An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 29, 2005
issued from the Sierra Nevada Foothills
east of Sacramento, California, USA

DUSK AT THE CANYON'S EDGE

Twice each day this spot at the canyon's edge is charmed with a sort of magic.

The first occasion is at dawn. Then the magic's main agent is wind. I've explained how at dawn the cold air upslope pours westward and downward into the canyon, streaming around us, shaking the Ponderosas and filling the air with swooshing sounds.

It's a chilly wind. It keeps me from having my campfires, even of sitting down to look around. Mornings are electric and not at all at ease with themselves, basically the opposite of all those mornings of recent Mississippi-hermit years with their sparkling dew, drifting smoke, the easy beams of sunlight smiling into the smoke, the steamy cornbread graced with garlic, greens and peppers.

Breakfast here is half a cup of raw oatmeal in a blue metal Mexican cup, sometimes with cold water, sometimes with hot, just eat it to fuel the body, keep the body moving lest it chill, then do computer work until the air warms, the wind lays, and I can get into the garden to work and warm myself in the sunlight.

Yet, these edgy mornings are indeed magic and from the corners of eyes squinted against the wind and low-slanting sunlight I observe each one in detail, for this is something new to me. I see sun-glaze on wind-bent grass-stems, and wind-buffeted goldfinches winging through turbulence from pine top to pine top, and I love these mornings on the same principle that one can love the shock of cold water after a sauna. You need a certain long-term, jaded, philosopher's insight to think and feel like this, and I guess I have it.

The second magical moment comes each day at dusk. It's calm, the western sky is pink and the ridge across the canyon and the silent Ponderosas around me are silhouettes and the air is warm and generous, smelling of pine and the slope's resiny, sun-warmed bushes, especially those Mountain Miseries.

But, that magic is everyman's magic, too predictable and wholesale to be talked about. Something there is within me that feeds on the mornings. It's that uneasy morning magic that spins me edgewise and hungry into the rest of each of my days. Facebook Icon.