not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
My days seem divided in two recently. As such, I thought it apropos to split this post in two as well.
In the early morning, my friend Dustin and I hiked a loop in the Madera Canyon Recreation area, which does not seem to involve canyons of any kind. Everyone in Tucson knows about the hiking trails around Sabino Canyon- try going there on a weekday, and you’ll find the parking lot full and the side roads full of cars. If you go there in the late afternoon, you will find that all the cars have parking tickets on them courtesy of the Tucson police force, who likely refer to the Sabino Canyon Parking Area as “The Donut Fund.” My point is that sometimes Sabino Canyon is more full than the average hiker would like it to be, and in the summer the canyon doesn’t exactly offer a break from the heat of south Arizona.
The next obvious step for most Tucsonians is to try Mount Lemmon, which is conveniently near Sabino Canyon, and features trails that are less frequented than Sabino or Finger Rock or any of the other popular weekend destinations… unless it’s the summer, in which case you run into the same problem compounded by worse parking and the constant terror that you’re going to run over one of the approximately 400 bicyclists that crowd Mount Lemmon’s roads every weekend. Madera Canyon is actually comoposed around a series of smallish mountains that surround Mount Wrightson, the highest peak in Southern Arizona, and it has the benefit of occasionally having trails that don’t contain three hikers per square foot.
This isn’t to say the trails are completely deserted, but Dustin and I left my house at 8:15AM, arrived at the trailhead around 9 (one reason for the relative seclusion- you have to go about halfway to Nogales to get to the recreation area), and saw exactly five people for the first half of our hike. We started running into larger hiking groups as the day went on and we started hiking back, but for a long time it was easy to feel completely alone on the mountain. We’d previously hiked Mount Wrightson, which I was surprised to find was a Grade A hike- it requires some endurance and at least one good knee, but little beyond that- and discovered a similar refreshing lack of traffic. Also, some of these trails were wonderfully versatile, and the trail we hiked was basically a large loop moving between several natural springs. By going to the left at a fork near the beginning of the trail, we went to Bog Spring first, enjoying a slow but steady climb that flattens out near the top. After passing Bog Spring we climbed some more, got to Kent Spring, and then took the Kent Spring trail, which was apparently made by Calvin and Hobbes barreling down the mountain in their wagon. There were a few switchbacks on the trail between Bog Spring and Kent Spring, but the way down was just a straight drop. Dustin expressed loudly and frequently how glad he was that we went left instead of right at that first fork, and I had to agree. If there are any Cross Country teams in the Tucson area that are trying to improve their climbing speed, I suggest you make a run up the Kent Spring Trail a weekly exercise. You will have quadriceps the size of tree trunks, and your knees will give out when you turn twenty-four.
After the hike, neither of us felt as tired as we usually do, and couldn’t figure out why until I realized the day was overcast. When you’ve been hiking in Tucson long enough, you tend to forget about the sun factor, but newcomers to the climate should remember that it takes something extra out of you. After a hike of as little as five miles, I gain the desire to lay down in a dark room with a cold washcloth over my head. Sometimes I do just that. I typically go through at least two liters of water in a single hike, and often more, and I still feel like that. Sometimes I wonder how often I have gotten anything that could medically qualify as heatstroke. The sun is serious business ’round these parts.
And now I see I’ve already almost come to my 800-word goal without saying much of anything about King Lear. It’s my favorite Shakespeare play for reasons that either sound way too simple or way too complex, depending on which ones I give. I’m giving a paper on the subject in exactly one week, so I figured I should review the play and the paper, in that order. I’m only on Act 2 after about 3 hours of reading (I was taking notes very, very closely for 2 of those hours, then realized I was only like 4 pages in), but I’m loving all the usual things about it- the metaphors and allusions are incredibly dense even by Shakespeare’s standard: at one point the Fool tells Lear that he (paraphrasing here) “Gave your rod to your daughters and pulled down your own breeches.” What a wonderfully concise way to describe the King’s total loss of any royal or parental authority, all through a mixed metaphor that hinges on the double meaning of “rod” (royal scepter, disciplinary switch, possible third phallic meaning- after all, Lear has been emasculated in all but the literal sense). Plus it’s a joke about butts, which are funny. I think Stephen Greenblatt originated that critical observation.
The other thing I’m noticing this time through- early critics of King Lear complained about the subplot involving Gloucester and his sons, Edgar and Edmund, saying that it distracted from the main plot involving the title character. I remember this criticism because it was one of the first times I realized that people are going to bitch about everything under the sun, but especially about those things that come the closest to perfect we’re ever likely to see. I’m re-remembering it (Toni Morrison would say rememorying it) the second time through because, hell, it’s the most involving and exciting part of the whole play! The stuff with Lear and his daughters is remarkably inert for the first few acts- Lear’s initial renounciation of Cordelia and Kent seems like it is mostly motivated out of a desire on the part of the playwright to keep things moving along. It’s Edmund’s plans that keep us wondering what’s going to happen next, and for my money, two of the play’s three most affecting scenes belong to this subplot- the blinding of Gloucester, and Edgar pretending to be multiple different people as he tries to trick Gloucester into once again having the will to live. Of course, nothing’s going to top that absolutely brutal final scene, but then nothing in literature ever has. Christ rose at first light, so we’re still at least three hours from Easter proper, so I think it’s fitting to end this post on a moment of darkness before tomorrow’s resurrection:
“An my poor fool is hanged. No, no! No life?
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!”
Damn, Shakespeare. How do you make feeling bad feel so good?