Made for close reading
together or alone -
but always simply enjoyed
If haiku is simple
then simple is haiku -
haiku is the good life
Ignorant gods
hop on tined feet
poking for the worm
Don't you see
your eyes are inside-out?
says the blind man
Can't you hear
that the Song smiles?
says the deaf man
Twinkling eyes
looking down -
night-sky's empty crown
Blinking eyes
looking up -
I'm mirrored in the cup
Earth's body & meat
we leavened with feet -
to drown in heat?
Lonely leaves
at midnight's hush


A man lay downtrodden, blackened & scorned,
Prostrate at the empire wall;
He poured himself out, like meal to the mill,
And the universe, cold, watched him fall.

He blanched at dissentors, soldiers, and chiefs,
Strew ashes out over the crown;
He silently cried as he bled & he died,
Late whispering unto the ground:

"The stars are immaculate eyes of god,
Their photons a sacrament rain;
Naked are we, his stray organs, arrayed -
The infinite cut into twain.

We are the piecemeal fruits of a season,
Skins pulverized, bludgeoned & blue;
Puppets plucked up from our root & our vine,
Bereft of the bed where we grew.

I saw the casualty rot in his couch,
The dead left the dead to their dogs;
And the river flowed down, irridescent & brown,
Full of bodies, dollars, and cogs.

On the slate-soiled back of our globe we're borne round,
Cursed to travail the black night,
Bound to repeat the cruel orbit once more,
As we plummet to the pupil of light.

We fly to our common center,
Our vessels fallen & frail,
But I look to the sky, for I know we are nigh,
And reflecting star glory, prevail."


Dear you,

My apologies for letting these spaces lie dormant. I've found myself caught up in the tangles of employment and have had trouble setting out a time for writing. Reading has presented a more ready temptation to me. Books play on the same creative parts of the brain but don't necessarily require the heavy intentionality of writing.

All those nights at work, I let my mind wander and nursed ideas till they were made ripe. My nights have sprouted so many of these that I am simply swelled with them and must soon pour them out somewhere. I wait now for the proper moment.

April first will begin another trip, this time over to and up the coast. Its purposes will be different from those preceding it. I will be given over more to writing and reading than I will to riding and its vestments. These latter will certainly, inevitably, follow and will not fall outside my sight. But they will be secondary, watched with a fond love in the dim light on the borders of sight, my eyes set before me or set inward to whatever is inside.

My hope is to have the manuscript of a book produced in rudimentary form by the end of the summer. I have no plans for it beyond that but to develop it and mold it into what shape seems best to me. I give you no prediction as to when it will finally satisfy me. That would be asking too much and much too soon. I can tell you, however, that until it does satisfy me entirely, no further weight will be put on it than that of the light from my own lamp.

This is the last and final post. I wish I'd had more time to finish the story I've begun. Winter days are too short. I thank you all for every word of mine you've read, and hope that somewhere through these phrases and photographs you've found something reassuring or invigorating which lightened the darkness inside and overhead.

Your friend,

The End


Powell and Cody, Pt. II

 At five John figured he'd done enough work for the day. We got into his car and he took me about the town, showing me what was there to be seen. Cody was once a town of the west, I mean the authentic west before it became a parody, but now it was all fake gun shows, cowboy cutouts, shops, and tourists.

The main road west leads through a vast gorge, then a reservoir, and at length to Yellowstone. He took me to the reservoir, not having seen it himself that year, and drove us by the water, “Would ya look at how low that is! You see the dark sediment marks on the rock? That's how high it should be. Never seen it that low before.” The yellow-sided mountains were like pillars in the water, propping the sky and cradling the canyon. Waves of the green water brushed against their base with never a thought for time. Rattlesnake Mountain curled its sharp precipice up to the north, peeling away from the earth as it sloped on the horizon. We turned back and John took us south of town to show me “quintessential Wyoming.” The land changed. Vast, yellow hills and dry plains expanded under the sky. Everything was desolate but full, in want of no person or thing – it was complete in itself.

