This was my thinking as I walked up the Angel Bright Trail from Indian Garden to the top… a 3060′ gain in elevation over 4.7 miles.
My right boot had split and was held together with duct tape.
My pack was 50 pounds too heavy. I was tired and out of shape.
My brother, who is older, but much better suited to the task would take the lead and stay a switchback ahead of me. And my legs would begin to ache.
But I knew I could make it up. One step. One step. Two steps. Three steps.
This is a meditation. A kata. An exercise in breath and body and mind.
It is how I grieve and how I live and how I cover distances.
I counted as I walked. I tried to multiply two and three digit numbers in my head, but it wasn’t working. I think there was too much pain. I prayed and hoped for just a little more daylight. I thought of little melodies.
I was walking up almost a mile of canyon wall. Four point seven miles of switchbacks. And the view was amazing. Mule track steps and compacted soil and rock. I was passing million years of geology… above the the schists and gneisses of the basement layer, from the Tonto bench, though mudstones and sandstones, and limestone layers. Past the mule deer as the shadows grew longer and deeper.
I walked and talked in my head. Yeah… my calves ached. But it was my right knee that worried me.
I talked about art… about painting… about the difference between abstract and some kind of representation. I talked about the difference between prose and poetry. I don’t paint abstracts.
And I thought about the kind of art I produce, what I paint, what I write and I discussed with myself why.
And I counted.
My steps were getting shorter and slower and light was fading.
And I began to add up the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. I thought of the nautilus and the calcium carbonate in the limestone that came from such shells and I thought about the petals on the flowers and patterns in nature. I will rest at the top of the next switchback.
No one quite knows why the Fibonacci numbers show up in shells and flower petals and seed pods. But they do. And as I pass a million layers of sediment representing a million years of pre-history I think of patterns and math.
Every so often I tried to estimate how much light was left and how much trail I had left ahead of me.
I thought about music. And what was playing on the drive in. From Jazz of John Coltrane and Dan Rosenboom, to something in Spanish, to Frank Zappa, the Sex Pistols and Bob Dylan.
And there it was in my head. Numbers and math.
I pass three mile house. Three miles to go.
I thought of chord progressions and chord substitutions and why an octave is half a string or 2:1, and a major fifth two thirds or 3:2, and a fourth is three quarters 4:3… and why this math works… because the number of beats per second, the frequency is exactly the same as those ratios, and when combined into chords a pattern of interference is formed- constructive and destructive and somehow we can recognize these patterns as harmonious or dissonance.
I pass mile and a half house. Almost to the top.
So the one in music… the root. The one, three, and five and eight form a major chord… there are thirteen tones in any octave.
On a piano from C to C… the notes are one or two half steps apart. There are eight white keys and five black keys.
I can remember all of this.
And even as I am slowing down physically, I pause and let my heart slow down. I can see my brother in the fading light.
And I kept walking and walking. One step. One step. Two. Three. Five.
And maybe that is why I don’t do abstracts.
Where I can paint a picture of the mule deer I saw… and get it pretty close. If I am lucky I can make it evoke some sort of emotion from someone… communicate something essential. And it is that process of applying the paint to the canvas… that is somehow mathematical and exact. There are brush techniques and water and matte medium and some specific ratio of yellow ochre to unbleached titanium white to medium in that second wash.
It is like walking up that trail one step after one step. I paint individual hairs in bright titanium white and mars black and burnt sienna and then paint over that with a thin transparent layer…
And those numbers… that sequence, those ratios they inform the composition… and when it has that rhythm and balance, it somehow works.
And so it is. One. One. Two. Three. Five. Eight. Thirteen.
On a paper you can make them into boxes and put a nautilus spiral on it… the so called Golden ratio.
I got up that trail… the sun went down and it got dark. I put on my headlamp and made it up to the village…