventually got up to discover that it was already 6:13 (and not 4am as I had feared) and that it was gently raining outside.

As I opined above, rainy mornings are rarities for San Miguel. But today the clouds were so low and, even though we are just a day or two short of July, the air was so cold, that water vapor was condensing into little drops and falling. It reminded me of Seattle, where sometimes the rain falls so finely that you can walk through it without getting wet.

A short while later Veronica got up and started her morning routine, including getting ready for school. I helped, packing her fruit and breakfast and letting the dog out. Yesterday, she asked me to bring upstairs the mat we use to cover my car when we are carrying things on its roof. While the dog was out doing her thing, I seized the moment and the mat, and marched up to the third floor.

I suppose it was a combination of the wetness and getting to work so early in the morning, but splashing along the puddled staircase brought me back to my time in Vermont almost 20 years ago. Not long ago I saw a short clip of a 60-something Mick Jagger responding nostalgically to someone 40 years old, "Forty was a very good age." Those were the days, my mid-forties and early fifties, when I hung out in Vermont. Still with my youthful vigor, the nature, the close-knit community and especially my buddy, Chris McCarthy, with whom I did most of my hanging out, made it a very good age indeed.

Chris is gone now; disappeared four years ago without a trace. My guess is that he was out in the woods and got too close to a bear. He told me once how, on the main trail through my land, he had heard something coming through he woods. Freezing still and silent he waited while the sound got louder. Suddenly, such experiences are always surprising whether or not you anticipate them, up 15 or 20 feet ahead he saw a bear come out of the thick foliage on one side of the trail and disappear into the dense bush on the other. I asked him, we were in company at the time, "Were you afraid." Without missing a beat he answered, "I sure as hell was." I figure Chris tried that trick one too many times and the wind shifted on him.

Chris, a real mountain man, never would say unless he knew. He was competent. When he did something, he did it well. And in those woods there was a lot to be done.

The band I ran with up in Vermont were all 12-20 years younger than me. They were all born there. They all went to school together, k-12. Keonie, quite a man himself, was born in December in a tee-pee. Of course, the tee-pee did have a wood stove, but, still, you get the idea. Keonie told me that when they were kids Chris was the leader. Whatever bit of dare-devil acrobatics there was to do, "Chris did it first and then we all had to do it."

I cried when they told me Chris was gone. I like to compose my own rather than quote someone else's, but the words of James Taylor capture my disappointment, "I always thought that I'd see you again."

However, it was only a short while ago when I realized that parts of Chris never left. Yes, I knew earlier that there was a confidence, a nobleness, a ruthless, animal type of honesty of his that rubbed off on me from our long and close association. But more recently I'm discovering other qualities of his springing up in me, just when I need them. It's like gardening, another one of Chris' talents; it requires patience. You've got to let those seeds sprout; you can't hurry the plant to grow.

Vermont's Lake Willoughby

I'm still realizing lessons that Chris sowed in me, realizing my own can-do, devil-may-care capacities. For instance, I'd like people to come along (to help with my Lokkal project), but, whether or not they do, I've got to be ready to go it alone. I'm not saying Chris never worried, but I am saying I never saw him worry. We always could and would and did make it work.

Chris had his own tough love, his own no-nonsense instructional method, his own version of throwing water in my face. And like a cat, I learned quickly. But some fruit does take to ripen. The biggest lesson, the sweetest fruit, is understanding that my good buddy, loyal to the last, is still there when I need him.

Lake Willoughby's Devil's Rock

One summer day fifteen years ago we were on Devil's Rock aside of Lake Willoughby. Chris dove off, plunging down through 25 feet of air into the pure, brisk water. I jumped, falling feet-first. Later, hauling ourselves out onto some lake-level rocks to sun ourselves, I told him, "Right after you dove I could see, like a tunnel through the air, the path that you took. And I knew that I could just dive in and follow you." With characteristic brevity he replied, "You could have." These days I'm learning that I still can.


Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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