Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our Own Well


                                Water is Earth’s Genius

   It’s astonishing! We own a well! My wife and I. A well of water!
   We had it dug-- or rather drilled-- up on the side of Sugarloaf Mountain. Precisely four hundred and one feet, straight down. That’s a football field with the behind the goal lines thrown in. Down through all sorts of granite, hard and soft, until the drill head reached an intrusion of white quartz, fractured so that it could carry water. Our water, in triumph!
    “Carry” water, I so carelessly say. Where was the water going? Where had it been-- at that considerable depth? Had it been there always, down in the bowels of Sugarloaf? Is it primordial? Is it ancient?
   But then all water is primordial, is it not? Has not all water been here--or there-- from the Beginning, used, abused, and reused? There is no new water, is there? On this exquisite, watery blue planet.
   Exquisite even when our water, like Hamlet’s king, goes “a progress through the guts of a beggar”. Or, when at home, the heavens load up and  water turns on us with a destroying flood -- in some strange sort or vengeance for I know not what…. Even then.
    I am not a hydrologist and so am free to think these things or whatever else comes up out of the well of my mind about water-- or the creatures who live on it.
   Years ago, visiting Mesa Verde, I saw way back, at the base of the cavern, right at the spot where the dome reached the floor, a seep of water, hardly noticeable to one who in the mountains has seen many such seeps and springs. But this tiny drip, behind the ruin of an ancient Anasazi stone house, was, I was to learn, adequate for the needs of a family. Enough water to drink, enough for cooking, maybe enough for a bit of washing…. It doesn’t take a whole lot, I was suddenly to realize. Sacred water, essential water, beautiful water. Just enough, flowing, dripping, cold and clear, from the stone immemorial. Water, the best companion of our lives.
   We now get our bit of it from our well at Sugarloaf, out of the great aquifer of the planet. I keep wondering if it has always been there? Did we tap into it for the first time? The water is cold, startlingly clear, pure and without stain. The poet W.B. Yeats wrote, over there in watery Ireland, that water is the soul generated. If suddenly the soul, whatever it is or is not, were to turn to substance, it would be water. Water of which we are mostly made and keeps us going, and reconciled to our days and nights.
   And now we own a well of it! “Own?” Perhaps I can own the well, but can I own the water it delivers? I think I borrow the water only for a time and then send it on to be used, abused, and used all over again, somewhere….
   The wondrous thing about water is that it can be purified. It can and has been freshened and used over and over and over, polluted, despoiled, dried up, you name it, and purified yet again. And still it cannot, in its nature, be destroyed. Its purification suggests the purification of the soul. With it we are anointed and blessed.  The evaporation over the vastnesses of the oceans, restores water to its primordial purity. Over and over and over-- until it ends up getting pumped out of that deep and secret bed of quartz at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain and into our very cabin.
    To think of it is to want to drink it. It tastes like… like what? Maybe it tastes like the word, “clarity”. It tastes clear of everything but itself with nothing in it but a wee bit of iron, or so the tests show. It supports good coffee, and a few drops illuminate good whiskey. It’s all-round water, and it thrills me.
   Cost? That first taste of the water was hideously expensive, thousands of dollars. But now that the well is paid for, the water seems to flow for free. It’s mine! Or is it? How can anyone own the necessities of the good earth? Who can properly be said to own them? It feels more like borrowing or renting to me.
   Still, I am glad to “own” this well. I dote on the mystery of it. So much that I cannot see, but only dream of. What can it be like down there where  light has never shone, nor eye seen? Can the quartz be white down there in that absolute  darkness? I feel in some crazy way that the water that flows up those four hundred and one feet to me is indeed the generation of the soul. To me and a trout. Nothing enjoys good, cold, clean water more than a trout. And I have sought the trout in such waters all over the place all over a life-time-- and so am qualified to speak in this way of water, fish, and the angler.
   I post this on Thanksgiving day of 2013 when I am profoundly grateful for our well,

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A New School

    Licensed by age and experience, I have prospected the trout fishing of these Colorado Rocky Mountains and have discovered lodes of high grade angling along the Front Range of Colorado. I feel confident in the claim that the Front Range-- with those who have advanced its angling literature, practice, and gear-- constitutes  an integral and distinguished sphere of angling of national import.   

