The aftermath, desert ghosts

I served my thirty minutes on jury duty today, the defendant deciding at the last moment that he wanted a trial by judge. I left city hall as pleased as if I had escaped an encounter with a poisonous snake, so much did I dread the judge’s and lawyers’ questioning. The judge himself came to the jurors’ room to dismiss us. I watched him looking around as he spoke, and imagined him trying to decide which one of us was the son-of-a-bitch who sent him that provocative letter.

Peggy and I took a three day weekend to camp in the Oregon desert this week. I never saw a desert until I was grown, but I thought I knew all about them from cowboy movies, their chief features being perpetual heat and drought. On this trip, we were snowed upon as we crossed Santiam Pass into the "rain shadow" of the Cascades; were hailed upon the next day as we scrambled up Gray Butte; and were sleeted upon the third day on Grizzly Mountain. I wore my long johns the whole time and slept in my clothes beneath three blankets. I don’t mean to complain, the trip having been a good one—as are all our trips. If the precipitation was a nuisance, it also served to intensify the fragrance of sage and juniper, surely two of nature’s most sublime scents.

We stopped at a small cemetery near where a town used to stand. Oh, but I love those little ghost town cemeteries. What touching reminders they are of mortality with their marble tombstones commemorating the importance of “my darling,” or “the light of our lives” to people who are themselves buried and forgotten. They lie there together beneath the scrub, among barren mountains that they would have looked upon everyday of their lives just as I now look upon them. The brevity of it all! the anonymity! How little we matter; no, we matter even less than that before a sightless universe. Such a wonder is it all, to come, to go, and there be no reason for either, not the least point in us having happened.

I am surviving shingles better than I could have hoped. My sickest day was Monday of last week when I was too ill to walk more than a few feet, yet I was able to climb a mountain on Monday of this week. My left eye aches and feels scratchy, and the top of my head itches, but I consider my ordeal to be but a hint of what I might have suffered. I see an ophthalmologist tomorrow to be sure my eye remains infection free, but I will be astounded if he finds anything.