Sunday, November 16, 2014

Prose poem: "The house on the hill with a view"

Hang in there....[I get deep quick in this short Post (just one picture [can you believe it?]!): I promise it's worth it if you can untangle a few baroque threads of thought]. For as long as I can remember, I have marveled at this house on a hill a mile or two east of the Clifton cutoff (on Highway 141) Just east of Highway 50 just south of Grand Junction heading back towards Palisade. If that sentence made sense to you, you're a bona-fide slopey and deserve an extra box of overripes next August (you'll know what I mean)...

How far back do I remember? Forty years minimum it's been since Paul Maslin taught me about this cut-off that saves at least half an hour when you're tooling north alongside the Gunnison river which is headed that direction. You've just passed Whitewater where 141 goes West towards Gateway (another long story--that haunting canyon where the Gunnison once raged).

Back to the house: I've decided it's a symbol of Civilization: we've plunked ourselves on top of nature. We've planted trees on the desert in a nice row leading up to what must be a heck of a view. I'd like to think that block shaped house is more interesting than it appears in this picture: perhaps there's a garden surrounding the house worthy of the view. I will probably never know. Did I mention Land's end road we just drove past? I've never driven it--and every year I forget to photograph the sign saying "Kannah Creek" to email Pat to post on Plant Select's website: life consists of these details that slip by (except when art snatches them up). Oh yes! The Grand Mesa. Off to the right in the picture (you can click on the pic and see it up a little closer, you know)--one of the Many Marvels of my State! Have I ever mentioned I'm intensely proud of my silly rectangular state? Just us and Wyoming are so profoundly trapezoidal on this planet earth--kind of putting a house on a butte.

There's a boldness verging on--nay, exceeding arrogance--in the act of plunking a house atop a mesa--and watering the bejesus out of it to grow those trees (I should say "them trees" as a true Westerner).  This spot is where steppe verges on and frequently is true desert after all.

Each time I drive this cut-off I marvel at that house and wonder who lives in it and what it looks like close up: I have probably driven that road 100 times over the decades (it's forty years after all--and I've driven it at least twice, maybe four times or maybe eight some years--do the math). And this last September was the first time I took a picture of the spot. There are probably a thousand touchstones like this on my travels around Colorado alone (let's not even talk about the rest of the West--or South Africa!).  If you're a Denverite, think the clamshell house (or hamburger, false teeth or whatever your local idiolect called the Sleeper mansion on Genessee). Or Finger Rock near Yampa (it's labeled that way going one way and labeled "Chimney Rock" coming the other way on the highway--did you ever notice?).

I am about to write the profoundest paragraph in my whole blog series, sit tight: In the Songlines*, Bruce Chatwin delineates the way that primitive cultures like the Aborigines have an enviable sort of Unity of Culture: song, cultural and personal history, the very act of moving through the landscape, the rhythms of both the individual and the social unit's lifetime, lifelines actually, are knit together such that one cannot distinguish where one ends and the other starts. In other words, the landscape is the song is the culture is the individual. In a poem I can't put my hands on any more, Jorge Luis Borges observes that if you could raise yourself above, you would see that the steps you take in your life actually trace the outline of your face (or words to that effect). Although supposedly civilized, we are simply aborigines lost in a technology of our own making, which tricks us into thinking we're alienated, when in fact art (and art alone) reveals that we too are synonymous with the road we travel, the song we sing. So sing! and soar!

Perhaps before I die, I shall have a chance to visit that mysterious house on the hill up close. It's been like that with most of my pipe dreams, ya know?

*Since I can't really promise to buy you those peaches, I thought I'd link you to a .pdf of the whole frickin' book: one of the best books ever! Don't try reading it at one sitting however (it's pretty rich).


  1. That house reminds me of a few in various SW towns doing that same thing. Maybe the trees are to soften the blow of the road cut? Seems "look at me", and with a locked or uncomfortable access up to get a closer look.

    Maybe their bluegrass and Alberta spruces will soon follow suit of the (certain) several tries at aspen groves up top, and they will happen to run into you at DBG!!!

  2. “A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.” -Borges

    1. Gracias, Sra. de la Mancha. It's even nicer than I remembered!

  3. You must stop and say Hello. You might be pleasantly surprised. There is a huge retaining wall too.

  4. Better being in the boonies than being a 'Denverite.' Spoken from a Sequimite or Sequimian in WA..
    All too often we drive by places that we should have stopped off at. I know that from sad experience. When we finally visit the invitation the person has passed on.

  5. You must not be too hard on Denver, bonsaiherb--we have a fine bonsai collection for one thing at our Gardens, and two bonsai clubs! I have visited hundreds of cities in my day (many of them charming), but I come home to Denver each year with greater gratitude and happiness: it's a loveable place--especially for those of us who live here. Although I find the Olympic Peninsula--especially the Port towns and your squishy sequined Sequim to be charming to the nth degree.


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