We turned around on the empty highway and went back to the town, driving into the cul-de-sac of his friends' who'd be keeping me until my package came in. They accepted me like a stray cat, welcoming and feeding me when circumstance had left me on their doorstep. Pete and Kelly had been tossed about by the whims of fancy in years past, working fish and games jobs across the country, retaining few enough belongings to pack into their truck and set out. Now they were settled and had a son, Micah. His head was blond and soft eyed; his mien was clear and sweet, pouring the bliss of boyhood into whatever vessel he could find. At the end of supper outside on the picnic table, he slid off the bench. His nose runny from the salsa and chips, he wiped it across his arm and looked up patiently at his mother, “Can I go to the horses now? I'm all done.”

“Yes, now you can,” she said. She and Pete looked at him with admiration in their eyes.

He ran across the yard, stepped carefully around the water canal by the fence, and slipped through the gate. A horse stood nearby with its head in the brittle weeds, chewing. He took tentative steps toward it, resisting his instinctive eagerness in order to not scare the horse or himself for that matter. He moved his arm slowly toward it and placed his hand on its nose. The horse took no notice of him. It dipped its head to chew on a fresh strand of weed. Micah pulled his hand away by impulse at its movement, struggling to balance his fear and his adoration of the beast.

Days went by like this, with the Wyoming summer offering hints of what was waiting. In the mornings, by the window above my bed, I'd find deer lying in the grass, their heads held up to the rising sun. The males' horns were fully splayed; they were kings more worthy of the earth than me.

My bike slept against the sidewall of the house; my bags waited to be packed up again and run over the land. A beatific vision went on all the time, hidden by the Absaroka mountains, inside Yellowstone. It goes on as if nothing's ever changed, as if everything hasn't been broken. All in its borders is sacred. Holy mountains and woods, with elk, deer, or bison past every tree, pool, and rock, sometimes carrying out their mystery lives in the open, rummaging over the evergreen land, picking flowers with their mouths, passing on transcendent sights to the sad, ignorant eyes of our devoided age. All of it waited past the mountains that laid on the horizon, and my mind itched for it. But I couldn't act as if there weren't just as much wonder in the deer that rested by the window, or the owl which perched in the tree each evening sending its hoots out like drops into water, or the presence of these kindest people who knew the world and loved it. But my hungry imagination itched all the same, working its way west, perpetually west.

I made one trip during my stay there, taking a road that led southwest from Cody, into a valley of farmland. The balers were plowing across the fields. Trucks that were made to move hay sputtered on the roads, either hauling full loads off to wherever they were to be stacked and stored, or speeding by, empty as they rushed about to find a burden. There rose a monolith from the valley, a tower of stone plunging upward from the center of a hill of tumbling scree. It was called Castle Rock, standing sharp and resolute, isolated from the mountains which lay bulging behind. The Shoshone river slipped by between the road and the rock, its broad, brown stream trickling on. Passing into the branches and leaves growing on the river's stone beach, I glimpsed the white fur of mule deer's backside. It had drank at the water as its progenitors did before it, all those generations now past, individuals who had birthed, weaned, struggled, and forced themselves into perpetuity through the stern body of this deer that now fled into the bush. I looked around and felt strange, as if I'd been running in a circle since the day I was born.

On the fourth day my package, a camera lens, had come to the post office. I spoke with Pete and Kelly in the kitchen that morning as they readied themselves for work. They'd given me a buffalo summer sausage and a roll of crackers and cheese the night before and put them in a plastic bag. Kelly voiced her concern for me one last time before they left. I packed my bags after they'd gone, prepared my bike, and shut the door tightly behind me. Then I mounted my bicycle and made my way through the noontime streets, arriving downtown to retrieve my package. The last thing was to check if John was at his shop to receive my final goodbye. He was away, but I talked to the owner at the desk who promised he'd tell John I'd come to see him.

