by Daniel Montero
We have made a little spot alongside Pyramid Lake’s Monument Rock. The water level is very high now. there is almost no beach, and we have spread out our picnic in the shade of some trees along the shore underneath the bulbous northernmost of the two monument tufa structures. We settle in and Renee reads from Michael Branch's new book, How to Cuss in Western, to me.
We have been sick all weekend, irritable, if not grumpy, and the apartment a little too small but the states of ourselves a little too degraded to want to be outside. So we’ve hung on, but then, not sure if we’re feeling better or not, but not really caring either way because we are stir crazy, we decided to excursion out to Monument Rock on Pyramid Lake. It is one of our favorite Pyramid Lake places, high up on the northeast side with great views of the whole span of the lake from the Pyramid and Anaho Island, up to Tohakum, and the Needles up on the north end catch the light. Not only is it a beautiful place, it has a rich personal history for us as well, we’ve camped here many times, on bike tour or just for a night escape from Reno. We saw Perseids here one year with a group of friends, lying in our sleeping bags on the (much larger then) beach watching flares of space rock trace across the sky all night long.
But for one reason or another we haven’t stopped for a few years and it was a great pleasure to see the lake up high and the dry tree skeletons in the water again. There was a car when we arrived but the people left immediately and we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. We had our picnic and then left our things in the shade and wandered down along the shore, walking more in the lake than out.
Tufa is for me an extraordinary structure. It is hard, but appears soft. Fully mineral, but with a sense of movement to it that seems organic. It has geometric structure, but geometric structure as imagined by Gaudí, not by Euclid. Speaking of, I don’t know if Gaudí ever saw tufa, but if he had, I bet he would have loved it. The water was clear and the lake almost entirely still on a windless afternoon and so walking in the water with the tufa below was textural overload, a sense of walking in a dreamscape. We stopped out near the favorite of the tree skeletons that have been in that place for years, high up on the sand when I last walked by, but now protruding appendages from an otherwise still water. I've found a child's swimming kickboard along the shore, almost new despite its journey here, and when I resolve to go out to my favorite of the skeletons, Renee tells me I should use it. I don't think the water will get deep, but it does, and I do end up following Renee's directions and kicking myself out to the tree where i climb up onto its bone white truck and balance on its smooth surface. Pyramid is like that, a place whose very austereness is a sort of sensory overload when the mind tries to make sense of it. The whole overwhelms the particular almost completely. At least until you start to see the detail, and then you realize that all of this giant landscape is equally overloaded and you are just a little part of if, tiny, nothing.
We wandered among the afternoon, read in the shade and generally played on a Sunday afternoon. Toward sunset we climbed up on the tufa mounds and watched shadows ascend, filling the places the light had left for the day. Just another play, another day. From away the Monument Rocks look like full masses, but both of them have open spaces on their tops. Up over the lake, under a dome of open sky with the lake ranges as the audiences to our play in the amphitheaters, we are consecrated, ethereal.
The sun gone but our spirits balmed we started back toward Reno, toward our conceptions of the future, while behind us the lake slid into night.
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