Creative: August Self-Publishing Project, Chapter Nine

I’m inside out. Yesterday another unexpected day. The carefully conceived plans, gone. Just get in the Jeep and take in as much as possible. A new ranch. An incredible place, not that high but so vast and so empty all I could think about was disappearing into the hills. Antelope, elk, bobcat, mountain lion, hawk, eagle, rattlesnake, ground squirrel and two massive Bighorn’s cresting a hilltop a mile away. Spotting scope resting on the tailgate, trucks pulled over, engines off. Just observing, traces of diesel vanishing in the wind.

They fear the eclipse here. Well, they fear the people coming for the eclipse. No matter what else happens, just know with absolute certainty, people from the city do not belong here. They never have and they never will. This place, and all others like it, are meant to be left alone, open, vast; strategically sparse to keep in rhythm with the mechanisms of The West. Interlopers like me with romantic visions have no real place. We are meant to keep moving. So are you.

I find myself holding a package of beef. “Who is cooking the burgers?” “You?” he asks. “Ahhhh.” “Goodbye,” he says laughing and walks off, so I man the grill, cooking meat for men and women who eat meat everyday. I’ve been married to a vegetarian for twenty-one years. I manage and there are no complaints, other than I didn’t cook enough.

The plains light is harsh, but still has that slight edge of contrast and saturation you only get at high altitudes. Minus 2/3 on the Fuji and forget about the rest. I get seconds of opportunity then spend most of the day in the backseat of the Rubicon. “Okay Squirt,” he says using my childhood nickname, “this one’s on you,” as we arrive at the first gate. It’s a test. Do I remember how to do it. One gate is stubborn but I use my shoulder like he taught me forty-years ago and we pass through. “It’s amazing how much you kids learned by those few months a year all those years ago,” he adds. “You remembered how to do it.”

There is water up top. Enough for grazing. Decisions are made, coded in terms of pasture size, landscape features and past inhabitants. The original, one-room schoolhouse still stands, protected now by the wire. Squatters cabins old corrals and irrigation tools slowly fading into the long grass and wind of this little altiplano.

They hassle me about my man bag until I tell them they selling price. Then they hassle me a bit more. A part of me feels bad even being here because I know our presence, sister and I, throws them from their natural routine. It would take years to even begin to blend in here, and I would be lumped in with a category of people I want no part of. The only way would be to come alone for long periods and ask for nothing, change nothing, influence nothing and just shut the Hell up and observe.

A topic that always rankles me, and them, is the concept of “people of money,” who come here and do what they do. F%$# things up. Money brings greed, arrogance and opinion, many of which are based on romantic notions of centuries past. It’s just plain ugly when people of money meet people of the land. Doesn’t matter where. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over this, and if even I ever have real money I will do everything I can to avoid infringing. Not that I’m worried about ever having real money.

Now we prep for the eclipse. Truthfully, I want no part of it, and we’ve spoken about getting up high and being alone even if it means we avoid the path of totality. Fine by me. Not sure I’m going to watch it anyway. There are already reports of massive delays near Glendo, fifteen miles from where I planned to be. Maybe we would be better off to consider it a moment to ponder what we are doing with our lives, our culture. A moment to think about everything but ourselves, but I fear it will become little more than media sensation and Instagram fodder for who can have the hippest experience. #blessed God I’m so sick of it all. One week here and the delusions of online life seem nothing beyond silly.

Flights are changed, backroads studied and now we wait.

25 Comments on “Creative: August Self-Publishing Project, Chapter Nine”

  1. Wow, one of the best pieces of writing you’ve ever done….For me, a city kid, it was like reading about another planet, one that is intriguing, frightening, and that I wistfully realize I’ll never really know.

    1. MTN,

      I think this place would shock you, in a good way, but it would be a while before you could slow the heart rate. Your work would be impacted too, at least I think so. The light and space are noteworthy. Far beyond New Mexico. I’m attempting to figure out how to get back here a lot more. Glad you liked the piece, just rambling this morning before I head back out.

    1. FBJ,
      Yes, they are. Well, I’m attempting to add them but at the moment those spreads are too busy. Working on it…

    1. Mick,
      That was spray on mud. Just kidding. Harsh light, down minus 2/3. Pretty easy image. Made about four frames of that, one worked.

  2. Really good work, Dan, the writing and the photography. The layout of the book looks great and The West looks incredible.

    I truly hope that when you have completed the book for your family you return and make a book for everyone else. You can tell the story of today’s West so well.