My road led through town and wound uphill, going northward into a stretch of plains. The mountains tarried along at the edge of barren fields. Foothills gradually bubbled up beside the road, their slopes forming stacks which rose in zigzagging layers until finally they blocked the sun. A valley, filled with cyan sagebrush and wild grasses, fell in on my right, inching up to the feet of Heart Mountain. I'd seen the shape of this mountain since before coming to Powell; now I was coming to it. The valley slopes built until reaching the two nobs of the mountain's crest. These nobs jutted up and out like the front and rear of a horse's saddle.

Farther on, stacks of immense mountains rose up on both sides with the road running like a black river in their trough. The valley was in shadow, the mountainsides tinted blue by the light of the sky. Cows were grazing on the lower parts of the mountains, looking like scattered black ants. The last sunlight dropped off lending a dim purple to the fold of clouds that floated among the mountaintops. The shades of blue deepened on the banks and then faded to dark against the pale light in the west. All light from the sun was quenched before the stars unfolded across the sky, beginning in the east and moving slowly across. Every star was a pinhole poked through the great bed sheet of night, which was pulled over half the world. The blazing glory of god shined through those holes and light filled the sky like a wild snowstorm. Only the mountains were unaffected. Their silhouettes loomed; their void shadows hung against the starlight. Maybe they're gods themselves.

In their shadows I slept, rising early in the morning before the sun. It was a chill predawn and it ran through me as I rode. Everything was pallid as if a haze pervaded the air. The mountains broke to the west, opening upon an expanse which reached to the horizon. Every detail was smoothed by the intervening air; the features of the buttes and the bluffs were cast in a softened blue. I sat in the pebbles beside the road with my arms draped over my knees and watched as the sun rose. It was a sharp point of orange at first, then a sliver on the bluffs. The circle rose, and filled in completely as it surmounted the edge of the earth, giving shadow and form to the valley as it cleared away the sense of dullness from me and everything else. Heat from the light poured onto me. I lifted my bike up onto its tires and got back on and started to pedal. The road turned, leading me away from the valley and into the mountain's core.


I just read a book about writing. Hopefully my posts will be more clear from now on! Hopefully.

Photograph albums: 12,  3, and #4.


Powell and Cody, Pt. I

 Man, curious man, you were once that which lifted your eyes over the rock, stood like a statue and watched as the swallows nestled or flew like sparks from holes in the sandstone slabs. There was no road, no path, just a jumbled landscape of stone and desert. You left a thin trail in the dust when your foot left the soil on the riverside. It stayed for a moment until wind and weather scraped your traces from the dirt. Only a few light feet wandered this way before, abandoning the isolation and loneliness that everyone felt when together. You listened to the stories spun round the fire, and something floated ephemerally through the spaces between the words and thought, evaporating in the smoke as it went to the stars. There is a bigger thing about than us, a thing that heeds only to a deeper insight than vision or sound or touch can relate. Your eyes have never beheld it. But if sought by the grasping will, its presence was affirmed, but it was not known. Never would it be known. You go in search of it however you can. Every pilgrimage gives something new. This is what made you leave: to find it and to feel it. The hints of the stories were fleeting like smoke, but to witness that thing for a moment was to transcend being and time, to affix yourself in eternity.

The swallows and clouds farther up flit about my head while I rode, thinking all disconnected thoughts, the question 'how soon will the town come?' floating beneath the rest. Powell was ahead of me somewhere. My dad had told me that his friend John lived there, friend from the California days when they'd worked for a theater outfit together. I'd apparently met him in my third winter, but I couldn't recall it now. So much is lost in the haze of childhood. They used to poke around in the subgroups of post-60s San Diego, figuring out what God was and doing whatever asceticisms they thought they needed to at the time.

A river passed under me with an irrigation canal running from it, branching into the dry fields before a bend in the road brought me into the ramshackle lines of the town's first buildings. I settled into silence at the town's library to write while waiting for John to ring on my phone. Somehow he couldn't get through and thought to try calling the library. A girl came up to me while I sat there typing, “Are you Nathaniel? You have a call at the desk. Somebody named John?” I followed her and picked up the phone where it lay on the counter.

