After wrestling with life-and-death questions involving bacon, the Good Friday pilgrimage to Chimayo and the opening of the Trinity atomic bomb test site, I chose Cheerios for breakfast the other morning and felt righteous until the onset of the worst blood sugar crash I’ve experienced since Larry Calloway and I encountered space aliens deep in the San Juan Mountains.
Today, I started the day right: with a bacon-and-egg sandwich along with my black coffee; reading an old Paris Review interview with the writer Annie Proulx; and remembering two other favorite, late-starting authors, A.B. Guthrie Jr. and Norman Maclean.
I got a kick out of the Paris Review interview with Proulx:
INTERVIEWER You were in your forties when you wrote the first of the stories from Heart Songs. Do you think you had a late start when it comes to writing fiction?
PROULX Well, I did, yeah. But so what? Why should it bother anybody when somebody starts to write?
INTERVIEWER It’s fewer years writing the stories that you seem to enjoy writing.
PROULX Oh, yeah, I suppose, but that’s OK too. The world is spared lots of crap.
I got a late start understanding breakfast foods.
For almost 50 years, I thought the Gold Standard of breakfast fare was a bowl of cereal with milk, often with added sugar. And, in school and on the trails where I spent many of my free hours, I often experienced debilitating blood sugar crashes, which I would invariably address by eating something sugary and starchy.
My friend Polly steered me to an ayruvedic, who said my eating pattern was only jacking up my blood sugar level and spiking it again after the inevitable crash. I immediately understood my wavering attention span throughout my school years and sudden exhaustion on backpacking trips that wouldn’t be cured even with the ingestion of two or three healthy-looking granola bars.
I was in a near hallucinogenic state one evening back in the 1980s, after my writer/journalist friend Larry led me from a train stop at Needle Creek on the Animas River in southwestern Colorado up to the Chicago Basin and, the next day, over Columbine Pass to Vallecitos Creek. We were on our way to Hunchback Pass, Beartown and on down the Rio Grande headwaters to my truck at Sky Hi Ranch.
I believe I had consumed granola bars for breakfast and lunch — these were pre-Clif Bar variety — and probably popped another while Larry prepared to fish the upper Vallecitos for dinner. I was crouched down in camp, building a fire, a convenient position since my much of my brain had shut down and my legs had felt like linguine since noon. Three or four thousand feet of downhill will do that to you.
I don’t know who did a double-take first as two figures marched out of the trees upstream, wearing rubber suits, helmets and carrying big, elongated objects over their heads. It took a couple of moments to realize they were men.
Crazy men. Carrying boats over their heads, they had come down from Stony Pass, then climbed over Hunchback Pass to drop down again to kayak the Vallecito.
That trip — even though the kayakers were real — was the acme of my blood sugar problems. I have since learned to leave the sugar until evening and give the upper hand to protein in the morning. Of course, there are protein options, but these can become challenging questions when there is bacon in the house.
I was distracted yesterday morning when I eschewed the bacon and reached for the family-sized box of Cheerios left over from a visit from my nephew, Will, who apparently is unaffected by the same cereal tricks that undermine me. My mind kept trying to link weekend events in New Mexico, where the annual Good Friday pilgramage to Chimayo was underway while the government was preparing to allow other pilgrims into the Trinity atomic bomb test site down at White Sands.
It is an ongoing curiosity to me — although New Mexico is a place where faith and science live side by side — that we casually recognize both on the same weekend, at opposite ends of the state.
I guess people will be doing similar things at both sites: stooping at Chimayo to pick up holy dirt and searching the ground at the northern end of White Sands for the glassy nuclear blast residue called Trinitite.
Not a big deal, really. For me, it’s just one of those daily New Mexico conundrums.
I don’t know if the likes of Annie Proulx, or the late A.B. Guthrie Jr. or Norman Maclean would be stalled by such idle thoughts. I think of them as doers. But each apparently was a late-starter, at least in terms of publishing.
Proulx was in her fifties before publishing her first short-story collection; Guthrie was a newspaper man for more than 20 years before publishing The Big Sky; Maclean retired from a teaching career before completing A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. (And, by the way, I like the “other” story, “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky,” more than the famous “A River Runs Through It.”).
I like them all, for their apparent determination as well their stories. Hopefully, I can follow in their late-starter footsteps, at least with essays, now that I am free to write whatever the hell I want to write.
I just need to get past philosophical debates over my cast iron skillet. And maybe avoid the Internet’s temptations to premature publication.