Friday, May 19, 2017

Waiting for the Return

     Aturok stood at the western shore and gazed up at the night sky. The moon had not yet risen and the Pleiades shone brightly. He could clearly see each of the seven stars in the open cluster. It wasn't difficult for him to imagine his ancestors calling this star system home, though it was more than four hundred light years away.
     Aturok had been born on the planet where he now stood, the product of a coupling between a male ancestor and a female native. His mother had not survived his birth and so he was raised by the ancestors in the years before their departure. Bridging two worlds, two cultures, two life forms, Aturok was a being of both and neither.
     His creation had been no accident. The ancestors were ill-adapted to life on this planet and needed intermediaries to fulfill their purposes. Aturok was one of many they had created to serve them and then abandoned, with the promise of their eventual return. Now, many years later, Aturok still looked to the sky for some kind of sign.
     During his childhood, Aturok learned from the ancestors about their worlds and culture, with special emphasis on their technology, the technology he would use to control the native people and to mine the resources needed by the ancestors.
     The ancestors were believed to be gods by the native people. Aturok and the other hybrids were treated as the children of gods. The native people's creation myth foretold of a time when the gods would descend from the heavens, and the ancestors did nothing to dispel this belief. On the contrary, to ensure their cooperation, the ancestors applied their technology, which the native people considered pure magic, to build stone temples and monuments that reinforced native beliefs.
     When Aturok was of age, he took a native woman as his mate. As every hybrid was male, there was no other choice. But in common with the mule, a cross between a horse and a donkey, the hybrids were sterile and produced no offspring.
     Aturok's first mate was one of a succession of mates he had been paired with over the years. His ancestral genetic heritage gave him tremendous longevity, though not so long as the ancestors who had crossed the vast distances between stars.
     The natives who had been alive when the ancestors arrived were long dead, and the succeeding generations knew of them only through stories, temple ruins, and the persistent presence of the hybrids. Though Aturok and the other hybrids continued to exert control, there were grumblings from the native people and insubordinate questions. They wanted to know when the ancestors would return, and they believed the hybrids knew but would not tell them. If only it were so, thought Aturok, but the ancestors had taken their technology with them when they departed and there was no means for communication. Thus, he watched the night sky.
     Though doubts persisted among the native people, they still admired the hybrids for their knowledge and abilities. With no possible offspring, and with native people incapable of mastery, those advantages would ultimately die out. The native people, in deliberate attempts to prevent this eventuality, took to flattening the heads of their infants, believing that hybrid intelligence was contained within their unique head shapes.
     One of the infants thus affected grew to manhood as a leader of his people. He was confident, as were they, that he was the equal of the hybrids, and he sought to challenge them to prove it. What this leader lacked in hybrid-level intelligence he compensated for with guile and cunning. He would engage the hybrids in games and connivances, which the hybrids would purposely lose to preserve the peace. Instead of gloating over his small victories, the leader would seethe with anger over the knowledge that he was being manipulated. Finally, he called upon his people to rise up against the hybrids and force them to reveal the date of the ancestors' return.
     That event had taken place earlier in the day, as the sun was setting and the light was tinged with red. Now Aturok stood at the shore and awaited his fate. He turned at the sound of approaching footsteps and faced the leader holding a spear aimed at his heart. When will the ancestors return, the leader asked. Aturok gazed calmly at the leader and spoke the words he had come to know as truth: They will not return.
     With an anguished cry, the leader plunged the spear into Aturok's heart. Aturok did not cry out. He dropped to his knees and slid slowly to his side on the sand. With effort, he turned his head for a last look at the Pleiades and then closed his eyes and welcomed the starless darkness.

Aturok and the other murdered hybrids were buried among the stones of the temple ruins in graves befitting the children of gods. The native people abandoned their ancestral lands for new lands, where they could forget the past and resume living as they had before their creation myth had become their reality.



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

John Denver shrine on Aspen Mountain

Me at the John Denver shrine on Aspen Mountain
Nan and I made a quick trip back to our old stomping grounds in Aspen this past weekend. It was a chance to catch up with friends and ski some familiar terrain. We have skied two days here in New Mexico this season, at Sandia Peak and Taos, but we really wanted to ski in Aspen again after not having skied there in almost four years.