He'd be home from work later on and had told me he would call me on my phone this time. It had rained sometime, and puddles were left in the streets. I pedaled my bike around and found an empty park at which to read at a sheltered table. Gray and blue clouds were mixing above, their layers shifting against one another. A sudden, powerful wind heaved the air east and grew wild, blowing rain on me. Shielding my eyes with my arm, I moved to the leeward side of a shed to keep from the weather. The sun was wiped away, and a constant rhythm of rain rapt against the shed's wooden panels. I sat in the grass and waited.

Across the street, a man in a fenced corral trod with a horse, hunched forward, tilting his hat against a cyclone whipping dust high about them. He went on with his chore. The rain faded, leaving the howl of rushing winds through the empty streets. Filings of gold settled to the bottom of the clouds and, for the briefest moment, the color was taken on by all the town, as if it came from somewhere within. Through the skin of the trees as they waved, and the grass, the light posts, the shimmering streets and the homes, I saw everything like some forgotten ideal.

Daylight darkened and the town faded away. Still there was no call. I took up my bicycle and walked it to the street, ready to find a discrete place nearby to sleep. I looked down the street. The headlights of a car, reflected in the puddles, turned and came toward me before slowing to a halt at the curb. From the window a man's voice hollered, “Nathaniel?”

I jogged up to the car. John's face was in darkness. He explained to me, “I guess I still have a digit wrong in your number! I thought I'd drive around, keeping an eye out. I just asked myself, 'Where would I go on a rainy night?'” He said he'd drive slowly so I could follow to the house. “I assure you, you are welcome. Stay as long as you need.”

In the morning I stayed in the blankets for a moment, drifting back from sleep to the soft sound of a guitar in a far room. John was strumming out chords, placing his lyrics to their notes as he wrote. He seemed pleased when I had come out of my room, and he took me to the kitchen, waved me into a chair at the table and set two muffins on a plate before me. I could see him clearly now in the morning light, with his soft, obliging face. A stoicism, that time will teach to some, ran beneath his casual humor. We sat in adjacent chairs talking. His wife, Holly, entered the room briefly before leaving to her job for the day. She had gone about the kitchen returning a few dishes to their rightful places and had wiped the counter tops with a towel in a calm, if somewhat removed, manner. Through each evening I'd come to know her son, CJ, over supper, an articulate dark-haired boy of about my age.

John was telling me memories of my father which had been stirred to the surface of his mind recently, just now shed of their dust. He recounted stories, the events of which had swayed my own formulation even before my birth. They had the import of my own experiences, only once removed. After all, we're nothing but tapestries woven of our parents' fabric. I was grateful to hear and to try to understand, but the time soon came for him to depart. There would be more opportunities to learn. I returned to the room and fell onto the bed in the quiet, empty house, staring up at the white of the ceiling. In this quiet I spent the next few days, writing, before I moved onto Cody.

On the final day, John took me into Cody with him. A package would be delivered to the post office for me, and I had to wait until it was. With my bike disassembled in the rear of the car, he parked at the store's back door. It was a boot store on the main street strip downtown. He walked before me, guiding me in and showing me his work area. Leather scraps were strewn on the floor, brushed to the foot of the walls. Cowboy boots stood in lines, set on the floor in pairs with tags, waiting for repair. Some drooped or were tarnished; others were hardened and cracked by stirrups and the trudging through the dirt of ranches. John shuffled between the machinery and stands, carving soles, or gluing and nailing fresh heels, working his hands efficiently over the leather and stitches, instructing me in whatever he was doing as he went about it. While he spun a knob, pressing a pair of black boots in a vice, he fell into a rhythm of work and began talking about other things. He deviated from boots to the philosophies of Nietzsche and the other “dead philosophers”, who were trying to feel their way in the dark, as he saw it. That's what we're doing, groping in the dark. The mast is open, and there's a dark sea in every direction, but we don't know what fantastic thing might be swimming right below us.

