Sunday, June 22, 2008


I wanted to wake you and tell you that I'm thinking of traveling with you again and I'm getting thrills though my body thinking of it - like when we went back together in 2006/7 for the first time since 1985.

In a few weeks I'll be in the alpine - meadows in rock cirques high above the treeline - lakes - wind through passes - resting by the trail ...

There was an article in today's paper about a woman who was killed in Dallas the other day. She moved in some of the same circles as I do - living in Old East Dallas, going to a school one block from our home, going to school where my students and I taught classes every week, I walked through her apartment a few years ago, we take care of her friends and neighbors at la clinica. Then she started moving in different circles, leading ultimately to days and nights of drugs and finally, a terrible death. And there's a man in my Sunday School class, Bill S., who's been visiting prisons and juvenile detention centers for >quarter century and today he brought a young man he mentors and announced that the young man is going into the U.S. Navy in a few days. Too bad somebody like Bill didn't get to Ivonne. Too bad we ran out of energy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Random thoughts

I’ve been cooking and food prepping up a storm getting meals together for David and Scott and their epic JMT trek coming up in a week or so. David and Scott were friends in high school and beyond; Scott was valedictorian and David salutatorian at their academically rigorous school in Dallas. It was their Colorado trek a few years ago that sparked me to return to backpacking. Now they’re both at Berkeley; David in law and Scott in one of the sciences. Photo: David at Love Field. You could say he's "saddled up."

Basically I’m preparing/dehydrating food for 2 people for 3 weeks in the wilderness. Pretty amazing thing to pull all this together (it’s 120 meals), and made more interesting by one of them being a vegetarian. The menu includes spaghetti, chili with beans, mashed potatoes with rosemary and cheese, corn chowder with black beans, alfredo pasta, choices of hamburger gravel, chicken, ham, tofu, TVP, etc. – oatmeal for breakfast – all freezer bag cooking for the hikers. I’ve made brilliant energy bars, some with pecans, raisins, and chocolate chips and some with walnuts, apples and chocolate chips.

It’s a lot of work and even more fun.

Great father’s day and DK birthday – he was born on father’s day. One of the things David wrote to me was, “In the past year, I’ve really enjoyed camping with you, as well as watching you camp and helping each other get better at it. For some, it might be a chance to recapture lost time between a father and a son, but I feel we have lost no time. Every moment of my life, I have known that you were there for me no matter what, and I am so proud to call you, ‘Dad.’”
This from someone backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, “I nod and Jerry smiles. He’s playing (Morning Dew) with his back to the audience, tears streaming down his face, the music playing the band, and the music recording itself. Ecstasy on every level.”
There was a discussion today about why we (people) suffer and there were reasons given – making mistakes, discipline from God, opportunity to learn, and so on – everything but randomness. I understand that people have a desire for understanding and meaning, but I don’t buy it. Random stuff happens and if God is really in control, well, we have a big problem, manifested by Hitler, Ted Bundy, Pol Pot, random rapists, evil-doers and child abusers, etc. ad (gag) infinitum – not to mention cancer, depression, starvation – I could go on but I won’t. I know, people come up with explanations for all the evil and suffering and the ideas that God is in charge and there's some kind of reason and lesson to be learned. The explanations all have one common characteristic – convoluted thinking to support the ideas. As far as I can see there's no hand on the tiller and it seems to be random, governed by karma and (here’s the miracle) subject to grace and redemption.
Bryce talked today about backpacking with his two sons in the Great Smokey Mountains for 4 or 5 days this father’s day. Much of the time they were in the trees, but finally broke out and could see the mountains rippling out in the distance blue and grey and all and wreathed with smoke … a beautiful vision (the trip and what they saw with their eyes).
Revelation 20:12-13. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. That seems to me to say works are of some importance to those who are concerned about judgment. I mean, fine, if you want to bet your life on faith, fine, no problemo. But please, no self-satisfied little smiles at the futility of works.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Letter to montyman

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your kind and good humored letter – pretty much your theme, I reckon. Good to hear you’re well and marching ever forward. The new camera sounds good, but I have to caution you that your photos are much less the product of your camera than of your mind, so we’re all expecting greater resolution of the same old great things. Photo: Chris, home on leave from the Corps; David, home from Houston; Lauren, here for a great weekend.

Yes, time moves on – usually a good thing.

At the moment I’m kind of between the past and future (but not really in the present, if that makes sense). I have most definitely left my job teaching, but am working two part days/week at la clinica. That’s going very well and is far less stressful than having students at the clinic – I’m just seeing patients and nothing else – enjoying working with Pat, Socorro, and others. I’m going to Bible study every Wednesday and staying the full hour now that I don’t have to race to the clinic to get there before the students. Hanging out at home a lot, reading, hardly ever writing.

A big part of what I’m doing though, is getting ready for the coming months. David is home now, between his job in Houston and moving to Berkeley in early August. In the meantime, he is leaving next week for Cali, to hike the John Muir Trail with his high school (and since) friend Scott. They’ll be on the trail for about 17 days (220 miles) through the Sierras – high up, alpine. When he’s through with that epic trek, he’ll go back to Berkeley for a few days, then fly to Denver where he and I will meet.

In the meantime, I’ll be here for awhile, doing what I’ve been doing, then in early July, driving to Colorado for a few days of car camping (camping at places you can drive to, maybe walking in a mile or two), then solo hiking – mostly to acclimate myself to the altitude – and then meeting David. Our plans are to spend about 10 days in the Wind Rivers, high and wild and then drive back to Dallas. We’ll spend a week or two here and David will fly to Berkeley and I’ll head back to the mountains for about a month – until the snow starts. My mate Jeff will join me part of that time and part of the time I think I’ll be alone, a good thing.

I got a dehydrator and am drying everything in sight (Leslie would say, madly drying everything …). At the moment a huge batch of chili, yesterday hamburger “gravel” to add to spaghetti, etc., and also some fajita jerky. This evening I’ll bake some energy bars: oats, honey, wheat germ, walnuts, cranberries, protein powder. They won’t be dehydrated of course. Actually, I just put the bars in the oven – Oh Yeah! Photo: Buddy, the innocent dog.

The situation in Burma is basically stagnant, with few relief workers let in a
nd of those, many not allowed to leave Rangoon. Cops everywhere. What a tragedy. Anyway, my name is out there at a number of organizations to go when things open up, but I’m not sure they will.

Leslie and I are headed to Asia in early 2009, God willing. She asked the other night what I think of when I think of going to Asia and it’s the strangest thing – I’m longing for Hong Kong, of all places. I’ve always liked it there, but it seems like I would be thinking more of other places. As it turns out, HK is mostly what Leslie thinks of, too. I’m so happy and looking forward to traveling with her – what a great traveler Leslie is. I have this great photo I took in 2007 of Leslie on the stairs at the Chungking Mansions. It’s blurry, but who cares – how many 60+ year old anglo women have ever been on those notorious stairs?

So those are the plans as they stand now. I believe it was Jerry Garcia who said, “A plan is just something to deviate from.”

Warmest Regards, Charles