SIT DOWN and Have a Cigar, Already

I was originally introduced to cigar smoking by Tribe brother Steve.  I dabbled then didn’t indulge for years but eventually resumed as a way to help me relax around campfires.  Prior to that I was always getting up to adjust this ember or that, get more fuel, a drink of water, whatever.  Always something.  Smoking cigars helped me focus on the moment and keep my ass on a seat.  Here I am whiling away solo hours (Ty in a sleeping bag in the car) on a frigid March night, at a remote mid-west campsite, March 2006.

Last cigar was on a cave hike, March, 2012, none since.



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Winter Sleet and Peking Duck with Dave

What a stormy night we’re having!  Wind driven rain, occasional lighting and thunder.  I hear the rain hammering at the roof.  I love this weather and tonight it put to mind a late December trip I made to visit my old friend Dave in ’03.  I braved a winter sleet storm for the hour’s drive to visit.  He was an incredible cook, never measured anything, and that night made Peking duck with hoisin sauce.  I’ve lost touch with him as, in retirement, he left to travel the world.  On nights like this, when good food, friendship and conversation are welcome, I feel his absence the more.IM001105Dave shows some of the collectibles in the basement of his restored barn.
IM001087He had downstairs rooms where we never sat.IM001084Instead we were always upstairs in the kitchen or living areas.  Dave was a historical preservationist and a master craftsman at restoring old buildings.  In those days, the barn was one of his passions.  He liked living in a barn because he said they were “warm and fuzzy” places.IM001106aI miss Dave and our times together.  Wouldn’t it sometimes be great to turn back time?

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From a Beach Motel

Ty gazes into the March sun for anything interesting while awaiting our next beach hike. In those days we stayed in motels by the ocean.  As nondescript as the image looks, it’s associated with such fond memories that sometimes I use it as wall paper on my computer.IM007560

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The Opposite of Loneliness

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

- from The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan

I recall having a similar thoughts about the impending end of social community in undergraduate days.  Though in my case, I would never have said it “scared” me.  I reserved words like “scared” for cold war anxiety.  But it did occur to me that the artificial community of college was ephemeral.  And perhaps that’s why so many college grads seem to migrate to big cities afterwards.  It may not be just the jobs.

For me too, seemingly unlike those around me, I understood in a visceral way that college was the ideal time to find a mate.  For me, having unfulfilled that and loosing the “talent pool” from which to draw upon graduation was a the only part that made me apprehensive.  Unlike Keegan, it was the missed opportunity to find a spouse amid the thousands of college females that generated the most unease.

The irony of it is that for me college comprised the loneliest years.  Profound loneliness. My interactions with peers were unlike those of the characters in this somewhat insipid book.  Primarily two things isolated me from other college kids.  Most apparent was my lack of interest in drinking and drugs.  I just couldn’t see the appeal, couldn’t justify the self-abuse.  And yet for “everyone else” the appeal seemed almost universal.  Socially, that was an unbridgeable disconnect.

But the stories in the book underscored the other crucial difference between me and other kids.  I was so self-aware and sure of myself that it made others uneasy.  A woman on whom I had a crush told me as much.  Too confident?   What do you do with that kind of information?  If you question your own confidence, does that make you more appealing?

I’m told I was unusually mature for those years.  My precociousness explains why the only significant opposite gender relationship I experienced during that time was with a 29 year old divorced woman whom I met during summer vacation.  I knew others around me were engaging in sex but for me, superficial connection unappealing.  I desperately wanted to connect, wanted sex too, but couldn’t find others of similar mindset.  During college, others seemed to lack the awareness or ability to connect in an a meaningful way, or out of fear, perhaps they impeded deep connection.  Despite having attended two institutions for five years two obtain two degrees, I have not retained a single friend from those days.

I remain the same person and the themes of this blog are the same passions I felt then.  “Fringe” is how the subject matter of this blog has been described.  And the number of  followers, 350 as of this writing, tells all.  More mainstream blogs accumulate thousands of followers after just a couple years.  And I’m always amazed at the number of comments and “likes” some seemingly innocuous posts garner.  Hundreds.  And I wonder what compels readers to comment on subjects so common.

Though I identify as a warrior and woodsman of sorts, perhaps I’ve got a bit of artist temperament because I always go with what “feels” right.  Blending what’s in Heroes ‘N Pirates feels right even it it doesn’t appeal to the mainstream.  So thanks for joining me, for being a part of the Tribe.  It’s not exactly the “opposite of loneliness” but give me 350 Tribespeople swords and shields, put us in Viking long ships and in Robert E. Howard’s words:

To the outmost roads of the plunging sea
Our dragon ships are hurled,
We have broken the chains of the Southern Danes
And now we break the world.

I’m told it’s not unusual to feel “different.”  Loneliness is amazingly pervasive even in those in relationships and families.  Most of us struggle against various forms of adversity for much of our lives.  For those of you who can relate, for those who feel similar, know you’re not alone.