Photograph albums: 12,  3, and #4.


Big Horns and Emptiness, Pt. II

 I continued on my way like this, without bounds to contain me, and found myself trailing farther along the foot of the mountain (but the mountains were everywhere, and everything), and the motorcycle man's sputtering engine withdrew into the depths of forever. The sun cast the shadow of the mountain creeping along once more. It curled round the bend of the earth 'til piercing the sky's lobe opposite where it fell, and pulled up from an envelope of colors, to blaze white heat on all existence.

Through the trees, I drifted into Sheridan, and sifted onto the packed streets of the city, out and about, seeking a place to fill water and get on once again. The place was bursting at the brims with people in creamy ten-gallon hats, and girls in western skirts, all for the annual rodeo just like Lemmon, South Dakota had been. It was bigger here, though, and there were more streets and sidewalks to be filled than that other small and sincere town. All the bustling made me want to hurry to the long climb ahead. I traversed a winding twelve miles through the town, arcing from edge to edge like a lost tangent, always trailing a line of cars. Finally I found the road that was supposed to lead me out. It was a dusty dirt lane going twenty miles northwesterly. I stopped on the edge of the asphalt and stood there, eyes half-open to the pale mountain, and felt like crying.

On the porch of a little white house beside the road, two ladies I hadn't seen sat, rocking in chairs, tending to a drifting conversation. They witnessed me in all my pathetic troubles and gracefully called out. I sauntered up and they were kind enough to answer my question, telling me the interstate was in fact the only paved way out. They waved me on my desultory way, with four sweating bottles of water, to jostle a final path across town. Once more, past the rodeo grounds and the endless shuffling march of cowboy boots, and I'd reached the interstate, which would turn and eventually take me to the mountain's chopping straits.

In the dirt at the foot of the on-ramp stood a kid, shirtless, and skinny, looking like a limp, tattooed noodle. His thumb probed the air, hitchhiking, or trying to anyway. A stream of cars and trucks drove right past him, drivers' eyes peeled intently to the sunlit road ahead, leaving him unacknowledged and without a glance of pity.

“I had another bag, but I lost it,” he told me, and thus he had no shirts. I stood over my bike behind him, trying not to interfere with his ride seeking. “I think the tattoos might be scaring off all the rides.” He seemed to have lost all hope, like he'd been fully spent from a lack of other avenues. All my shirts had been worn to the point of putrefaction, but I gave him what I could.

“They can't smell you from the car anyway,” I said, trying to hide my embarrassment.

“Oh, it'll help. I really just want to start walking the highway, though. You think the coppers'd care? I don't wanna get picked up by the cops. I may not be welcome,” he said this last with a vacant shake of his head, wide blank eyes pasted to the ground. How long had it been since he'd slept? His was not the easy way.

Day's heat kept on beating down. A guy standing exposed like this was likely to boil. I passed on to him one of the water bottles I'd been given, then rode on up the ramp, with his call trailing me, “You take it easy,” as he returned his tired face to the procession of blind vehicles.

Half a mile on, in the shoulder of the opposite way, a pony-tailed cowboy in Hawaiian shirt, wielding cowboy hat and shades against the sun, sat propped atop his bags, bearing a sign in his hands which read:


in black letters. I took heed and made signs to him with my hands, yelling, trying to ask him if he, too, could use some water. He came sprinting across all four lanes and the grass median, cardboard placard waving wildly at his side. He hadn't understood me. “I've got water, but none cool like this!” he told me with exuberance, “This is great.” The blessings of the ladies had been three-fold, now bestowed to all the town's wayward pilgrims, shaking through the Arabian day like beaten chaff on a threshing wind. The guy turned and sprinted back across with a yelp of “God bless you, man!” his loose shirt flapping.