Early on Saturday morning, our friend Mike, who has been our first mate on every major sailing adventure with Whispering Jesse, including our trip to Bimini last April, and who works for the Aspen-Snowmass Skiing Company, met us at the base of Aspen Highlands to get us set up with rental skis and lift tickets. Then we took a couple of lift rides up to the summit for unmatched views and easy skiing on blue groomers. The weather was beautiful and the snow softened up nicely. Mike headed off to work at mid-day, and we picked up Lori, our friend and generous hostess, and her friend Judy for some afternoon runs.

The original plan was to ski Snowmass on Sunday, but Nan wanted to meet up with friends instead, so Mike and I opted to ski closer to home at Aspen Mountain. The weather was deteriorating in the morning; a front was blowing in from the west with dark clouds and high winds. The lighting was flat and the snow stayed firm, so we stuck to the blue terrain and skied runs off the top of the mountain.

Mike at the John Denver shrine on Aspen Mountain
On a whim during one of our chairlift rides, I asked Mike if he knew where the John Denver shrine was located. Aspen Mountain features many shrines--memorials to beloved locals and famous celebrities who have passed away. The first ones I knew about, back in the '90s, were dedicated to Jerry Garcia, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. One was erected in John Denver's memory shortly after his death in October 1997, but I had never known where it was located, only that is was off the Belissimo ski run somewhere. Mike didn't know where it was either, so we stopped at the Skier Services hut at the top of the lift to request directions. "Can you tell us where the John Denver shrine is located?" I asked. The employee there, a guy wearing a goofy cowboy hat, responded, "No. I grew up here, so I can't tell you. Otherwise, I could. I can tell you that it's that way," he said, pointing down the hill. "Not that way," he said, pointing up the hill. We skied away without thanking him for his arrogant lack of assistance.

A little later, we ran into Steve, a ski patrolman Mike knew, and he explained to us exactly where to go. Following his directions, we skied down the steep part of Belissimo, bore to the right in the flats, and then looked for tracks going into the woods on the left side of the run. Mike led the way as we traversed several yards into the spruce trees, and there it was.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was mostly faded photos and publicity shots of John from different phases of his music career, plus some wind chimes and a makeshift candle lantern. The item that struck me was a photo of John in his later years, looking a little scruffy, with the announcement of his memorial service printed below. I told Mike that Nan and I had attended the service as guests of John's family. I was John's computer consultant back then and had been up at his house helping him get his technology in order for his trip to California just a few days before he crashed his plane into Monterey Bay.

It's difficult to believe that John has been gone for almost twenty years now. Like his many fans and friends, I still miss him.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Who's lucky now?

It has been six months since we adopted Lucky from the local animal shelter here in Artesia, New Mexico. He adjusted quickly to his new life with us and has settled into a reassuring routine. We now believe that he was at most a year old when we adopted him on July 20, as his energy level is closer to that of an adolescent dog than to a mature, adult dog. This has been Nan's and my greatest adjustment, getting used to dealing with a dog who has so much energy that he occasionally goes into what we have come to call the "zoomies," tearing around our one-bedroom apartment like the Tasmanian Devil, sliding blankets off the bed and skating rugs across the floor. He can be calm one minute but then in the next he gets a crazed look in his eyes and takes off spinning his wheels full speed on the tile floors. The only cure is a trip outside, though he already gets miles of frequent walks every day, or a time-out in his wire-mesh kennel, which doubles as his bed to keep him off ours at night.

In the photo taken this morning, Lucky is just back from a weekend at the boarding kennel, which he seems to enjoy, but you can see that he is also very happy to be home. He's clipped into his leash, anticipating the walk he always gets after a trip to the kennel, and he's still wearing the harness we put him in for car rides, with a seat belt that keeps him securely fastened in the back seat. Without it, he would try to get into the front seat to be with us, and that could result in disaster.

His latest stunt is to climb into my lap while I'm sitting in the recliner watching TV. We figure this must be a holdover from when he was a puppy, but it's a little inconvenient to have a sixty-pound dog blocking your view of the TV and making your legs go numb. I don't mind, though, if he lies down, curls up and dozes off while I scratch behind his ears. It's a bonding experience.

The minor adjustments we have made to Lucky's being an "excitable boy" are a small price for the love and affection he gives us every day, but we do look forward to him mellowing out a little someday. Maybe.