Saturday, April 19, 2008

OF HATS AND MEN: or how I wrote myself a letter

I know that it is Spring because I awoke this morning with the intention of shaving my beard. Last night when I went to bed I had no thoughts of shaving, but this morning it was time. I was a little nervous as to what I would find underneath six months of beard. We bearded men develop a Sampson complex after a few months without the blade. I was relieved to find, in the end, that I was indeed still there. I thought that I looked just a little older than I remembered, perhaps. I looked no wiser, unfortunately. Still the same ol' me.

I am writing this blog installment while sitting on a rock by a stream. I decided to celebrate Spring renewal by going for a hike on one of my favorite trails, the cliffs and dam of Lake Harris.

It is spring. It is a time of renewal and the evidence is all around. I walk among wild ferns and moss growing around the base of trees. The leaves are bright green. I saw my first Monarch butterfly of the season. I cautiously stepped over a snakeskin on the way to the rock, never can be too careful.

I haven't been out here for a couple of years, but I used to come out here often.
My good friend Sonya introduced me to this trail at least 15 years ago. At one time it was a pretty popular swimming hole, although it looks as though most people have forgotten about it now. I enjoyed hiking out here then. To this day I still hear songs from Pink Floyd's album More in my mind when I come out here. I also hear Movietone, Gong and Tarwater from other periods of my life coming out here. It's my personal soundtrack to this place, I guess. I just thought of my reflection in the mirror this morning. I sure didn't look like the thin, long haired kid that first hiked this trail with my friend Sonya. What's the title of the blues song? "I'm going to sit right down and write myself a letter?"

And Here's a photograph of my hat. Most guys, weather they admit it or not, have a lucky hat, and I'm no exception. I've had this hat for, let's see now, I guess about 12 years, give or take. It used to be green, by the way. I got that hat before I returned to school, and I bet I've worn that hat to every test I've ever taken. If you look closely you can detect a red tint to the bill. I used to throw pottery. The red southern clay dyed the bill of my hat slightly after removing my hat with clay on my hands repeatedly.

It's too beat up and nasty to wear in public now, but I can't just get rid of a hat that's been with me for so long, and, hey, remember that it's lucky, so now I just wear it hiking.

When I returned to school, I took a challenging science class taught by Dr. John Hall. It was a great class and, in many ways, a life changing experience as well. I've taken many great classes, especially through the New College program at the University of Alabama, but Dr. Hall's class was my first challenging class.

After Dr. Hall's class I would often come out here, either to hike the trail or ride my bike nearby. It would give me an opportunity to think obout that days class, or not think about it, depending on how that day went. My lucky hat and I would slowly walk through the trails looking at the rocks and plants and animals and think about how this planet was formed.

My mom passed away two years ago this week (April 5th), so I guess that's why I've been thinking so much about renewal, rebirth, and how I take so much in life for granted. Coming out here with the bright green leaves and the snakeskin, walking among the wild ferns and listening to the cool stream drift lazily by, gives me the feeling that everything is as it should be in the world, and it makes me want to sit right down and write myself a letter. I would recommend it
to anyone.

Reading: The Man Who Planted Trees - Jean Giono
Listening to: Bert Jansch - Dazzling stranger
Watching: Darjeeling Express


Anonymous said...

ok, I'll bite:
Reading -- Until I Find You by John Irving
Watching -- Triad Election (Johnny To)
Listening to: Warren Zevon's greatest hits

Ben said...

Randy- thats a lovely little life you have for yourself, thanks for sharing. my answers:

reading- lots of books and articles about labor movements, especially in southern africa, where they're called labour movements.

listening to- wilderness 'vessel states'

watching- the wire, and nothing but the wire, almost every day for 3 months

Randy said...

Just wanted to let people know that they can find a review of Rick's movie pick, Triad Election, on his site Coosa Creek. Follow the link "rick's film blog" on this site.

Randy said...

Hey Ben,

My grandfather was a big union organizer at the paper mill here in Tuscaloosa. I'm very proud of that fact. Have you seen Harlan County USA?

Have to check out wilderness....