There the trees came and the plains between me and the mountain stretched out, and I felt the land. We're all on some kind of hajj, waiting to be carried off by whatever swift stream of eternity might be sent, meant to uproot us. For some it fully requires a flood, breaking the banks and stripping the soil from our foundation. We all stand like trees, pleased to keep our supply of the transcendent trickling into our roots from underground, feeling firm and fertile without necessarily wetting the feet. It's just those rare, solitary ones who bob precariously with wide eyes on the water's edge so meaningfully, when they stare out on the white, froth in such an unsettling way, groping and churning at it, simply trembling for the singular moment to come when they shall be bound away and submerged up to the mouth, nearly drowned in the pain and rapture of holy bliss. They are the ones who stir the vision that, in apathy, had nearly solidified before you, and it's then that you see what's really going on. It's then that you realize all the sublimely hectic motion that's filled your distracted eyes all along. I wait for these people all hours, for their willfulness strikes me like a force, rouses me, and tells me “Now's the time! Jump!” and they take me twisting into the unknown, bound forever wherever we ought, purified before the divinity, screaming to the water Epictetus' words, “I am of the same mind; I am one with Thee. I refuse nothing which seems good to Thee. Lead me whither Thou wilt!”

The slopes pushed and pulled me, rushing me onto the heights. I wound against the road's current until, finally, I could see its coils rising up like a flat black snake, being woken and filled on the mountainside. The morning air was hot again and cloudless, the tendrils of the sun sweeping on the valley pitch. I rose and pressed on with exertion to the inclining switchbacks of the mountain flanks. Sweat spilled all down my back, so I removed my shirt and draped it over my neck, wiping my wet face with its sleeve. To my left, chains of motorcycles burred over the asphalt, pilots bearded and goggled; on the right, a metal rail guarded me from the sheer drop which poured down the range's slope. Nothing could keep me from the top. I was Moses, summoned to the peak for divine rites, inflamed hedges guiding at every turn.

I'd be hard-pressed to overstate the dwarfing I felt, carving the side of that mountain. Every incremental moment, tramping across the country, had been the accumulated bursting forth of everything that had come before it, and how much more so at the passage of a mountain. From where I was now, with a mere glance to the east, all the distance of weeks past unfurled like a receding fog, revealing what had been done. This was the ramification of thousands of miles compiled. It's easy to see why the gods speak from the pinnacles. Things become so obvious, trivial, stripped small in this context. This was Mount Sinai or Zion, Mount Olympus or Mount Ida, Mount Haku-san, Fuji, and Tate-yama together, Hara Berezaiti, Mount Kailash or Mount Meru, all of them stacked up (because, remember, the holy mountain is everywhere). Here stood the axis of all, the source and the funnel, the flourish and the end of everything.

Its folds pulled me in. For two days I rode between them, the grounds laden with forest. Pale barren lakes of meadows stood isolated in swaths and dispersed, all stretching over the plateau's undulating surface like a decorated sea in suspension. When the meadows spread up to the roadside, the dim greens, as seen from a distance, gave way to a prism of coloration. Wildflowers appeared from what once seemed plain: variations of violet, yellow, azure and white all quivering and throwing themselves upward from the grasses to the sky. And the sun fell slowly behind the boundless ridge, drenching the solitary peaks in orange. A dim, cloud-lit sky was streamed through with the shifting hues of a rainbow face, the rotation of colors rolling west. The clouds burned in heed of the lowering light, and paled.

At the pass, I paused. I'd been stopping all along, at whatever sights caught me, but here I could look on all of what lay ahead. This was the other edge of the mountain, inclining to the west. There was snow still, in drifts on the highest slopes, white against brown stone, trickling pure crystal drops. Swelling within me was all the same as before, when I'd gazed from the mountain's opposite side to the past, but this view was to be contemplated with the gravity of the yet-to-be-decided. I stood my bike alongside the rail and sat, and breathed, eyes closed. Over the mountain's utmost brim came a chill wind, giving a thin whistle to the ear like the flute of some spirit crouched on the hillock behind me, sending his song quivering to whoever might hear. The thin air filled me up. I couldn't ask for more than any of this if there were any more to be had.

