The Drive Up and Back
The drive up to the mountains and back was not as bad as it has been in the past. With gas prices so high some drivers appear to be slowing down. And in the summer heat we saw dozens of cars with their windows open to reduce gas consumption. I calculated we spent about $225 just getting there and back.
Just Because They Love The Mountains Does Not Mean They Are Green
But I’ve noticed that people with mountain vacation homes are not the greenest of people. While I am at the very low end of the spectrum, mountain vacation home people are incredible drains on resources. In the case of our mountain, we have chosen to live at 5,000 feet elevation. Everything has to be transported up here from the flatlands. Not a small majority drive big SUVs that only get 14 mpg on straight and level roads. On winding, mountainous roads they might be getting 10. Up and down the mountains, doing errands, picking up new bedsheets and a nice bottle of Cabernet Savignon.
Well, OK, this picture is in Colorado, but you get the idea. Add to that the idea of surplus….
All of these people are in that are of consumer surplus. The line rising left to right represent prices and the line dropping from left to right is income. When you have more income than needed to pay for goods, that area labelled consumer surplus, you on top of the world and looking for a place to display your economic prowess. Some invest in houses in the mountains. What could have less utility than a place you stay on only occasionally and requires enormous resources to supply?
It’s ugly but that is where we are.
Nevertheless, it’s wonderful there and I wouldn’t give it up for some egalitarian principle.
Why I Suffer The Disease of Economic Surplus…
Here’s a vista from an outcropping I pass each day I walk to the top of the mountain:
Not to mention the views from our deck:
Matchless view just a few steps from our living room.
Not to mention what I get to see when I get to the top of the mountain.
This ski run goes down the back side of the mountain. Even in summer it’s chilly up here — The day I took this photo the temp was 44 degrees.
At the psychological bottom of economic surplus is the will to avoid just what Philip Booth does in his poem just below — to compulsively count out the small measure given to us in a lifetime. To blot out worry, anticipation, the bad we intentionally or unintentionally leave in our wake. To swerve around the pinched equlibrium of this poem: if I’m not sorry I worry,/if I can’t worry I count.
Adding It Up
My mind’s eye opens before
the light gets up. I
lie awake in the small dark,
figuring payments, or how
to scrape paint; I count
rich women I didn’t marry.
I measure bicycle miles
I pedaled last Thursday
to take off weight; I give some
passing thought to the point
that if I hadn’t turned poet
I might well be some other
sort of accountant. Before
the sun reports its own weather
my mind is openly at it:
I chart my annual rainfall,
or how I’ll plant seed if
I live to be fifty. I look up
words like “bilateral symmetry”
in my mind’s dictionary; I consider
the bivalve mollusc, re-pick
last summer’s mussels on Condon Point,
preview the next red tide, and
hold my breath: I listen hard
to how my heart valves are doing.
I try not to get going
too early: bladder permitting,
I mean to stay in bed until six;
I think in spirals, building
horizon pyramids, yielding to
no man’s flag but my own.
I think a lot of Saul Steinberg:
I play touch football on one leg,
I seesaw on the old cliff, trying
to balance things out: job,
wife, children, myself.
My mind’s eye opens before
my body is ready for its
first duty: cleaning up after
an old-maid Basset in heat.
That, too, I inventory:
the Puritan strain will out,
even at six a.m.; sun or no sun,
I’m Puritan to the bone, down to
the marrow and then some:
if I’m not sorry I worry,
if I can’t worry I count.
———Philip Booth, “Adding It Up” from Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999