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Dead in My Tracks: Wildcat Creek Utaniki

Fred Wah
From:   So Far. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991.


Dead In My Tracks: Wildcat Creek Utaniki

Saturday, July 29/89
     Oh golden, Golden morning!

       West of Golden we leave the trans-Canada and drive north about 60 k up Blaeberry River past Doubt Hill. From the chopper site we can see south to Howes Pass , a long sweep of valley brilliant in a pillowed mid-summer heat-haze. An hour's spent wrapping the cars and trucks in chicken wire (old paranoid alpine parking-lot visions of the imaginary porker chewing our tires and rad hoses). Camp's just west, a ten-minute bezier curve, swirl, and plop up Wildcat Creek, on a west slope facing east to the contintental divide ridgeline of the B.C./Alberta boundary.
     Ringed by glaciers as usual
     Ayesha, Baker, Parapet.
     While we set up camp during the afternoon I'm in a global mode, you know, the simultaneity of the world going on right now. Paris. Kyoto. Beijing. The pavement of Tiananmen Square, the hotlines sniffing out the dissidents, CBC bulletin even e-mail media drama of the last two months still in the air, even up here, radioless, only antennaed in my bones (our name is bones, and your name is my name).

     My Borders are Altitude

     and silent

                          a pawprint's cosine
     climate from the lake to the treeline
          all crumbly under foot at the edges
          cruddy summer snow melt
     soft wet twig and bough-sprung alpine fir
                                                   but more than this
     height
                         is my pepper
          (China
                        don't)
                                                  Now
                       

(broken breaths contour intervals at the next 100 feet and then the sky-remembered night on the plateau above the Saskatchewan Qu'appele oh stars what solitude your blue line and flight or weight the inverse holds me shoulder-to-shoulder my clouds as alpine meadows Newton would have cut yet minds find bandwidth in this topos-parabola chaos around the earth house
     Here's this
           stone under heathered turf
     back bent as I dig and ruffle              sacrum
           drawn to the music
                                   a slow and daily pelvic tilt of elevation
     is this numbered boundary nowhere, I'm
     close to 7000 here, maybe I'll just do the horse
                          not to hold the world
                                                                just touch, complete
                          the circuit
           borders such thin thoughts (apples of our eyes)
                                   selvage yesterday's Tiananmen
           a power-line buzz above, along my spine, my legs
     go up and down
                                   heart all summer-heavy
                                              with the people

 

Sunday, July 30
     We hike east across the valley toward Mistaya Mountain, as far as a scree slope on the south side of a grano-diorite carbuncle so massive we're left only to pick and chip below the heel of.
     Each rock vectors through the eyes to the height of the stomach and stops me, dazzles, dead in my tracks. Such singular surfaces are impossible to avoid. Eyes tumble click, stop and stare, stop, stare at pink molten sunset rivers of limestone, sawtooth schist embedded. But at this rate the hike's all history, pleistocene.

     No animals, no print, no scat. (Goat tracks? Too faint now to be sure.)
     No sky-mirrored glacial swimming holes today.
     No fresh water. Heather very dry. The bees buzz. Butterflies.
     Doze in the sun at the bottom of a scree slope waiting for the others.

"sugar" of their struggle death
in China's humid night so far away
maybe that's the simplest equation
for the headwaters
television's human river
and now the sun decreases
the friction. The fingers
of my right hand trace
a band of quartz. My eyes sink
under the brim
far away
but not so far away.

 

Monday, the 31st
Today we climb the same side of the valley as yesterday. But now we've taken a keep-more-to-the-left route to a neck or col between Alberta and B.C., under Mistaya. Lunch beside a snowpatch lake.
when deconstruing rock
hold back the crude and the harsh
or take "reality" for simple target
the sun
                        a nation as large as China
is just another scheme for thirst and war
another centered project tunneling earth
            (my father's fingers poked wet into the mud of a rice paddy
rumours, the same large-spun sky here
in the thin air and during the long winter
quartz grows with the sparkle of a bridge
every stone on this mountain clicks
some old biotic tumbler locked
unlocked sadness
            not of the hundred-blossomed mountain
            not of the nine-millenia incense
            but of the dragon-slit tongue silenced
            youth before old age
After-lunch drowsiness sets in under the warmth of the sun; no birds sing; not so far away the glacier rivers roar in the July heat.
shale shard weep shard shale weep shale weep shard shale weep shale weep
shard shard weep shale shard weep shale weep weep shhh
     Those rocks this morning on the way up appeared full of signs and messages. So I walked around in a meander and kind of grilled each striated spot for information, news of the conglomerate earth.
     or

                                              ee

                                                                                            ent

     The others' words around me buzz and fall like horseflies.
     Alberta looks busy from this side; Jasper/Banff another of those new equations to satisfy war's glacial thirst. Ice-blue sky-line jet-tracked.
     ent

                                          re. Pren

                                                                eur. Prende

     The wooden handle of an ice axe stuck in the snow: "When making an ax handle," the pattern is occassionally too far off. Somewhere else. Out of sight, "man." Out of mind.

snow pond fed by two large drifts vectored off of morraine.
no real fish.
the Beijing hotline surfaces as jet track reminder
through the high blue air
then sinks at news of the killings.
deep, like a floating thermostat.
deep, like a disappearing hook.
baited.

