May 24, 2009

Country Daze

"I look to the hills, from whence cometh my help," always come to my mind in the mountains of Hocking Hills, the land the glaciers forgot. Puffs of cloud hover just above the trees crowns like halos. And how clear the birds sing here! They sing in a foresty, full-throated way as if oblivious to habitat destruction, global warming, and Adam's fall.

For our 10th (there's something relaxing and impressive to me at least about reaching the double-digit milestone), we rented a place with a wrap-around porch on the second-story affording grand views of the forested foothills but also, unfortunately, a highway: "Got an interstate runnin' through their front yard" indeed. One need never feel lonely here, the parade of traffic being more or less constant on Memorial Day weekend. We wish for silence but the view is nice; the interior is fabulous enough to make up for the sins of location.

I must have been more contemplative as a youth (is it sad to be competitive with a former self?) or at least to have had a more Thoreauian boredom threshold for now it amazes me I spent a week in a tent down at a Kentucky state park with my uncle way back when. No TV, no radio, no Internet...."not a single luxury" as the theme from Gilligan's Island goes. Breakfast and dinners must've been repetitious to put it mildly. Could kids today do what I did? Like a muscle I suspect it must be exercised.

But as a two-day trip it's wonderful if a bit Roman: hot-tub in the a.m., breakfast, exercise, followed by long smoke of a cigar for a couple hours afterwards which felt like a couple minutes. Friday night we watched the movie Fireproof which was preachy but at least had a great message. (If I'm going to be preached to I prefer it concern something as important as marriage.) It had an evangelical bent for sure - becoming a child of God was defined only in terms of the personal commitment of the character rather than with Baptism. Pelagianism we have always with us.

Saturday afternoon I headed to the KOA campground to explore. The way there, all uphill, felt like ascending to the ceiling of the world, as if I was visiting Ohio's Tibet. On the road a flat-stomached boy was selling firewood in that uniform peculiar to this area: long jeans sans shirt. I did a cost benefit analysis in my mind concerning the value of a flat stomach and, not surprisingly, it didn't merit further consideration.

There was a high kitsch general store at the foot of the trail. My cheap sunglasses had broken in my pocket requiring new cheap sunglasses. The only semi-decent pair they had looked like something from Elvis's Late Period but beggars can't be choosers.
Afterwards I headed to Old Man's Cave which was as crowded as Disneyworld. How stunning the Smokey Mountain-like green moss, the trickling water, the cool caves with boulders like glacier erratum. Not long on the trail I came across a family huddled around a motionless dog who had apparently fallen from a height, the same height that so enraptures me. Rangers were notified and they said they thought the poor thing has a chance.

I ponder the binaric meaning of the couple hiking past, the man with a Yale t-shirt and the woman with Harvard; it seemed somehow fitting: men are from Yale, women from Harvard...

The waters felt almost Lourdesian, with large crowds of people walking single file down towards the pools, patiently waiting for others when the passageway grew too narrow for two.

Home again in Columbus, I feel the gentle fatigue from hiking up those strength-coming hills, as well as the lingering imagery of the majestic scale of our cabin with the eighteen-foot ceilings and comparable windows which let in such a variety of light. It felt like we were living amid the tree tops and I've always wanted a wrap-around second-story porch, and so I did for a fortnight or two days, whichever is less. The wood panelled walls and floor gleamed amber in the reflected light.

Literary-wise I read deliriously from Dickens's Little Dorrit, so transportive it twas, but ruined the palate with some non-fiction such as Court of the Red Tsar. Dickens can write so lyrically while at the same time create such interesting characters.

I don't think I've read everything from Chesterton and Orwell concerning Chas Dickens yet. Whereas before I would read something like "Thoreau and His Contemporaries" now I'm less interested in what his contemporaries thought than what Orestes Brownson or Fr. Hacker did. Authority for me has become less democratic. But I do want to read more, especially after watching the marvelous PBS production of Little Dorrit. These Masterpiece Theatre shows make me feel sorry for the networks: the set designs, the photography, the actors! - the actors look exactly as the characters, just as the names Dickens gives them so often reflects their inward reality. And of course the writing is grand.

Ohio has warmed up nicely lately. The days' temps now visit the mid-80s and winter's long reach has ended. The last frost date is officially behind us. The air is humid now which gives off pleasant associations of vacation time. Spring is fickle and not to be trusted, while autumn is faithful but is always eventually overcome. Late May is like God: all vigor and loyalty without a scorched earth policy.

I step out the back porch and catch my breath - it's like walking back in time to last summer, or of all summers' past. The sun is warm, the patio stones hot to the foot, and grass, sun, tree and flower greet me like welcome paparazzi. You're a star, they say, the earth affording me the red carpet treatment. There is no discernible wind which makes paper stay in place like magic. Forgetfulness, in the form of not placing weights, is rewarded for once. When the rains came, they came in sheets straight as a young girl's bangs: I could sit under the patio umbrella without getting wet from sidewinders.

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