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Thursday, March 04, 2010


Max pauses to reflect


I had some difficulty visiting my friend in the hospital, since the administrators had initiated a temporary lockdown. She had experienced a serious crash in the backcountry and the communications delay exacerbated her poor condition. St. Luke’s physicians had performed another miracle though; and she was probably going to be okay. However, with the local Hypnotherapist absent, the high dosage of pain medicine they were required to treat her with, made it prudent to keep our visit a brief one.


With this in mind; plus, my still being emotionally torn between Susanne and Lana, it felt like a good time to take the dog for a long reflective walk in the desert.


After we parked at the desolate Picabo turnoff, Bud yipped with delight, as I tied on my hiking boots. We headed east, under cool crepuscular skies, and journeyed to one of my favorite reflecting spots: Chalk Cave. I hadn’t been there since I was a young lad, though I often had thought of this sacred spot during the course of my world travels.


As we walked along, I noticed several baseball-sized orbs of dark gleaming obsidian. In younger years, I might have pocketed one or two of the glass spheres, but my time invested in far-flung anthropological field pursuits, had instilled in me a new degree of respect for indigenous artifacts. Soon; after we passed by what was still a temptation, Bud began digging around the rusted remnants of an old cowboy camp, unearthing a tin of chewing tobacco from 1919. Remarkably, when I cracked open the can; the ancient weed still seemed fresh! To make sure, it felt best to soak it in a thimble of Old Overholt, and then sample a taste.


Boy Howdy! This tobacco was definitely perfect. The spirited buzz started kicking in right as we approached the cave entrance. Showing respect for the bats (this was no place for a cockatiel) I rolled out a high-tech canvas for Bud and me to perch on, outside the small lava tube opening. There was some dry sage around, and I gathered enough for us to warm ourselves near the windy cave entry. As a thankful offering, I tossed a small pinch of tobacco into the modest campfire, and it instantly popped back, with some blue and green fiery sparks. Then, a small smoke cloud, leisurely wafted off the fire, over to the east facing cave wall, where I noticed some uninterpretable petroglyphs above a shelf of crystals. These mysterious writings, brought me back to my extensive studies in Asia, where I remembered discovering that in Chinese, the written symbol for ‘quarrel’ is two women standing under the same roof: Not only that, but the Chinese glyph for ‘gossip’ is three women grouped tightly together.


Why were my ears buzzing? I knew it wasn’t from the fortified tobacco. Now, was supposed to be the appointed time for me to sit down and weigh the important decision about what to do, regarding Lana and Susanne. But I felt so stuck. Should I let indecision be a defense mechanism for a short span, or must I break cave protocol and enter to keep my ears from buzzing, out here in the cacophonous atmospheric elements? Who were the girls talking with right now anyway? And what about? And what of my injured friend, slowly recovering at the closed ward?


Jim Banholzer is a real man who performs real work. As a sideline, he is an itinerant Idaho newspaper commentator, transmogrifying into a blogger. He has not tasted or smoked ancient tobacco this decade, but enjoys writing about it; as well as taking pleasure in unearthing other offbeat Idaho items of interest - imagn’d or not.

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