Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and Fragments Blown from Mt. Lassen

I finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road on a back porch in Chico, in someone else's home, on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, the day before Barack Obama announced his presidential bid. The Road is like a long prose poem leading up to an exercise in relativism. The ending glows like an X-ray of one's own injury, the satisfaction of being able to look deeply at a chemical rendering of pain. I couldn't be distracted from my reading. I was wetting myself with tears.

I finished (harnessing a newfound determination to finish books) by digging into its text, despite dueling televisions (ignored, stuck ON, taken for granted, competing for voluminous dominance), a Chihuahua biting the cheeks of a Dachshund, and a kitchen countertop being lovingly dismantled.

The day before I finished The Road the temperature swam between 15 - 21 degrees, colder when the wind blew and we lost our sun. My family (what I'll call my latest incarnation of family, since others refer to us as such, and it imparts a nice warm-to-the-bone feeling) and I tried out our new snowshoes in Mt. Lassen. But, we only made it about 1.5 miles up the hill to some sulfur springs. We kicked our footed claws into hard packed ice, when the sun started setting and the wind came up, stirring up the acrid sulfur smell gurgling out of the volcano. So, after our brief sunny picnic on a frozen bridge, we had to turn back. My girl's toes were stinging in her boots when the white mountain turned pink.

It apparently would have been much more fun to snowshoe in fresh snow rather than old snow, but seeing as how we would have been sinking up to our knees in the rare parts that were partially powdery; it's good we had the shoes on anyway. Besides, we had never been snowshoeing and were eager to try out our new anti-gravity boots.

The drive back from volcanic springs through the boulder strewn oak valleys and bluffs was pocketed, rough, and star lit. I had no idea the paths of the lava flows would remain obvious for over 150 miles or so, far from Lassen, through Mineral, and other unnamed places.

Next time I'm going to bring more layers of clothing. My child had to wear my extra jacket, over her puffy down jacket, and she still was freezing. Luckily she had brought along a minimal waxy plastic sled from Germany that went incredibly fast, for being made of hardly anything. Fellow kiddles cheers raised virtual temperatures up at the end of the hike when she had the chance to fly down the base, starting at 5,000 feet, outracing the boys. Once she'd hit the bottom of the valley, her sled kept going about twice the length of the mountain she'd expected to ride into the more powdery snow flattening in the basin. The handles were supposed to work as brakes, but didn't. Unfortunately she had no idea if they would work or not, and when they didn't, she was already speeding off into the hollow, going backwards, which didn't bother her too much.

All the time in my snowshoes I was thinking about The Road (just now I'm mimicking its style), its stark apocalypse giving me a taste of fire and brimstone warnings of hell that remind me of being a descendant of Puritans, among other tribes. The ringtones of nihilism. Soothed by small chopped sentences. Our earthly here. A glow that comes from parenting. Tipping over a pack of supplies and emergencies. Knowing this is frail. Cleaning off of headlamps for reading in the dark. Chips of volcanic rock dropped into pockets for future lessons in flint napping. A Chevron refinery explosion in Richmond literally dimming our headlights with its ashes as we drove it home, not knowing enough to close our vents.


Michelle said...

Thanks for this, Terri. Really nice.

SisterRye said...

You're welcome, Michelle.