Sunday, October 30, 2005

Joshua makes it outside

While donning the leather boots and rough canvas jacket at the door, (His eccentricity extended not quite as far as his clothing; minus the artful avant-garde hair and the wedge-shaped jaw he closely resembled a Cabella's magazine clothing model, the tireless efforts of fashion wizards having succeeded even in the far-flung regions of mountain grandeur.) he was joined by Ebenezer.
These daily outings were among the few pleasures that stoked the flickering fires of the dog's stoic spirit. The solemn eyes quickened and the tongue lolled out, in between impatient glances up and down at the progress Joshua made lacing his boots and buttoning his jacket.
David Copperfield assumed a lazy, sour-grapes manner as he stretched across the leather armchair in front of the fireplace.
Joshua and Ebenezer stepped outside into an effulgent light that is produced only by the fusion of snow and sun.
However gently Joshua closed the door, the slight jar commenced a small avalanche at the top of the snow-laden blue spruce that stood beside the porch. Joshua stepped out of the way quickly, avoiding all but a little powder, but Ebenezer, the fresh air already oxygenating his wolf-blood, lunged off the six-foot porch and landed in a deep drift, muscles quivering and eyes expectant; mouth widening.
Joshua shook off his coat collar and shoved his hands in his coat pockets, starting down the stairs.
Ebenezer divined Joshua's plan for today's hike, and erupted out of the drift in a geyser of glittering snow and bounded for the lane far below.
He (Joshua) held to a revolving flight plan for their excursions. It was a rigid pattern that allowed for no indulgent deviations, no favorite paths, and its express purpose was to "absorb his natural surroundings." His fondness of nature matched his taste for classical music. Both were environment; background noise. Most of his likes and dislikes were rooted no deeper in his nature than Ebenezer's indoor stoicism was rooted in his. He chose to like and dislike what he felt he should like and dislike. He played Tchaikovsky in the Sony system not because he had ever really listened to the music closely enough to fall in love with it, but because it befitted a small mountain chalet, with a stone hearth, rugged furniture, and large windows.
However, he had lately taken to Vivaldi, having decided that perhaps Tchaikovsky was sometimes over-the-top. The drums and the horns blared melodrama, and he detested melodrama as much as he detested normality. He had forsaken Yanni, a few months back, for the same reason.
Up until something over two years ago, he had roamed the woods in an ATV. In the time since, his outings had taken a turn for the naturalistic. He'd let the four-wheeler go for $4,000, built a small breakfast nook on the end of the kitchen, and taken to walking.
Hiking trails didn't exist this far out, and if they had, they would never have been trod upon by Joshua. The road less traveled was something, in his mind, to be ever sought after. He preferred to plow through the unblazed forest slowly, without being manipulated by an established thoroughfare.
His course today took a southwesterly turn about a quarter mile down the lane. As usual, no open path lay before him, just a small break in the tree line. A four foot high rend in the undergrowth provided an opening underneath a leaning Ponderosa pine into which Joshua, preceded by the intuitive Ebenezer, ducked through.
A few hundred yards in, Joshua stopped and leaned against a thick pine to take in his surroundings.
It was an unrealized addiction, this insatiable thirst for woodland silence.
He grew still, relaxing against the tree, allowing his blood to slow, and his breath to moderate.
No birds, no wind stirred. Even the thrashings of Ebenezer had faded far ahead, muffled by the snow.
The sun had yet to penetrate and the snow hung heavy and frozen on the branches above.
Minutes passed.
His back against the tree, he slowly slid, his knees buckling, until he sat motionless on the ground.
His head tilted back and he gazed up through the spidery network of branches and needles.
Complete and utter quietude rose in his ears, growing to a roar.
Hearkening back to what he had written an hour before, he was unconsciously moved, unwittingly excited, by the stillness. The nothingness accentuated. . . . . .everything.
There was nothing here, nothing but himself. The distractions of daily hermit life peeled off rapidly, dissolving into the smothered forest.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Correction: The whole trouble with sometimes getting carried away with yourself and entertaining the fancy that perhaps your professor in college was on to something when she told you that you write like William Faulkner is that you sometimes get carried away with the fourth of fifth sideline in a run-on sentence and forget the main point of the sentence. The following sentence in the last paragraph should read "He remembered it well simply because of the novelty of it and also because it slightly annoyed him that anyone, less a boy (A boy so discerned because of his unpredictable gait and the suddenness with which he turned aside, walked backwards and in other eager manner, so took in the mountain wilderness, no doubt anxious to stumble upon some phenomenon or awe-inspiring sight to share with his friends back home in the Midwest. That was the trouble with children, they could never appreciate nature for nature's sake. It always had to be something worth telling.) would breach the sanctity of his domain."

And so on . . .