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Saturday Night in Autumn

    What an autumn! So far, a bit of everything. Flood, shutdown, a bunch of good new movies, The War of the Roses all over TV, soft-ware in the way of the nation’s health, Shakespeare sneaking around, Christmas coming with maybe another shutdown. And, as if all that were not enough, on this Saturday evening in autumn, the CU football team took the field to get trounced again, this time sporting pink shoes, pink gloves and pink accessories! Surely a contest to be remembered in infamy.
   But, Betty and I avoided the worst of that Saturday evening, by sneaking through the homecoming festivities as the score piled up on the pink ladies over in the stadium, to get to quite another sort of event on our beloved old University Hill.
    In the Lutheran church there on Euclid, three stylish real ladies from the Shakespeare Oratorio Society --Shirley Carnahan, Anne Sandoe, and Giulia  Bernardini-- and four members of the excellent Boulder Renaissance Consort, took the stage to deal with a bunch of Shakespeare’s women. Their audience was sparse, but the performance was thick and luscious.
   The three women offered quick, hit-and-run fragments of scenes, speeches from Shakespeare’s grande dames in which they challenge their world-- or are destroyed by it-- all punctuated by bits of antique instrumental music.
   Svelte, unabashed, commanding, all in black, with their authorizing texts in their hands, the women set about causing the place to sing with their steadily intelligent, finely designed, intimate performance.
   I’m glad to say that I have of late come to realize that Shakespeare is a good deal more than the conventional, sit down and watch-em-through productions of his plays. I see now the great dramatist coming at me from every angle. A bit as small as a couple of his words together can set me off into a reverie of another world of experience. I must resist cataloging the myriad ways I now believe that Shakespeare gets to us, even to those who may know nothing of the plays.  Jane Austen has her Crawford in Mansfield Park say:

 Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is part of an Englishman’s constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them everywhere; one is intimate with him by instinct. No man of any brain can open at a good part of one of his plays without falling into the flow of his meaning immediately.

    Perhaps that consciousness is not so vivid with us 200 years later and across an ocean of space and experience. Perhaps I should be worried that this sense of Shakespeare at work in our lives is steadily diminishing -- and I am. But, for the moment, I want to stand with Austen.
    I want to say that on Saturday night, with my hearing loss and my seat where an unfortunate echo developed, I had to fall back on my memory of the words these impressive women were speaking, on my memory of the situations in which the words occur. This said, I sat back and enjoyed a most wonderful spectacle. I watched Shakespeare-- and his characters-- take bodily possession of the women. I saw them bend to the words and heIp each other to sing. I heard it in their bodies. I believe the New Age word is  “channeling”. In any case, something true was going on: Shakespeare in the muscles, in the sinew, in the bone. I might have said, “in the bowels”.
   The words I could not hear accurately became an abstract, a music to my ears that made me want, like Caliban, to sleep and dream to hear it again. I filled in for what I could not hear from the good fortune of my memory.
    The ladies at a stroke took me into the play at hand, opened it up in its fullness in an instant of realization. I needed no more.
    I have spent a lifetime worrying about audiences, every audience, everywhere, what they are getting and what is passing them by; their satisfaction has been my professional responsibility. But, this night, with so few folk to worry about, I decided just to let go and take my pleasure where my instinct led. I deployed my memory of the plays and their unforgettable characters-- with the ladies’ urgent prompting and visual seductions-- and was in their thrall all over again. And only a few hundred yards from where Betty and I  first encountered Shakespeare so long ago.