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The Two Driving Forces

I’d read about and watched big carnivores in my sleep since I was a kid, growing up in a procession of landscapes where such creatures didn’t exist outside zoos.  Rural Maine, where I moved as a college student, learning and honing outdoor skills, still wasn’t far enough.  I’m going to Alaska, I told family and friends.  And I headed straight toward one of the wildest chunks of country I could find on the map: the northwest Arctic, in the upper left-hand corner of the state, hundreds of miles off the road grid – a landscape definded by wolves and grizzlies, and all that came with them.  There was no decision.  I just went…

I went on from there to meet many… wolves and bears over the years, sometimes so close I could have glimpsed my reflection in their eyes, and stood wrapped in their wild scent.  I lived among Inupiaq Eskimo subsistence hunters like Clarence Wood: men with frost-scarred faces, attuned to sensory nuances I could scarcely imagine, steeped in knowledge passed down across generations. – from A Wolf Called Romeo,by Nick Jans.

I’ve always had a similar ambition and my shelves are lined with books on wilderness living.  As an early high school kid I corresponded with Brad Angier and Sigurd Olson, deep woodsmen both.  I still have their letters.  What held me back?  Lifting weights.  The passion for battle and strength was too strong to deny.  The call of the wilderness and my desire for muscle and strength have run neck-to-neck as long as I can remember.

Tattooed and muscular by a fire in a remote spot, snoozing dog in the background. For me, life doesn’t get better.

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At Home

A remote spot with a small brook and a fire, I’m at home.  I could fall asleep and stay there forever.DSCN1123a

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Winter Prep

It’s that time of year again and I had three cords needing to be stacked in the backyard. I used a wood cart designed and built by my dad.  Its wheel is the doughnut spare tire of a car.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever used to haul wood by hand.IMG_0159It seems as though Mak is forever alone.  So after stacking for an hour, I went in the house, made a bed of blankets, put his coat on him and brought him out to join me.  Here he was on his bed, anchored to a couple cinder blocks, with his face to a small fire I kept burning as I stacked. It was to be the only campfire of the weekend.  I checked him periodically to make sure he wasn’t shivering, felt his ears and under his coat.  Though curled up tight, he held up fine.IMG_0158I used a small hand axe, larger than a hatchet, to split wedges with which to stabilize the pile.  Incidentally, those shmancy gloves aren’t intended for work.  They’re rabbit fur-lined dress gloves I discovered while cleaning out my parent’s house.  They were moldy and gross but instead of throwing them away, I’ve put them to use.  And behind me is the lawnmower, still with the mouse nest undisturbed.IMG_0161Tending the fire provided a little break while working.  The smell of wood smoke is one of the finest things in life.IMG_0166I worked about three hours then made myself stop and took 2 naproxen for my shoulders. Got a bunch done but more pile awaits future weekends.  Working with cord wood, though bad for my body, is one of the few home chores that appeal to me.  As Jack said today, “I like the feel of the wood, like bringing a pile into the house, I like the smoke, like the way the house feels with wood heat.”  It’s a lot of work but heating with wood is the best.IMG_0164

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How Long Are “Dogs'” Nails in the Wild? – Roadtrip Leads to Discovery

After a long day of travel and hiking, Ty catches a few Zzzs in a mid-western motel, March 2006.DSCN0869Next day, lulled by road hypnosis, his face wrinkled against the rental car as he took a snoozer from copiloting.DSCN1284_2We were heading east, a Native American pow wow on public radio, when I spotted a recently killed coyote on the shoulder.  Though I always run the risk of heavy grieving when seeing a dead “dog,” I was too curious, had never seen one up close.   The road was empty, I backed up and put Ty on his line.  He was as curious as I.DSCN0878_2DSCN0881Since Ty totally hated having his nails done, I had to know – how long are canine nails in the wild?  At least for coyotes in the heartland, they’re exactly this long:DSCN0884_3It was very sad, I think I might have cried, but it was worth it.  It was a beautiful animal. Though neutered, Ty too thought it was worth it.  Back in the car his mouth quivered and champed for the next mile as he indulged his Jacobson’s organ and dribbled saliva in the rental car.

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Life Gets Even Better

It was a few weekends back.  Mak and I had been on a bit of a hike and upon our return, he took a drink of water and, when I opened the deck door and put his bed out there, he came out for a bit of sunning.  May as well, these warm days are dwindling.IMG_0051Life was pretty good for him then.  We’d hiked, he pooped, had some water and, if memory serves, a bit of cheese.  But dad had something else up his sleeve, something that would make sun-dozing Mak perk right up and come alive…IMG_0054cropRawhide!IMG_0062IMG_0063

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In My Kingdom…

Back when I had a body, November 2002.IM006893

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