Grant deadlines have kept E busy ’til now, and lucky for us, the weather up North has been cold and the spring has been slow. We saddled up the truck and jumped out of town in a hurry, as soon as E could break away. After a cool and blustery drive up, I unloaded the truck in a twilight rain squall.
The morning’s high grass needed to dry out from last evening’s rain before mowing, so I set about fixing the water heater, frizted during last fall’s hunting party, replacing both elements and the bottom thermostat. The elements were really stuck in there, and took some ranch-ineering to create smooth enough application of leverage to break loose without breaking. Got it all figured with a thick old bent nail and a section of pipe.
-from E’s letter home: Last fall, Dan had put down a used rubber pond liner to deter weeds there at the edge of the iris bed where the foot bridge ends over to the corral gate. He pulled back the liner and discovered where all the garter snakes were living and a larger snake that looked like a rattle snake without a rattle. Eghads what a greenhorn mistake! Nine or ten garter snakes (each 24 inches in length) slithered away, but the other snake stood its ground. We had both been walking all over the rubber surface and stepping on the snakes, so that added to the weirdness of the discovery. Dan was pretty freaked out and decided to off the larger snake to be on the safe side. Internet searches when we got home confirmed that we killed a bull snake. They are difficult to distinguish from rattle snakes and flatten their heads to resemble rattle snakes when threatened, which is just what the snake did. So, we feel pretty bad ….. but with treatment cost of rattle snake bites coming in at $100,000 – $120,000, we thought better safe than sorry.
Just after dark a funky short semi truck drove past, and a bit later E saw bright lights up the coulee. It was our bee keeper, dropping off hives while the bees are all home for the night. He headed down and placed hives at the neighbor’s as well.
Mount Arikaree and Arikaree Glacier are the subject of this painting. I’ve summited this 13 thousand foot peak more than 20 times. After the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the glacier retreated into its cirque. Glacial meltwater passes through the talus field to emerge on the low shoulder of the mountain with only 1 part per billion of sediment- some of the cleanest water imaginable. Colorado State University’s Alpine Research Center is based in this glacial watershed, and last year they predicted Arikaree Glacier would be gone by 2025, with the sister valley’s Arapaho Glacier meeting its end soon after. I was the protector of these glaciers and their watersheds from my 18th birthday though to my 30th; I kept individuals from leaving physical footprints and infecting the watershed with giardia, but all the billions of humanity’s footprints are stomping it into oblivion now. While painting I’m streaming interviews with arctic / antarctic scientists, biologists documenting the 6th Mass Extinction, investigative climate journalists, climate activists such as Extinction Rebellion, Dark Mountain poets and authors; keeping my head in the game of reality while memorializing the heart of the mountain, already so much smaller, and ever smaller, and gone. Climate Collapse is finally obvious in everyone’s back yard, and if your back yard is alpine wilderness, it is already over. There is a white-hot place in my mind now that wasn’t there in my patrol days, a spot the glaciers kept cool, and now with them dying- it is a strange inescapable light, an ultraviolet long wavelength, a wave form of oblivion.