Distance seemed to radiate from me into infinite regressions below. The land wrapped past the horizon, bottomless lengths sloping away, circling fully round the planet's circumference, and rising up to this peak from its opposite side. The earth's a teardrop, not a sphere! Steeped in so much haze and volume of air, it could almost have been that nothing laid below, and this was simply a mountain-tip floating on the sky. But in the dim curvature of the earth, everything could faintly be seen. There, far away and barely traceable, the mountains of Yellowstone merged to the sky. Each lonesome speck between me and that distant ridge, reduced to appropriate size, neared what it truly was. When you see something from far enough away, all its unique features fade, and it becomes a smooth part of the folds around it. We float around on the surface thinking we're something we're not. Together, we're something greater.

A minivan turned off the road and parked. Out of it came a family, but for one child who stayed behind. They walked to the edge nearby to look out. “Pret-ty neat,” said the mother, hands on her sides looking over the edge for a second, to the end of the earth. They all shuffled back into their seats and resumed their way.

I returned to mine, too. With a bandana on my face, glasses, and hood on, I trailed the winding road down. Flying with full velocity, cold air burning at my cheeks and tears streaming, I came off the mountaintop to begin my wandering in the desert.

Photograph albums: 12,  3, and #4.


Big Horns and Emptiness, Pt. I

 Heavy blue cloud bottoms dangled in the spilt sky. From the side of a mountain, the curving spectrum of a rainbow disseminated itself into the sprinkling raindrops as I emerged into the sun. The asphalt was dark and wet. Faded beer cans and cigarette boxes lay moist in the weeds of the roadside. As the clouds thinned and the air dried, the sweet scent of rain lingered on the fields.

A pond, refreshed after the shower, lay at the bottom of a slope by the road shoulder, with the roots of trees and shrubbery dangling on its glassy banks. Bustling bugs skimmed over the water, the footprints of them cast on the surface in discrete, shivering rings. Reflected in the rings were the clouds, retreating into the sky beyond the pale, green hills, hills, raised on either side with the road rolling between them. They had an alpine appearance, reminiscent of mountains, but the Big Horn range was too far for these to be foothills. All the same, somehow the old, overgrown scree tumbling down their sides, with their brims capped by a dark rooftops of evergreens, and the clouds clearing beyond them running like the mists of a recollected memory, was an echo of something greater, something dominant and immense, something unfathomable in the feeble shallows of a mind.

Gillette approached as I came from the north. My wheels crawled up a hill on its sidewalks as the road transitioned from countryside fields to the grass that's cut short. All the town spread out before me, opening up with the highway threading east-west through the needle hole of the city's middle, mingling among the fabric of the little brown buildings. This town exuded the color brown and seemed to say something of the quiet industry which tilled at its borders, sucking oil from the depths of the land to siphon to the rest of the dry country. Pumpjacks stood crowded in the fields with perpetually nodding heads, looking like dippy bird toys with a never ending thirst (because that's simply the nature of these things).

I went about the streets, refreshing my supplies for a while. Combustion and hustle that accompanies urban spaces went on in the open alleys and on the asphalt of every lot, not like in the density of a big city, but as in the sprawling epicenter of a vast rural region. All the land about here was unoccupied, this being the sole hub of a thinly sown wheel. The sun's orange light streamed over the surface of everything, igniting the streets and walls. I fell to the highway which pulled me with the rush of an evening river to feed on dry lands, and into the mountains, to be fed on in turn.

To the east, the sky deepened and the last pink drained from the far clouds. A jagged, white line heaved across the western horizon, the Big Horns' broad peaks dripping into the blue earth below, snowcapped and stalwart in midsummer, standing bright and wide against the wavering hues of dusk. It has a tangible power that fills and commands, that required my reckoning just as the night required my finding a hiding place and making it my bed. It would take another two days of riding, but I'd be driven by the mountains all the while like a nail into my sheath, to my intended post on the mountaintop.