Tuesday, August 1
     I didn't sleep very well last night because I had to get up as breakfast helper this morning - fretted about the alarm on my wrist-watch being loud enough and so now mid-afternoon, sit on a slope above what the camp's come to call "crystal gardens" on the cool (windy) side of a grassy knoll tired and lulled by the rush of waterfall across the valley and above this alleyway that led us here full of crystals dangled and hidden for years we poke under little rock ledges.
     Quiet here. Light breeze to keep the horseflies down. I glass across a valley to a slope, for yesterday's tracks, but they've melted out. Pan back to a blurry knoll of purple yellow red pink and white on green with songs (I Don't want a Sickle) I can't get out of my head and there're the others, after-lunch sprawl on the heather, Pauline reading in her flower book.

smoke in the wind, the forest below
porcupine under the wire quietly chewing our tires
is that it
smoke in the city,
     slow sweep sweep of a broom in the square

     Small thunderstorm coming around Trapper Peak should force us down the hill, while on this beared-over gopher-searching mountainside I linger, stopped, can't keep my eyes off the rocks and surfaces surging to not so much arrest myself in all this "otherness" as greedily scour the dripping quartz for crystal jewels for my daughters. Something lucky, something old. Something eight-spot rooted in rock, fatherness ancestral distance cut.

Hand-held Pictostone

from above Wildcat rockscape of old Renaissance bullet hole or navel with tracks going out the sides a type of Malthusian linear function along the aisles of a Saturday afternoon matinee forever pocked with edge and gouged embedded pebble from distant beach a cracked and weathered map of textured tilt propellor hummed out from omphalic sedimentary lint enough to tell story's history warped high enough in the diurnal headlines from Beijing and Shanghai so that a geologist imagining fake fish in a fake lake scrapes around the edges for shrapnel but me I think in my own mittened photos of the life look out of and far away from these threads through the hole to continue the prospect beyond impact of landing very hard and fast and past the anima button.

New moon tonight.

 

Wednesday
     A wet day. Drizzle started last night after days of heat. The snow-line is about 8500 feet this morning. Very cool all day, off and on rain and sleet, some hail. And no respite tonight so now I sit/lie in our tent at 9 p.m. still light enough to write. I've put on my toque and gloves. No thought. Just body.
     A few of us walked up the valley on the other side of Wildcat Creek and crossed many feeder creeks and the glacier river at the head of the valley. I had to take off my pants and boots once. The water came up to just above the knees. Memoried on and off all day crossing Toby morraine years ago with my brother and Loki and how that crossing, just below the crotch, rejuvenated bruised ligaments. This time my feet remain ice all day.
     All these rocks. Constant mirror and prescence in my eyes. More rocks than grains of sand in the whole world, I bet someone. Intricate pattern, surface, keeps stopping boot in pitch for eye to zoom. Sometimes I stop and try translating the imago-grammatic surfaces. What do I look for? This I-Chinging the earth for some other Gate of Heavenly Peace, monotoned loudspeaker in the Square signalling "Go home and save your life," old, embedded said-again family bone-names?

Scale of shale
jamb stone, lintel, henge.

When the door's open
there's nothing to catch the eye.

Except the sun (blink). Now this tent
on the outside of a non-scaled phenomenon.

We'll see, Fred says to himself, the tree
as much a cinnabar flag as

—the mountains folded and folded.
"with uncountable broken arms and legs floating..."

This sky of clouds, new grass, melon
summer fields creased .

By forcing them into the centre of the square
the indelible occupies the heart until next time.

These "basins of attraction"
these grains, these fractal editions.

Night swoops very low
just a reminder.

 

Thursday, 8/3/89
     This morning I sit in the tent writing and try to situate the play in this place. The world today feels all stage. Nothing moves. A set set. There are the huge mist hackles clinging to the mountains, but no history.

Far, far down the valley a chainsaw whines.
At night now some of the creeks disappear.
Winter.

August 4/89, Friday
     This last day we hike up to the col between Peto and Mistaya but get caught in a cold mist/fog. Just behind the gauze the oval of the sun teases. The cover didn't break so we don't go further than the snow field. We spend the rest of the day circumnavigating the head of the valley and several glacial lips up and down and home and that's eight and a half hours to a spaghetti dinner and the sky lifting to a blue evening.
     Now nearly 9 o'clock and the mosquitoes, after days of rain, are up for it.
     Out of the corner of my eye more rocks. And out an ear I hear a few birds sing their particular song, not solitary: the creeks rush and gurgle down to the valley below. In a corner of my mind is tomorrow's two and half hour hike out to the trailhead and then the long drive home. But nowhere else.

clear stingin' peaks
                                            rock green moss
                                                                                           campion
                           all surface news
                                                          inked
to the bloated stone heroes
                                                   massed alongside Mao's mausoleum
same shards here
                                           within the square
                                                                                     a "percolation
                                                   network"

five lines,
                           five soldiers a line
                                                             duende stone
thano-stone



Fred Wah's works copyright © to the author.


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