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Smell is the Strongest Sense

September 26th, 2009
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There are some smells that are so interwoven with memories of place and people that even just a whiff can bring back vivid recollections of moments. The sweet, fermented smell of summer rain on sagebrush in August, the distinct fragrance of a cottonwood tree, the aroma of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies wafting through the house on Sunday night–all scents that are peppered with the joy and freedom from my youth, growing up half wild in Southern Utah.

Drove by my old high school last weekend and had a strange flood of memories, including some olfactory ones. I could remember exactly what it smelled like in there, particularly during Friday night dances, which were held in the lunch room, oddly enough.

Forgive me if I share a poem I wrote about those days.

 

dance

Forty years of small-town Fridays

Clog the pent-up pores of brick and lacquered dance floor

With yellow light and teenage sweat

 

Bad music, humorless chaperones and three other guys

With the same terry cloth shirt

Couldn’t ruin this night

 

“Wanna dance?”

Sure

 

I can almost see around that corner

Where mirror ball magic and drugstore cologne spill into the hall

And beckon me back

 

But I’m in the dark at my locker

Cooling off and wondering about places

That look and smell better than this

 

All my friends are in there

And I’ll join them soon enough

But let me listen from here for now

 

wake up

 

I used to dream about the future

Beyond that dim-lit hall

All those beautiful people living monogrammed marmalade lives

Somewhere far from this red dirt town

 

Just never thought I’d miss the small-town sanctuary

Of knowing everyone

And being known

And dancing

 

Now sometimes I dream of yellow light and teenage sweat

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Tuna

September 20th, 2009

Fifteen years ago, in the same week that my middle son, Johah, was born, a good friend of mine drove to Colorado with a combined wad of our hard-earned cash and bought us both complete whitewater kayaking setups. We loved running rivers and we had both guided professionally, but we knew precious little about how to kayak.

That friend was Ryan Ollivier, AKA, Tuna. How he got that nickname is another story entirely.

After a run on the Payette River in Idaho

After a run on the Payette River in Idaho, circa August 1998.

We got all of one easy run in that fall before the cold weather came. But we spent all winter in a pool at the University of Utah, learning and practicing our eskimo rolls till we both had them down cold and locked into muscle memory.

Even now, you could tip me over in a kayak and my body will automatically go through my set-up routine: tuck up against the deck, find the surface with my paddle, sweep it in a big arc across the surface while pulling myself upright with a quick snap of the hips. Just like riding a bike. In a swimming pool anyway.

Minutes after a successful run through Skull rapid on the Colorado River

Minutes after a successful run through Skull rapid on the Colorado River. Photo: Ryan Ollivier

 Once we had our own eskimo rolls down, lots of friends and brothers and cousins were recruited into the fold and what followed was a lot of great kayaking trips on rivers all over the West.

Tuna could make a 13-foot boat dance in a way the short-boaters of today never will. Provo River at high water, 1994

Tuna could make a 13-foot boat dance in a way the short-boaters of today never will. Provo River at high water, 1994

Tuna spent one summer guiding on the Salmon River in Idaho, then he followed that up by guiding on the two most challenging sections of the Colorado River this side of the Grand Canyon–Westwater and Cataract.

He’s a professional businessman now and has ditched the nickname, but he still considers this his favorite office.

Ryan Ollivier at the Westwater put-in, August 2009.

Ryan Ollivier at the Westwater put-in, August 2009.

 

The crux of Sock it to Me, August 2009. photo: Ryan Ollivier

The crux of Sock it to Me, August 2009. photo: Ryan Ollivier

It just seems appropriate to mark this 15th anniversary of learning to kayak with a simple thanks to a friend who has gotten me out to see and experience a lot of things I might never have done on my own.

Thanks Tuna. Sorry we missed the Westwater trip this year.

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It’s Time to Get Excited About Winter

September 15th, 2009

Heads up, friends. The deadline to purchase your Snowbird season passes at significant discount is TODAY. Get ‘em while the getting is good.

What were you doing on this bluebird day last winter?

What were you doing on this bluebird day last winter?

My two oldest boys got their passes and I got mine. Join us for another epic season.

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