This is the ninth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”. The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.
When driving on the Medano Pass Primitive Road (four-wheel drive), the Escape Dunes and Ghost Forest can be viewed approximately 1/2 mile up the road. Here, shifting sands have crossed Medano Creek to form new dunes. The “escape” dunes create “ghost forests” where trees die through suffocation and starvation.
So I’ve heard that question a lot. “Can you control it?” The short answer is, “sometimes”. Sometimes I can batten the hatches against before the spigot flow starts. But it takes vigilance and conscious effort. Once the flow starts, it can’t be stopped except by moving away from the source. At least I haven’t found another way.
That’s why I keep moving. At least that’s what I tell myself.
It doesn’t happen with everyone. Some people are closed to me, thankfully. I saw this therapist once. He tried to believe me. He listened and nodded and tapped his pen against his lower lip. When I finished, he leaned forward and said, “Man is the God who shits.”
“Think about it,” he said.
I’ve certainly thought about it over the years, especially after shitting all over someone or being shat upon by life. But it came up again when I walked up into the mountains, away from the main dune field, and came upon an area of escape dunes and the resulting ghost forest. There was a photographer up here, tripod and all, and I sat in the sand and watched him. He was a restless middle-aged fellow, fidgety with his camera gadgets, worried about the sand getting into his various apertures. He had a remote shutter release and he was setting up for a shot down to the dune field from up here in the escape dunes. It was getting late and soon the dunes would explode into an orange umber blaze as the surrounding foothills grew dark. I’ve seen this happen and it’s captured in my mind, this image of something as close to the divine as anything is likely to get.
I approached the photographer cautiously. No ESP flow from this dude. At least not yet.
“I was wondering if you would walk over,” he said. “You live out here?”
“For a few days.”
“Well I’m torn about that. I envy you, of course, being out here away from all the…all the…”
“Worse than bullshit,” he said. “Vitriol. Hate.”
“Sounds about right.”
“But then you also must miss a lot. I mean, most people are still good.”
He finished some final adjustment and made sure the cord for the remote shutter release wasn’t tangled and he stood next to me looking out over the dune field. A few minutes maybe until sunset.
“My wife thinks I’m crazy coming out here all over creation to get pictures of beauty. I suppose some people fish or hunt and they feel this way, but I don’t want to hurt any animals. I need to be out here or out there or wherever. I feel like I hunt this natural beauty. It’s always available. And it’s free.”
“For now,” I said.
“We can create so much. We’re freer than we think. We can move around and think and try to love.”
“But we succumb.”
“Yup,” he said. “We succumb. By commission or omission, we still succumb.”
“Man is the God who shits,” I said.
“That’s pretty pungent. But I know what you mean.”
We watched as it grew dark around us up here in the ghost forest. The dune sea blazed into coral and a fine haze in the air gave everything a dreamy feel. He pushed the button and the camera clicked.