Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fevoop!


Yes, that’s exactly what I said — or, more accurately, bugled early yesterday afternoon from atop Saddle Mountain after an arduous two-and-a-half mile hike with my wife and son through mist and fog to the rocky summit. Beginning from the mossy parking lot seven miles off the main road, the ascent is a little over 1,600 feet — a climb steep enough to defeat casual hikers, especially above the tree line where the path is steepest and held in place by a wire mesh. Even in the fifty-degree air, I was soaked with sweat to the skin. The kid, of course, nearly sprinted his way up. His mother, also in excellent condition, followed, glancing occasionally over her shoulder to see if I’d had a heart attack. During one of our rests, not far from the top, I did say that I thought Saddle Mountain would be a fine place to keel over and die. But I thought better of it because of the inconvenience involved.

We saw wild roses, ethereal birches, fallen trees and rotting stumps bearded with tender plant life. Wildflowers scented the air. The view from the top, which, on a clear day, takes in the Pacific Ocean to the west and several Cascade volcanoes to the east, was completely obscured by blowing fog. Now and again, a nearby mountaintop appeared, then disappeared, well defined in a brief glimpse of blue.

There was a simple white cross just beyond the railing where someone, apparently, had taken a fatal step. Two sweaty and puffing young women had arrived before us. And before them, a couple of young men, who were sitting at a simple wooden table. Everyone was catching their breath and hoping the fog would clear. Then we were left alone, the three of us. That’s when I uttered my cry of Fevoop! — because I’m crazy, but, more importantly, in memory of my father and his Uncle Archie, who used to refer to Dad as a wise old elk, followed by a Fevoop! that set the sternum vibrating and made all things seem possible.

And, damn it, they were possible. They still are.

And here the sweet riddle of my dedication in No Time to Cut My Hair is finally revealed:

For Archie, Kirk, Willie, and Al — wise old elks and lovers of bullfrogs

Archie being Dad’s uncle, a painter, and poet; Kirk his opera-loving brother; Willie Saroyan their famous writer-cousin; and Al, the man who taught me, among countless other things, that honesty cannot, must not be compromised.

Once upon a time, in a world long gone and ever present, Archie, Dad, and I drifted down the Kings River in our twelve-foot aluminum boat, fishing. The high banks were lined with eucalyptus, leaves from which drifted and swirled near us on the water’s surface. And from somewhere, hidden in the shade beside a deep pool, a bullfrog called. Hearing it, Archie stomped his foot against the bottom of the boat, causing the frog to jump into the water. A simple happening, yet one that immediately entered the realm of memory and lore.

I am who I am by just such manner of holy accident. I am the frog just as it lands. I am the splash. I am a puff of smoke from Archie’s cigar. I am his laugh, his curse, and his paint-stained shirt. I am the fatal step, the abyss, and the feeble wind-worn cross.

Halfway down, we met a man and his wife on their way up. The man, a little older than me and less determined, said, “Did you make it to the top?”

I said, “Why, don’t we look like it?”

He quickly studied my wet, tangled hair and beard and laughed.

They were nice people. But there was no way in hell they were going to make it. And then I thought, One step among these flowers, one caress of these ferns, one deep breath, is enough.

And I will remember them as well. Maybe not as long, maybe not in the same way, but as fellow travelers.

14 comments:

Transcend Designs said...

Sounds like a great time,
almost felt like I was there thanks to your rendition...

Fevoop!

William Michaelian said...

Thanks! Years ago, in junior high school, a friend and I used to greet each other in the corridor with Fevoop! It echoed well.

Joseph Hutchison said...

"I am who I am by just such manner of holy accident." Wonderful! Me, too. And all of us memory drenched, momentary creatures, I suspect. Thanks for the tender reminder.

William Michaelian said...

You’re welcome, Joe. And I thank you.

Janice said...

You made me laugh William...thank you! I could just picture your wife looking back to make sure that you were still with her and your son :D It sounds like you have been having some wonderful and well deserved time with your wife and family. By the way "No Time to Cut My Hair" is going to be my next book that I get for my library section "books by William Michaelian!!!

William Michaelian said...

Wonderful! What a lovely thing to hear. Thank you.

Today we bought a few berries for jam, and that is under way at this very moment. A year’s worth of pleasure, bound up with memories of countless jam-making scenes from childhood....

Caio Fernandes said...

so you were to one that Fevooped... i felt fron here!

fog... i never want then to leave but i always like when it happens and i can see far away.
great day it was!

William Michaelian said...

A great day, yes — fog, no fog, beautiful there no matter what.

And pretty soon I’ll send another Fevoop! your way. That would be a good dream — you hold a sea shell to your ear and that’s the sound you hear.....

Gerry Boyd said...

nice piece William.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Gerry.

ALeks said...

I see,that trip has done you good!!What a wonderful story,
I can hear you all laughing,it echoes till here.... :) (or it is me laughing by the imagining this)
Its great you have had a good time!

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Aleksandra! Here, there, the more laughing, the better....

~im just only me~ said...

William, it is strange that you chose this place since my friend and I are planning a trip there later this summer. I had decided to let a barbaric yawp go at the top... now I just feel like a copy cat. Imitation is... what now? :)

William Michaelian said...

Well, really, when you get down to it, a yawp and a fevoop aren’t that much alike. But I’ll be looking forward to your report, as long as you don’t reveal how much I’ve been exaggerating.

Oops.