For a long while Joshua had harbored this territorial attitude with complete innocence. It was only at that moment, standing in the kitchen shadows, essentially hiding from a young boy, that he realized it, mulled it over, and accepted it with only a little sheepishness. He was a writer. And what was a writer without a few endearing eccentricities? And so justifying his private turf war, he donned the mantle of the hermit, if only partially. In fact, it became the topic of frequent monologues delivered to David Copperfield, and Ebenezer. The former rarely regarded him with any interest during these tirades, but rather seemed to take it as an invitation to indulge his fondness for bathing. The latter eyed him with a cold stare. In some ludicrous way, the dog sometimes seemed a representative of the small reserve inside his conscience that still clung reluctantly to the dismally cyclical reality he eschewed. With some amount of imagination added, he could swear the blue eyes rolled heavenward every time he complained of even the slightest encroachment of those who exhibited no proper appreciation and therefore had no business trespassing, his un-paved, un-landscaped, and otherwise un-spoiled sanctuary. David Copperfield indulged his outbursts at times by leaping into his lap and rubbing hard against his chest, but he entertained the notion that the aloof Husky served as his silent detractor. And, unconsciously, it became all the easier to ignore the unwelcome voice of reason.
It wasn't that Joshua disliked people.
Or so he told Ebenezer.
A clock on the desk read 9 a.m.
Resignation propelled him off the chair and into the bedroom, a spartan expanse of polished hardwood, antique brick and rough cedar, in search of a coat and a pair of boots.
For the longest time after his solitary adult life had come of age, he had alternated between an orderly chaos and frenetic meticulousness. A deep resentment of domestic duties that plagues both sexes, but afflicts males with a greater severity, fostered perpetual procrastination, until an undesignated amount of time and an undesignated lack of order accumulated, at which time he set about straightening with a grim efficiency. Religious adherence to orderliness followed for a certain time afterwards, in which not a shoe lingered by the front door, and not a wrinkle marred the woven rug in front of the fireplace.
Impulses aren't habitual, however, and as time marched on, preoccupation with more pressing matters, and impatience with even the slightest interruption of any given literary mission flung a coat across the mantel and left kitchen chairs at odd angles with the dining table, and so on and so forth, until the wilderness took back the land.
He had, after five years, hammered out a treaty between obsession and complete disorder.
The deal was tenuous, with occasional aberrations, but a happy medium with a wide margin seemed to have been settled upon. He still went on short binges of radicalism, but the one thing that saved him from being completely given over to fanaticism was the memory of a college roommate, a choleric priest of the goddess of fussiness.
So, if Joshua was an eccentric, reclusive hermit, he was a temperate, eccentric, reclusive hermit, as one might be moderate libertarian, or a middle of the road anarchist.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Chapter 1, cont.

Staring blankly at the screen, he suddenly squinted at the glare that had intensified over the last half-hour without his notice. He swiveled away from the desk and looked out the front window. The sun, after three earlier and feebler attempts had mounted the fog bank that lay low over the mountains to the east and now glared down into the valley, dissipating the icy fog and glistening on the melting frost now dripping from the spruce boughs.
His ambiance thus dissolved, he saved the last three and a half pages, and drained the last of his cider, idly lamenting the loss of the mood-setting weather and the loss of the taste of holiday cheer that resulted when hot apple cider grew lukewarm. At room temperature, apple cider, the official spirit of cold, gloomy mountain mornings, tasted disappointingly like apple juice, a common summer refreshment, and Joshua Hammond felt about summer the way an ice sculptor regarded the advent of an unseasonably warm day in January. In fact, the disregard Joshua felt for the whole world outside the cavernous, rock-slashed, spruce shrouded valley he called home was in quality the same disregard he held for the offending sun now spreading the cataract on the 17" flat panel monitor. Invasive.
Whether the contempt he held for such distant reality was owing to the time he'd spent away from it or the time he'd spent in it was of no difference to him. He didn't care to consider it. He didn't have to. Modern technology afforded him the self indulgence of seclusion he so desired. Joshua earned his keep by the broodings of his melancholic temperament. He bled those pleasantly dark musings onto a computer screen, saved it to a backup floppy, and when the daydreams assumed the rough and appropriately vague form of a story, copied it on a CD-ROM, and sent it off to his editor. Frequent correspondence with said editor arrived via e-mail, via satellite internet. The accommodating satellite was in its heaven and all was right with the world.
Four years not a soul had stepped foot in this cabin save David Copperfield, the whimsical black and some less white feline who scarcely lived up to his name, and Ebenezer, the hulking, morose Siberian Husky who bore the handle of his namesake with astonishing accuracy.
Town was a village, really, of 312, 22 miles down a gravel road. Conventional mail arrived in post office box in the village, and the numerous disciples of numerous gospels peddling their numerous creeds in the larger towns to the west had not yet considered the wild and untamed mission field that lay up the mountains to the east. The only human Joshua had seen broach the 12 miles between he and his nearest neighbor was a boy, of 12 or 14, or so it seemed at a distance of 500 yards, which was the distance between the large picture window in the front room and the gravel lane that wound on past the cabin up the ridge to the south.
He remembered it well simply because of the novelty of it and because it slightly annoyed him that anyone, less a boy, so discerned mostly because of his unpredictable gait and the suddenness at which he swung around sideways and walked backwards, eager to discover some new sight or phenomenon of the mountain wilderness no doubt with which to share with his friends back home in the Midwest. Children had no appreciation for nature simply for nature's sake. It always had to be something worth telling. He also remembered because both his animal companions had been alerted by some inscrutable sound and crowded to the front window just as the boy stopped and gazed up through the smallest opening in the trees that allowed sight between the cabin and the road. For some reason embarrassed, he called both to heel and himself eased back into the eat-in kitchen.