The Straightening of Crooked Things

Where I live, moments of transcendence inspired by nature have the potential to occur on a daily basis. Our little remote mountain town is tucked in the bosom of an expansive wilderness, surrounded by soaring granite ranges, miles of national forest, pristine lakes, and churning, emerald rivers.

I have lived here for close to sixteen years and still have my breath stolen away regularly.

Recently though, I have found myself experiencing a recurring brush with transcendence in nature, but it has come in an unexpected and unlikely form.

There is a highway that twists through our mountain pass like a curling black and yellow ribbon, joining our little oasis with the nearest largish city, some fifty miles away and twenty-two hundred feet lower. This stretch of road, famous for folks hurling either their cars or their lunch over the precarious edges is aptly called “Buckhorn”. It is at once treacherous and beautiful.

It has claimed lives.

 It is also a magical portal for the imagination that I have found to be a strange and rare spot for downloading some of my most inspired thoughts and ideas; a secret trysting place for my genius and me.

This year, courtesy of the economic stimulation given by the hand of the Almighty Powers That Be, a major (and I mean major) highway realignment project has begun…The Straightening of Buckhorn.

We are talking an earth moving operation of Biblical proportions…

Mountains being laid low and valleys being raised up.

Someone at the top has some kinda mustard seed faith, a fistful of cash, and some mighty terrible machines to pull off something this epic. Ten cuts. Ten hairpins pulled straight.

I make a weekly trek down the mountain to visit my shrink…ehrm…I mean for an appointment, and have been utterly in shock and awe as I have watched the army of yellow behemoths working their destruction.

Driving through the pass these days is like driving through an Ayn Rand novel.

It is the land of the giant Tonka Trucks. Massive mechanical jaws ripping great rifts through the green to reveal the rust-red flesh of the mountainsides. Towering hills flanking the left of each curve being literally chopped in two, their guts being scraped and scooped into the deep ravine on the other side of the road.

Giant contraptions like something only Tim Burton could dream up, receive two-ton servings of broken chunks of asphalt into their mouths as they simultaneously spew out finely ground black rubble from their…other ends. The old road being devoured and made reusable again—a small token of conservancy offered to appease Gaea for the obscene violence unfolding in the woods.

Further down the highway, past the worst of the carnage, great swaths of forest stand gaping in their shorn nakedness; mighty Oaks and Cedars lie scattered in heaps like soldiers on a civil war battleground—the land being made ready for cuts eight, nine, and ten. The stands of adjacent trees look on in horror and dread, like spectators at a crime scene, wondering if they are next.

The magnitude of the reconfiguration of the landscape is absolutely awe-inspiring. It is an engineering feat that leaves me stunned and amazed. I am repulsed and drawn to the strange awful beauty of it. I feel some kind of crazy hope kindle at the sheer ingenuity and fortitude necessary for such an undertaking.

As I head toward my ‘appointment’ each week, I feel like I am driving through a metaphor for this particular leg of my life’s journey. As I drive on toward understanding and awareness, out of confusion and lost-ness, I am hopeful that the reconfiguration of my innards will leave me a little more straightened out; a little more accessible to my self; a little more user-friendly. Scarred? Likely. Functional? Of course. Beautiful? Depends on how you look at it.

Nature and man. Destruction and creation. Progress and the natural way of things. Me, myself and I.

You and me.

A transcendent alphabet soup swirling together, forming new words and new roads. Where oh where will they lead us?


A View from the Mountaintop

More photos: A fascinating look at heavy machinery; man and nature; destruction and creation.

Click on any thumbnail to view this gallery.


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  1. Mike Martens says:

    Wow! What a great blog! You create marvelous images with your words.

  2. Ooooooooh Kathy, you went and did it!!!! I sit here and scrunch up my mouth with each word you write, knowing the same sensations in my soul that you speak of when I take the disheveled trip up the hill to see you and the wide open spaces. It reminds me of when I was 18 years old, and they were starting to build the dam on the Ohio River above Cannelton, Indiiana. We would drive up–a carload of just out-of-highschool kids–and park there and listen to the pile-driving equipment. God, it was a constant cadence of humongous pounding. I remember getting out of the car and dancing an ancient dance to the thunderous beat. Boom! Boom! Boom! That same raw sensation runs through me when I drive over Buckhorn. It seems to me that anti-gravity and levitation would be much kinder to the nature and the mankind trekking over the pass.

    Thanks for your words that put my mouth in scrunch-mode!!!! Love, Starwaker

  3. Well done. That perfectly describes what it’s like out there. It’s at once astounding and tragic.

    • Thanks Em. You almost have to drive through it to get in immensity of it… huh? Bizarre and almost otherworldly. xo

  4. It’s like driving through some artist’s interpretation of the industrial revolution.

  5. Nancy Kohl says:

    ‘Really enjoy your reflections, Kathy. Buckhorn was always a symbol to me, too. When I first moved to Trinity I was terrified to drive it. But then I decided it was either the wall keeping me a prisoner, or the bridge connecting me to the rest of the world. As soon as I chose the bridge I not only endured it, but learned to never once go to Redding without rejoicing in the sheer beauty of Whiskeytown, and laugh with amazement that THAT was my commute to Costco and Target.

    • Thanks Nancy! Nice to hear from you. I’m so glad you broke through the wall and reconstructed it as a bridge. We should probably do that with more of our walls. Hope all is well with you and your fam! 🙂

  6. Hey Kathy, I posted your verbal mojo magic on my Face Book and got a bunch of likes already from those who read it! Keep up the magnificent work–more stories!!!!!

    Love, D (aka Starwalker)