November 2019

Motor Lodge Magic

Those who know me, know that I traverse the continent intent on both driving to my destinations and stopping at motor lodges (‘roadside accommodations designed primarily for motorists, typically having the rooms arranged in a low building with parking directly outside the rooms’) along the way. You know the sort, back road motels that allow you to pull up to your door, unload your vehicle with a minimum of effort, complete with battered sinks that come to thigh level, and furniture that shares the vintage of the building.

The last night’s stay on my most recent trip cost me the humble sum of $36.00 in cash and afforded me a bed like a plank (my preference), and a cornfield out one window and a mule out the other. Modern hotels aren’t charming or comfortable, they are experiments in plastic and veneer and overpriced faux opulence intended to suggest cleanliness and value but providing neither. When did we become fearful of the aging of objects, each other, and ourselves?

Now, if I were plotting a motel, it would have no carpeting or upholstery, or anything ill advised for bodily fluids and take-out meals gone awry, and it would have the aforementioned planks for beds, and towels and sheets that were dried on the line, Castile soap, and glasses housed in waxen sacks (Circa Iowa 1967).

Sometimes a proprietress has a fine garden, bee hives, and honey for sale, along with nature photographs screwed into the wall; and genuine coffee, not pods. Occasionally, you can sit for a spell with the owner and discuss lives lived on the road (theirs by the side of it and mine rolling rapidly upon it). Sometimes, there is a woman, who having hailed all of the way from Scotland, now knows more about her adopted state, country and the feeding of weary wayfarers, than many who were spawned here.

Especially in the age of self serve, self storage, self portraiture and self aggrandizement, pulling up to your room, unloading and then loading, via the motor lodge design, with its references to a less self-seeking time, is a gift. The intimacy of being off the well trodden path and happily wedged between pastures and farm animals, is, for me, soul restorative.


Of Things That Go Thud

I was sitting on my cottage floor when I heard a loud and disruptive scrambling and a shrill squawking from the vicinity of my roof. A decibel level that can be appreciated only if you know what living in small wooden quarters, akin to a shipping crate, can do to sound waves.

I opened my front door, and stepped out beyond the overhang, whereupon something dropped from above, narrowly missing my head, and implanted itself in the ground with an eerie thud. I saw a large raptor fly off. There before me, lips down, tail up, like a new breed of forest growth, was a fish. Maybe just short of 12 inches of fish. While it took a moment for me to wrap my nearly concussed head around the scene I moved to grab the fish. It was still alive and flip-flopping (precursor of the political kind) as I placed it in a horizontal position.

Thinking it would be a mercy to relieve the fish of suffering, and pondering whether dinner had been delivered when neither food nor much else in rural Wyoming is (and suppressing the errant question of whether this counts as fishing without a license), I asserted myself (let's not dwell on the details, its entrails were protruding as consequence of being airlifted via a set of lethal talons).

It seems that an osprey and a rival were in a tussle, as I saw the osprey return some hours later clearly in search of its prematurely released catch. I must have intruded at a pivotal moment and the fish dove to earth, the osprey finally relaxing its grip in the face of one too many insurgents.

This fish tale resonates as the most symbolic of its sort in a while. There is the snowshoe hare that was hopping into my house one March, the wild tom turkey that perches atop our truck cabs and rooftops, the hummingbird that comes to get me when he wants the feeders freshened. Those are just a few stories for another day’s musings but they strike me as more entertainment than emblem.

People who are not residents of this relatively young and unpopulated geography doubt me when I talk about the wilds of Wyoming and the concentration of astounding events that can fill the seasons.
From my vantage point, twixt earth and sky, the allegorical interferences are ceaseless.

The Osprey and the Whitefish

A tussle and a fish dives
from above
headfirst into the ground
narrowly missing my head.

What does the Osprey learn?
That fish on land vanish
more completely than in sea?

What do I learn?
That marvels appear, fly in, or even descend,
with impressive frequency?