MUTED SNAKE, April Light (IV.23.2011), [click photo for next . . . ]

This is where I was doing fieldwork, yesterday
afternoon. We're looking South upstream, in the great
Snake River Canyon, about 20 or 30 k upstream from
the famous Hells Canyon, the deepest in North America.

I come here often. When I'm not up in the still deep
winter Wallowas North of here, only but 20 k as the crow
flies, or doing hour after hour of digital darkroom
and webwork at my little Office in Eagle Valley, I bike
up here to get away from this highly questionable 24/7
timespace of the web and the long and dirty tail
of internet non-stop commerce and self-promotion.

Here, in a space that the culture of the EuroAmerican has
not been able to deal with very well, time moves very
much more slowly. And it is at 1200 m., but the second
or third week of fresh and wonderful canyon spring.
The Lomatiums are out. The Bunchgrasses are greening up.
The Phloxes are at their prime. The Balsamroot leaves are
just appearing, flower buds still tightly closed.

This is country with immense silence and breadth of spirit.
There's nothing like it, as far as I know, in Europe. (And
I do know and love the European mountains. I in some ways
feel very much more at home there with the indigenous
Mountain Farmers and their highly adapted and rugged
alpine lifestyle.)

This, it seems to me, is why the European mind, when
it was confronted with the greatness of the spirit of
this space, did not know what to do with it. Except dam it.
Tying the river up in knot after knot. All 1600 k of it,
longer than the Rhein, and yet a part of the greater Columbia
Watershed. And putting up barbed-wire fences that follow
the most insane and arbitrary and fragmented of lines.

This is why I refuse to call it the Snake River.

It is for me the MUTED SNAKE, but an echo of its real
self. Like hearing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring half tempo
under a blanket of damp wool. Like comparing the fierce
rhetoric of a Socrates or Martin King to the contemporary
disingenuous political oratory of thinly-vieled corporate
obfuscation and self-interest.

On the way back down to my Office, running a bit near
out of control on mile after mile of steep, rough. loose
gravel, I nearly ran over a small rattle snake square in
the middle of the road. They move slow, very slow this
time of year. Lucky for me. And for him. Just missed it.

I love this country. My prayer is only that we
my change course as a culture, and give up the ways
of force and violence which shape and condition all
of our relationships, whether between ourselves, or with
the living Earth. It is, after all, a change
which has the natural energy of logical necessity
behind it.

And well:—There's no way in Hell you can build a dam
around that!

South Wallowas, Oregon / Idaho Border . . .



Coming down

a steep icy path,

a slip instantly corrected,

forgotten, moving on.

Why can’T. I live like that?


One morning, the mountain farmer goes out
to milk his goats and never comes back;

A quiet stream leaps from the edge of a high
granite cliff and disappears into the late
summer air;

Sitting in an alpine meadow, more flowers
than grass, the sound of delicate bells
rings out,

wave after wave,

from the metal which sleeps in rocks.


Red socks tucked into

impeccable gray-green


relaxed, confident,

with the refined fingers

of a concert pianist,

tapping with his cane,

he gives just the right

emphasis to his last remark:

“Beautiful mountains, these . . .
But, too many rocks!”


Walking down with his lambs,
about twenty of them, all male,
still covered with the crusty manure
of the winter barn,

round as a bear, dressed from
head to toe in 2nd-hand army
wool that he wears like fur,
standing in the middle of the
cold, fast-flowing stream,
big-bearded smile, he kicks
the lambs across, one by one,
puffing on his pipe all the while.

He tells me:

“My wife used to come here
with the goats as a child.”

“Once, they brought up
a priest from the village below
to bless this spring.”

“She’s always said, it’s the other way
around—it’s the spring that blesses us.”



How nice: There’s Gentian!

And Anenome. Old friends—

on paid vacation.


After a while, I’ve noticed

that I tend to read

the signs first.













the spring

with healing waters





The cowherd pointed
on the map and said,

“If you can find it,
you must visit this spring.
The water there is very mysterious.”

“Years ago, they wanted to sell it,
but it burst the bottles—
every time.”


At the village center
a woman fetches water
from a well.

She tells me,

“All my life
the flow of this water
has never changed.

“It was constant during the war
and when my sons did not return,
and it was constant during the time
they built the road and then the dam.

“Even during the Winter of ‘51
it did not freeze.

“But last Spring,
for the first time in my life,
it was silent of seven days
and then ran muddy for
weeks after that.

“This well
never did that


Two neighbors working,
tapping out the blade,
the complementary rhythms of
2s and 3s.

Distance and a summer breeze
do strange things to sound,

the sharp tang of heavy hammer
on anvil planted on heavy rock,

the delicate edge moves slowly
round the tapping of the blade,

a new moon moving from East
to West.

Higher up the mountain, silver
consonants ricochet off nameless
steep granite walls . . .

Wide awake, noon rest finished,
these sounds—were not made today.


On the way,
many beautiful camps
offer themselves for the night.

But to know,
when to keep walking and
when to stay,

and, after stopping,
to know without a doubt
that this place, where one stands,


I am at home.

| download mp3 ON PATHS, selected |

| download pdf of score of my harp music featured, MIST ON SNOWY MOUNTAIN |

The avian soloist featured above is the Old World Blackbird (Turdus merula),
related to the NA Swainson, Hermit & Spirit Thrushes, and
the European musician of musicians.

Featured gallery, 100 MINIATURES, a set of 100 black & white photographs. ONE image. ONE idea. ONE new way of looking . . .
100 MINIATURES—online gallery

Each miniature is a kind of meditation on one idea & one image;
Each lasts 30 seconds; They play in random order;
The music is my BOREA Mix,
for hand-played ePecussion Orchestra.
[ mouse over for controls / lower right fro full-screen ]

All Photographs & texts by Cliff Crego © 1999-2015