You may love the holidays.  You may hate the holidays.  No matter what you feel, I suspect you may have a similar reaction to mine when you read the opening to this New York Times News Service story on giving the perfect tech-gift:  To be any kind of enthusiast, techies included, requires a modicum of snobbery.  So if you are pondering a gift for your gadget lover, it had better be the Next Big Thing, otherwise you risk (at best) tepid thanks before your costly gizmo goes in the back of a drawer.*

I won't bother to deconstruct all the pitiful and smarmy elements of this advice. I imagine you are fully capable of that - and of imagining how it might be to have a friend, partner, lover, spouse or family member with whom you damn well better get it right during the Season of Love and Giving. ( I will tell you that under the sub-heading, For the bibliophile. the article's author suggests e-readers.  Bibliophile is defined in my dictionary as "a person who collects or has a great love of books".  Book is defined as "a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers".)  

Perhaps I'd do better offer you (and me) Antidote #4 and  tell you about a little burnt orange and scarlet slot canyon on the Arizona border.  Better for both of us to be there.

Antidote #4:

...Months go by.  I do not cry.  I don’t cry about anything.  Bill is the seventh in a series of deaths---my Mom, my Dad; Karen, Colorado River goddess, and Preacher Fish, her dearest love; Bob-A-Kitty, feline Genghis Khan; and my belief I’d never get old.  My best friend, Ev, hauls me out on most of Arizona’s back-country two-lanes.  It all reminds me of Bill, who first showed me all this impossible burnt orange and cobalt glory.  

“It’s o.k. if you cry, Liz,” Ev says.

“Yep,” I say.  And don’t.

We’re in Buckskin Gulch, Ev and I.  Utah slick rock walls a hundred feet high, ten feet apart.   We’re at the phase of a hike where molten peanut butter and cracker crumbs taste like a ten-course Thai meal.  Ev brews coffee, 3 tsps. of high-grade per cup.  He’s stashed half ‘n’ half in his pack and he’s looking a lot like God.  

“Jesus, Ev,” I say, “coffee and peanut butter and slick rock plus we found flicker feathers and a maybe dead rattler---I am totally happy.”

Two cups later, I can’t sit still.  Ev is sprawled out, a goofy smile on his face.  He opens one eye.

“Coffee strong enough?” he says.

“I gotta hit the trail.”

“Go ahead,” he says.  “I’ll catch up.”

I head down-canyon.  The persimmon walls narrow, darken.  There’s been run-off working here.  For centuries.  The water-varnished rock rises indigo and nearly shining.  Above, a sliver of pure sky hangs steady.  I stop.  I think of Bill.  The sky blurs.  Tatters of clouds move in.  I think of flash floods.  I study the huge logs wedged  in the walls ten feet above me.  I remember wrapping my arms around Bill and whispering, “You’re a big old tree.”   More clouds, vaporous as passion, drift across the slender river of light.

“Damn, Bill,” I whisper.  “You would love this.  Why did you have to die?”  I press my hands against the wall to my left, the wall to my right.  I feel my pulse against the rock.  “I am so sorry.” 

A cold wind swirls past me.  I smell earth’s stony heart.  I am blown full of grief, brought to my knees on red sand....   ---Buckskin, in Bonelight: ruin and grace in the New Southwest.

*gift Advice for tech addicts in Tablets are the next big thing, but what exactly do they do?, by Roy Furchgott

And on the other side of the planet, the photo of Buckskin Gulch is by Brian Klimowski

About the Author

Mary Sojourner

Mary Sojourner, M.A., is the author of She Bets Her Life: A True Story of Gambling Addiction (Seal Press/ April 2010) and Going Through Ghosts (U.Nevada Press, 2010).

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