    1. Mike,
      This is stage one of this book. I will be returning and will be creating a second, public book. AT SOME POINT. Thanks for kind words.

  3. Daniel,
    the vast open spaces of the West, that’s where your best writing comes out – and belongs. It moves, calls, and inspires me.
    I’ve been there, on the ground and in the air, and always wanted to come back for more. Next year, perhaps.

    Amazing the parallels between 42ºN and 40ºS: most of your observations on people, money and lifestyle in an empty place, far away from (sub)urbia fit Patagonia as well.

    As to ‘live booking’: it seems to have something in common with shooting video. Either it’s done in an entirely spontaneous way and the story comes out while editing, or it follows a script, shot-list.
    You seem to combine those two in a very engaging manner.

    Oh, and (somewhat delayed) congrats on the ToyTac, you seem to put it right where it belongs…

    Can’t wait for the next chapter(s)!
    Wolf

    1. Hey Wolf,

      I was JUST thinking about that. I was up in the mountains and the guys I was with had a flyfishing magazine. Chouinard from Patagonia had written an article and I thought about the parallels between Wyoming and Patagonia. It is VERY rare for me to get time like this, but when I do I always enjoy the process. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Love the post.
    Text is plain, straight to the point, no floritures. Either you get it or not. Keep moving boy. i guess is a bit like Wyoming.
    Love the opening and closing photo, as well as the one of the boots.

  5. Dear Daniel,

    as always it inspires me! I love the idea 
of just DOING. No big plan just jump into an adventure!

    It seems you entered a different world. Leaving the sick 
making online world behind. Enjoying
    the experience and 
live the moment.

    We are always sucked into this Facebook/Instagram/Twitter
 World so quickly and loose focus
    so fast. This is why you and 
your website is such a rescue for me! 
Always reminds me of doing
    more meaningful work! And I have
to start writing… Oh man I wish I had any talent to organize
    my
brain and put it into nice words!

    Daniel enjoy and hope to see you soon on the road!

    Wim who sits at the airport reading your words and listening to 
the Pretender by Jackson Browne.

    1. Wim,
      It’s funny you mention that. NOBODY I’ve been with is online. NOBODY. They look at us who are in slight bemusement as to why we would want to live life online when we could live the actual life in front of us. They use their phones as phones and get back to reality. Phone calls are 60-seconds to three minutes and then the phones are silent. Writing unlocks your photography. And let’s you keep track of your thoughts. Critical in my mind. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. This post about place, belonging and being has resonated with me… I’m not from anywhere and it’s always in the back of my mind about being an interloper in any place I visit. No ties to anywhere really and your posts remind me of that and the struggle… My recent visit to NM highlighted it as well. My goal was to shut up, observe and not make too much of an impact. And I often wonder how it is in other places, other cultures and other countries. Somehow I don’t think there is much difference really… We are, after all, all human.

    1. Larry,
      Well, I’m better than everyone else, but outside of that we are the same. NM is like Wyoming in that way. You get here and you realize, “Ahhh, my life has ZERO impact on any of this.” It’s actually kinda nice.

  7. Sitting here at me desk, looking out my window at the traffic. To say I’m envious would be an understatement… Your words just painted a picture that moved me, deeply. Almost to the point of tears. Thank you for putting me in that place buddy, that quiet wide-open space that touches my soul.

    Please never stop writing.

    1. J Wes,

      Wow. Thanks for saying that. You would LOVE it out there. I mean LOVE it. It’s got a special “thing.” At least it does to me. Next time you can fly out and meet me?

  8. “They hassle me about my man bag until I tell them they selling price. Then they hassle me a bit more. A part of me feels bad even being here because I know our presence, sister and I, throws them from their natural routine. It would take years to even begin to blend in here, and I would be lumped in with a category of people I want no part of. The only way would be to come alone for long periods and ask for nothing, change nothing, influence nothing and just shut the Hell up and observe.”

    The last sentence let me stare at the screen without a blink for 10 mins. You got to start writing my friend.

    1. Reiner,
      Thanks R. I write everyday, but rarely to do “WRITE.” It think it’s inside me but it takes a certain moment to get it out. Glad you liked it.

  9. The only way would be to come alone for long periods and ask for nothing, change nothing, influence nothing and just shut the Hell up and observe.

    This sentence let me stare at the screen without a blink for 10 mins. You got to start writing my friend, this abundance of great thoughts will make one hell of story.

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