Friday, January 16, 2009

Kimiko Hahn

The foraging bee that doesn’t make it
back to the hive

and companion warmth
fastens to a leaf.


Or does the nectar so distract

it forgets the cells
called home?

The lapse is a cause for concern
the entomologist reports—

because its tiny body slows to the stillness of dew.
Is that quiescence

or acquiescence?

Or simply stupidity
one always forgets a day later?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"My job is to save the fucking wilderness. I don't know anything else worth saving. That's simple, right?"-George Hayduke from "The Monkey Wrench Gang" by Edward Abbey, page 228.

I have not completely had my fill of the discussion of the desert of Utah and Nevada. I just finished reading the Monkey Wrench Gang, a novel by Edward Abbey. Basically, the novel describes four like-minded misfits who are dedicated to the destruction of things that pollute and destroy the environment of the southwest. The group haphazardly burns billboards, sabotages bulldozers and coal trains while all the while plotting to destroy the biggest transgressor of all, the Glen Canyon dam on the Colorado River. Lovers of wild lands, this group may be, but they they bare little resemblance to the bleeding-heart environmentalists of today. The group has little scruples about littering, driving big trucks and eating a lot of red meat and has little regard for the Sierra Club. However, the book has been credited as the inspiration for several environmental organizations that advocate minor vandalism as a means of "saving the environment" from the despoiling of land, befouling of the air and destroying nature and its sacred purity. I have read from several sources that Abbey was not actually trying to start a movement with his book nor was he trying to reform the land management agenda. Nonetheless, this book stirs up a deep wonder of the beauty and complexity of the desert as well as a new found disgust for the run-of-the-mill development that so many of us have become complacent about. Abbey has a great sense of humor as well and the book is compassionate as well as thrilling and funny. I love the character of Hayduke, an ex-Green Beret, with a horrible temper and an even worse mouth. I have read that the character is modeled off of Abbey's close friend Doug Peacock. I recently finished reading the Last Grizzly by Rick Bass, where Peacock is the main instigator of a search for the last grizzlies in the Colorado San Juans.

One my favorite parts of the Monkey Wrench Gang is in the first chapters where two of the main characters, Hayduke and Seldom Seen Smith, a jack Mormon with 3 wives, encounter each other for the first time. Smith is camped on the Colorado river with one of his girls looking at the bridge and Glen Canyon dam:

Lake Powell, Jewel of the Colorado, 180 miles of reservoir walled in by bare rock. The blue death, Smith called it... Smith remembered something different. He remembered the golden river flowing to the sea. He remembered canyons called Hidden Passage and Salvation at Last Chance and Forbidden and Twilight and many many more, some that never had a name. He remembered the strange great amphitheaters called Music Temple and Cathedral in the Desert. All these things now lay beneath the dead water of the reservoir, slowly disappearing under layers of descending silt How could he forget? He had seen too much...Seven hundred feet below streamed what was left of the original river, the greenish waters that emerged, through intake, penstock, turbine and tunnel, from the powerhouse at the base of the dam. Thickets of power cables, each strand as big around as a man's arm, climbed the canyon walls on steel towers, merged in a maze of transformer stations, then splayed out toward the south and west-toward Albuquerque, Babylon, Phoenix, Gomorrah, Los Angeles, Sodom, Los Vegas, Nineveh, Tucson, the cities of the plain. Upriver from the bridge stood the dam, a glissade of featureless concrete sweeping seven hundred feet down in a concave facade from the dam's rim to the green-grass lawn on the roof of the power plant below. They stared at it. The dam demanded attention. It was a magnificent mass of cement. Vital statistics: 792,000 tons of concrete aggregate; cost 750 million and the lives of 16 workmen. Four years in the making, prime contractor Morrison-Knudsen, Inc., sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
"it's too big," she said.
"That's right, honey," he said. "and that's why."
"you can't."
"There's a way."
"Like what?"
"I don't know. But there's got to be a way."
"Like how?" she said.
"Who you working for?" he said.
"Okay, think of something."
"We could pray."
"Pray?" said Smith. "Now there's onething I ain't tried. Let's pray for a little pre-cision earthquake right here." And Smith went down on his knees...bowed his head, closed his eyes, clapped his hands together palm to palm, prayerwise, and prayed..."Dear old God," he prayed, "you know and I know what it was like here, before them bastards from Washington moved in and ruined it all. You remember the river, how fat and golden it was in June, when the big runoff came down from the Rockies? Remember the deer on the sandbars ad the blue herons in the willows and the catfish so big and tasty and how they'd bite on spoiled salami? Remember that crick that come down through Bridge Canyon and Forbidden Canyon, how green and cool and clear it was? God, it's enough to make a man sick. Say you recall old Woody Edgell up at Hite and the old ferry he used to run across the river? That crazy contraption of his hangin' on cables; remember that damn thing? Remember the cataracts in Forty-mile Canyon? Well, they flooded out about half of them too. And part of the Escalante's gone now-Davis Gulch, Willow Canyon, Gregory Natural Bridge, Ten-Mile. Listen, are you listen' to me? There's somethin' you can do for me, God. How about a little old pre-cision-type earthquake right under this dam? Okay? Anytime. Right now for instance would suit me fine."Smith concluded his prayer. "Okay God, I see you don't want to do it just now. Well, all right, suit yourself, you're the boss, but we ain't got a hell of a lot of time. Make it pretty soon, goddammit. A-men."
"Suppose your prayer is answered," the girl was saying in the silence. "Suppose you have your earthquake at the dam. What happens to all the people here [below the dam]?"
"That there dam," Smith replied, "is 12 miles upriver through the crookedest twelve miles of canyon you ever seen. It'd take the water an hour to get here."
"They'd still drown."
"I'd warn 'em by telephone."
"Suppose God answers your prayer in the middle of the night. Suppose everybody at the dam is killed and there isn't anybody left alive up there to give warning. Then what?"
"I ain't responsible for an act of God, honey."
"It's your prayer."
Smith grinned. "It's His earthquake." And he held up a harkening finger. "What's that?"
"I don't hear anything but the river," she said.
"No listen..."
Far off, echoing from the cliffs, rising then descending supernatural wail, full of mourning-or was it exultation?
"A coyote?" She offered.
"I never heard wolves around here before."
He smiled. "That's right," he said. "That's absolutely right. There ain't supposed to be no wolves in these parts anymore. They ain't supposed to be here."
"Are you sure it's a wolf?"
"Yup." He paused, listening again. Only the river sounded now, down below. "But it's kind of an unusual wolf."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean it's one of them two-legged type wolves."
She stared at him. "You mean human?"
"More or less," Smith said.
Smith fiddled with his field glasses, looking for something he thought he had seen moving on a distant promontory above the gorge. He found his target. Adjusting the focus, he made out, a mile away through the haze of twilight, the shape of a blue jeep half concealed beneath a pedestal rock. He saw the flicker of a small campfire. A thing moved at the edge of the field. He turned the glasses slightly and saw the figure of a man, short and hairy and broad and naked. The naked man held a can of beer in one hand; with the other hand he held field glasses to his eyes , just like Smith. He was looking directly at Smith.

The two men studied each other for a while through 7X35 binocular lenses, which do not blink. Smith raised his hand in a cautious wave. The other mad raised his can of beer as an answering salute.

Abbey, Edward. "The Monkey Wrench Gang." 1975. J.B. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia. p. 31-37.

There are many other memorable moments from this book. I definately recommend that it be read!