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Cliff Time


Lake City, Col.

I do like to sit on the cliff in the morning.

On the one hand, midges like to hover there also, in towering columns of thousands. On the other hand, this is not Texas, where each of these insects would be a bloodsucking pest out to turn you into something from Night of the Living Dead. Insects in high Colorado are either mild mannered, or slow, and either way dealing with them doesn't involve trauma. A few squashed flies might disagree, but they are strangely silent.

Midges pay no more attention to me in the morning than if I were a rock. They will adulterate my coffee sometimes, which is annoying. Occasionally they will descend in a solid cloud around my head, but it's not personal. They have their own agenda, and pay me no mind. A few waves of the hand, and they'll happily move over a couple of feet.

They are attracted to an open wound, though, a fact I discovered on my first day here, when I cracked my head open on the header of the door frame in the trailer.

Thousands of black dots hover there randomly, moving forward and back in synchrony, forming a coherent cloud that varies constantly in density. There have been columns 8 feet tall and 3 or 4 feet through, and globular clusters up to 6 feet or so in diameter. Seen clearly against a cloudy background, they can be hypnotic, forming in the viewer a moving mimicry of mind, a kind of Brownian emotion, in which images and thoughts and feelings combine and fly apart and recombine. Sometimes it even threatens to make sense.

It's a lot like looking into a fire.

Surprising order in random ordinary things has given me a lot of pleasure lately. Yesterday the lake shone like a dull glass plate. Today there's a fine roughness to it, like orange peel, and a moire overlay where wakes from unseen boats cross and mingle, making the mountains ripple and reappear in reflection. Besides this, there are peculiar thin lines or streaks, striations of stubbornly calm water running undisturbed the length of the lake. In the right light, it's like looking at thin sedimentary layers in a cut through a hillside. Only horizontal. Or like taut thick translucent ropes running just under the water.

I haven't the math to make sense of it. Or much else. I better get up and have breakfast, or I'll sit here pointlessly mesmerized until I turn into stone. No doubt some enterprising soul would erect a disrespectful sign and turn me into a tourist attraction, viewed for the pittance of a dollar a head. Maybe even a Canadian dollar. Can't have that.

Lot's wife was the salt of the earth, but she got no respect for it. Sold by the scruple, no doubt.

I guess I could explain how I came to have leisure for these speculations. My back got a hitch in it the day I left Georgetown, for no apparent reason, and I've been treating it in various ways. Heat and stretching help, and long walks. I've even tried grain alcohol, applied from the inside. But the sovereign cure seems to be simply time and rest. Last Wednesday, when I leaned over to get something off the floor, it was not clear how I would get back up. Now, after a week of reading and lolling about the cliff, I'm much better.

Still having trouble picking up where I left off, though. Retirement is a hell of a dangerous job. That's what I get for volunteering.

I've thought of testing out Bob's Amateur Back Repair by taking the kayak out in the morning. As my neighbor Benny from Oklahoma said, "What's the worst that could happen? You might have to lay over here another week?"

A palliative thought if there ever was one.

The camp host says they stocked the lake with Rainbows just a week before I showed up. That explains all the boats. Perhaps I should join them. During the winter I bought some sponsons to make the kayak stable for casting. I might be able to trade a backache for a couple of trout.

But darned if it doesn't sound like work.


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