The beauty of mountains is that even as trim, distant things, they are as overwhelming as anything could ever be. They approach slowly and patiently, never rushing a moment, but accepting time as it is. And they know time. They know it more clearly than anything our senses are able to describe to us. We have only an acquaintance with time, whereas the mountains have a kinship. I approached the Big Horns, slowly, but without hesitation. They had something I wanted.

Networks of loose, dry canyons tumbled down from the shallow-rooted grass along my way. The edges of the canyons raised me and dropped me into a valley before the entrance to the mountains, like the withdrawal of water preceding a wave, which you know will pound you to the sandy floor, but your insides fear and love it. The nimble waves of Lake De Smet pummeled a shore by the road, and I stopped to bathe, at the point where I could enter farthest from the querulous eyes of beach goers. Then I went on again, my skin chilled against the zenith sun, north toward Sheridan.

I rode over and between the true foothills now. Processions of pronghorns straddled the shaded open curves. In the groves of slender aspens, shaking in the glens, strode hazel does paralyzed by my passing or struck to pace, fading like wisps into the branches. The shadow of the mountains slowly wandered over us, casting every part of every thing in a thin blue glaze.

 A yellow butterfly lay torn on the side of the road. The wind flowed around it, causing the wings to flutter on its still body, spurring it into some obscure form of life in death. From around a bend came a sputtering sound, ushering the emergence of a man's form on a motorcycle from the line of trees. He came toward me in the opposing lane, strapped with leathers, opaque goggles on his face, blowing through the air. All the experiences that had ever passed through his eyes were hid behind those lenses. Something tripped in my mind that moment, a dormant revelation springing forth from deep recesses, where it had probably been quietly watching since my birth for the singular sliver in time to expand within me and overflow into everything I knew, and had ever known, or would yet know.

Everything happened simultaneously. All the distance between me and the figure of the man on the motorbike seemed instantly to collapse. I recognized an eagerness in the creases around his stretched mouth, and in the way he leaned forward, heaving himself to the distance like the entire span of the world couldn't come soon enough. There was a commonality, a unity even, in our profuse lives, in everyone's life. This was the moment when everything fixed became fluid and melted together. My mind opened up, reaching out with innumerable spectral limbs, and perceiving, in him and the thin air that hung between us, the truth which resides at the core of everything.

Every atom is hardly anything at all; all the things in physical existence are practically empty space (and who knows if the physical part's are even real?). All the emptiness I'd ever perceived was actually the fabric of everything; everything was effectively nothing at all. The space that stretched between me and the motorcycle man, between the trees and the mountains and everything else, no more separated one from the other than it did join us all together, and it's only a sad ignorance that keeps a body isolated from anything else. A body's just emptiness, anyway, just emptiness walking through emptiness, more nothing than something. We're each like the buttes or the mountain peaks, merely raised points in a continuous blanket of being, but we imagine that we're somehow distinct from the rest.

Me and everything else stretched together in that moment like taffy. The spaces didn't stretch between us, but stretched one into the other. Everything was me, and I was everything. I was a consciousness adrift. I was the motorcycle man going the opposite way, the opposite way being no different from my own, and my way being just as much his. And I was the ways themselves, no longer bound to a body on a bicycle. Everything was a puzzle falling together, the lines disappearing, and the fact becoming plain that there never were any lines, and no pieces, either, just the infinite tableau of everything at once. It was all an illusory cycle. The surface of the undifferentiated whole appeared on its surface to ebb and flow, but it was only a trick of the eye and the mind. All my superfluous motion these days was a stillness in reality, and the stillness of the mountains was perpetual motion. I wasn't really going anywhere, and the mountains already knew eternity. I was where I wanted to be and could never be anywhere else.

Photograph albums: 12,  3, and #4.