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Above Half Moon. By James Galvin

March 16, 1997

Not even a bird can sleep in thin air, a thousand feet higher than the highest trees on Half Moon Pass, where summer lasts a month or less, and the rest is just high wind and low clouds, like now, a landscape removed to the sky. Even the snow can't stand it here, it jumps at the first breeze and feathers down to the timber.

A single drift, a crescent, naps in the lee of the cabin. Whoever built this claim a hundred years ago must have been a lunatic, or driven. He chipped out his mineshaft, one man's monument to hard luck, an obelisk of air pointing straight down. Maybe he counted on Holy Cross Mountain for grace. May be he just liked being alone in the sky.

The logs still show where his adze bit in. He fitted them with broad axe and bucksaw, and pegged them together the way they used to make the hulls of ships, but this was built with wind in mind and too much empty sky around. The walls are double, pinestraw in between: a house inside a house with double-shuttered windows, a flower made of timber, whose trail down is a crooked stem.

How he hauled his timber up the talus slope, a mile of switchbacks, was, I'd guess, a mule. He hauled the logs a log at a time. Who knows how he got that woodstove home, or what he thought of moonless nights awash in stars, or if the kerosene light seemed cold and far away. He must have hauled his firewood too, and melted snow sometimes for water.

I guess there was no place to go from here. The door opens on a view of the mountain when the weather is clear or the clouds are down below. The lake below the mountain is called The Bowl of Tears. I don't know, maybe he was crazy and wanted to be rich. Maybe he wanted to be alone with God. You can see where he nailed tin cans hammered flat and old boot soles over the cracks in the door.

From "Resurrection Update" by James Galvin (Copper Canyon: 277 pp., $25). Reprinted by permission.

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