Rendered Fat Content


Paul Cezanne: Auvers, Panoramic View (1873-75)

" … surrounded by easily investigated difference …"

The Muse insists a principal's involved. Those who live in a bowl must occasionally rear their heads above the rim to see what's beyond their usual horizon. Bowl-living demands that shift in perspective, and it needn't take much, just a patch of slightly higher ground, anyplace from which one might take a different look around.

We'd both been exhibiting extreme symptoms of late-stage vacation deprivation, our lives demanding our undivided attention again. One can only defer the necessary for so long before their defenses start to take over. Nobody notices the encroaching lack of focus at first, and few ever suspect that they'll be next to completely lose their context. We need a rest sometimes, a time away from the trivial and the essential, a spacer between our endless engagements. We prefer the Toodle, a humble form of reasonably aimless driving. Toodling's best if undertaken without much of an objective, just getting away. I'd plotted an attractive course from which The Muse, as the designated navigator, almost immediately began improvising. In this way, we would stumble upon AnotherEpic adventure where we mostly traveled by secret passages I hadn't even noticed when I first set out our course.

As usual, true to every former Toodle, everything just seemed to fall into its proper place. I had not packed a lunch, insisting we'd need to find food before falling too far off the grid. We found the perfect place for a combination breakfast and lunch as if an invisible hand had been guiding us. The Muse suggested the first deviation, and we found ourselves driving through a redneck Riviera filled with magnificent horse ranches, curious mansions, and astounding vistas. We might just as well have been Toodling around the South of France. Powerful tour boats on their way to Hell's Canyon and back rushed rapids while we placidly took in the views.

Thirty minutes later, we were three thousand feet above the river, driving a dirt road, crawling along a narrow spine of a mountain surrounded by wheat fields in various degrees of harvest. The perspective change left us feeling lightheaded. Why were some hills wooded and others barren? What made this rimrock so different? This was Nez Pierce country, still absolutely magical. Unique in this world's geography and just over the rim of our bowl. The canyons and vistas could have outdone Moab and better. Everywhere we Toodled, rippling water appeared. It seemed our constant companion from the tamed then the untamed Snake, twisting violently between its banks, and the Grand Rhonde, a river that drains an area from Central Oregon to the Wallowas! The Muse, scoping future fly fishing places, will be hard-pressed to make her choices as every place seemed better than every previous one. Such richness!

We chose sixty miles of unpaved road over seventy-five of blacktop and were surprised to find no traffic on that route. After nearly three hours on an amazingly smooth rock-surfaced road, only two pick-ups had passed us. We followed a small stream up beyond its source and danced with range cattle, hoping to find some huckleberries that had yet to dehydrate on the bush. This drought has stressed some of this country, though I can report that much of it still seems remarkably well-watered, given that it's had no measurable precipitation since last April.

We repeatedly remarked how it seemed as if we were floating through Eden. The Eden Near The End of the Oregon Trail was more than a marketing slogan. It told a truth with which few settlers were prepared to cope. This land belonged to nobody but had been stewarded by Chief Joseph's clan for eons, and well-tended it was. The bastard General Howard chased its steward out of Eden. It was and remains enviously beautiful and far enough off the usual beaten paths to keep all but the most dedicated away. In a day, we'd circumnavigated it and identified plenty of choices for future Toodles.

Easing back into the bowl in the encroaching evening with the setting sun almost blinding us, we reentered the bowl from which we'd escaped a few short infinite hours before. I've always loved that sense when wending out of those Blue Mountains, of entering a green valley surrounded by scablands. The lush vineyards and orchards and even the freshly cropped wheat fields scream fecund and ease. How fortunate that we inhabit this bowl, surrounded by easily investigated differences ripe for AnotherEpic adventure on any odd moment's notice. We're home.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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