Tripping on the Imbue

“Imbue”: a recreational drug featured in Zelazny’s posthumous Lord Demon. Commenting on a Whatever blog post, I invented the titular phrase. Supposing I should probably unpack it, I thought: blog post!

“Mrs. Dean” and I are rambling in the Cotswolds, from one hostelry to the next. We navigate with guidance provided by the outfit that booked our lodging and handles our luggage. Each morning we don our daypacks after breakfast and trapes from town to town, care-free hobbits, while the company schlepps our chattels from last night’s lodging to tonight’s. Traversing a copse in The Slaughters, we come upon a brick pond filled with water and algae, its walls festooned with a lush brake of hart’s tongue. Yet another gift from the vacation gods – I’ve been enjoying novel ferns and mosses and algae the whole trip. Two or three times a day I am presented with an astonishment in my field of interest, like this pond, or a lichen crusted wall, or a field of Lycopodium. Each instance fulfills, hallows, imbues.

Both she and I grew up on LOTR. The Cotswolds are The Shire. Pure coincidence: the first establishment we patronized after arriving in Moreton-in-Marsh was the Bell Tavern, celebrated by a Blue Plaque marking it as an inspiration for the Prancing Pony. As with everywhere we drink or dine in Europe, publican and staff project sincere warmth and pride. Their situation is not some sullen-pretense job-stop on the way to something better, as seems so common in the US. We are laden: the luxury of ignoring our luggage starts tomorrow. They won’t hear of us paying to store our baggage while we roam the high street, insisting we let them guard it for free. The publican detects my American accent and I can tell he’s about to suggest beers he “knows” I’ll like. I won’t hear of it. He admits there’s just been a contest among the local brewers and offers me a flight of the top three competitors. All three are delicious but I remark about one that “these guys really know what they’re doing”. Turns out to be the first-place winner. I order a pint and we take a corner table. I am Strider enjoying shepherd’s pie: content, anticipant, imbued.

Tripping on the imbue: The time we were hiking from Oil City to Mosquito Beach, trudging, ten miles in with a sixty-pound pack and yearning for camp. I turn my head to nicker at some cute beastie beside the trail. I can only conclude that teleportation works but is arduous, as I am suddenly ten yards off-trail in the opposite direction and out of breath. “Cute beastie” is a tiny skunk, aiming but not pulling the trigger. Enchanted. Spent. Imbued. Christmas camping at Panorama Point. Wind on Tahoma’s shoulders spalls sparse ice-dust from high snow fields. Clear blue sky, an hour from sunset, the crystals refract into pixels: you can see the shape of the air! A frozen fist aims right at our cliffside camp. We turn our backs to it and get slammed by a micro blizzard. Suffused. Pummeled. Imbued. Hiking up from Carbon Glacier, our first day on the Wonderland, one false summit after another. We’d started at Mowich Lake and taken the old route, through two-thousand-year-old Cupressus nootkatensis. You’d never know they were so old. An illegal mountain biker passed us as we approached the glacier’s foot, but after lunch I realized he’d crossed the swinging bridge and was nowhere about. Hunter’s urge overwhelmed me until I found his fucking bike and helmet. He might want to thank me for pissing only on his derailleur and chain, though I was tempted. As we finally summited the pass, Bob Ross met Albert Bierstadt. Somewhere I have a chemical photo of it. I think I wept. Triumphant. Enraptured. Imbued.

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