Touch is the Vehicle of Spirit and other stories
Posted 04-Feb: 2017
Touch is the Vehicle of Spirit
There aren’t many trees on the grounds of the Denver Coliseum, nor grasslands, ponds or the meandering creeks that once flowed here. There are weeds, concrete, parking lots, a maze of buildings, and on January fifteenth 2017 the National Western Stock Show. On display were nearly all the domesticated animals in America, save the house cat. It’s a working show that includes men and woman ranchers out to buy bulls and heifers for up to $5000 a cow, and gawking tourists, neophytes and even those, presumably, who are vegetarian or leaning that way (like Kathleen and I). Acres of Cowboy hats and boots were on sale, many John Deere tractors, and at one both packaged toy versions of SWAT team gear: assault rifles, clubs, face shields and teargas bombs. Near the entrance vendors sold BBQ turkey legs for $13 (seemingly the most popular purchase) and slices of pizza for eight (the most I’d ever paid for pizza, the worst pizza I’d ever eaten). Black breeding bulls, inconceivably massive, seemed the most highly prized mammal at the show. They were washed, sprayed, groomed and ultimately vacuumed so as to remove even a trace of a stray piece of hay or an out-of-place hair. Kathleen and I spent the most time with the sheep. All shorn, buffed and muzzled, held in five-by-five pens, sometimes lashed by the face to the pen’s bars or attached by the neck to braces that held them upright, like dressage horses, so as to produce the posture most likely to fetch the best auction price. Apparently their next stop would be the butcher, but for now they were treated somewhere between pets and slaves. Kathleen was communicative and affectionate toward them as she moved from sheep to sheep, petting heads and muzzles, letting them chew her fingers with their lips. “Touch is the vehicle of spirit,” she said on the bus home, echoing her conclusion and empathy.
As I approached the last major curve of Lee Hill Drive the car stereo played Dean Martin singing Your Nobody ‘Till Somebody Loves You. I rounded the curve and suddenly saw a dozen magpies at a deer carcass in the opposite lane, the animal severely mangled, guts everywhere. I continued driving knowing I shouldn’t and eventually turned back. It was Christmas Day, not another car in sight. I pulled off to the right and turned the emergency lights on. The magpies had all flown save one, its desire for flesh stronger than apprehension. Most of the deer’s organ’s blew out when she was hit and her liver was lying six feet from the body. I hauled the deer out of the way so other cars could have a safe passage and the deer have some semblance of a burial. It must have died hours ago, sometime in the dark and its spirit felt long departed. I got back in my car and drove on, energized by doing something I knew I should have done but almost didn’t.
Year End II
Ati slept next to me all night. As always, she clawed the bedspread before laying down, then she was still. I dreamed I was in a foreign country, in an idyllic world that had so far escaped modernization and even had a sage tending shrines. Planks of black walnut and candles. At one moment incense smoke billowed so thick it filled the shrine room. As usual, I had no destination, nor did I know where my excursion began. I forgot to set the alarm and woke at 6:52, slightly hung over, not from Christmas dinner wine but from seven games of bingo. Ati was still beside me. I got up, opened my laptop but the internet was still down. Yesterday’s winds had subsided but when I got to the last curve of Lee Hill the deer carcass was now on the opposite side of the road, blown southwest by the wind. The magpies were gone. Frank Sinatra was singing Come Fly With Me on the car stereo. Christmas had passed and my hangover was fading into a kind of confidence, as if I was going in the right direction after all.
Year End - III
Nowhere is warmth to be found
Among those afraid of losing ground – The Byrds
I Goggled the lyrics of Eight Miles High just before driving down Deertrail and Lee High. I never could fully understand the lyrics before but now I could sing along with the music and I played the song three times as I descending from 7,500 to 5,430 feet. Crows fled before my car at one turn, magpies at another. I left the house later than usual and the sun was higher. The razor-straight horizon of the plains of Eastern Colorado blazed orange. The deer carcass was still lying on the right side of the road, a patch of the animal’s dried blood burned into the asphalt nearby. During the last mile of my drive a Porsche SUV tailgated me, but in spite of the repetition of the drive and the tailgater, I was warm in the car and still felt the spirit of Eight Miles High.
That's the mistake I made... to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough. - Samuel Beckett