step back
waiting noting time

In the passenger seat of a parked car I was making notes on a collection of poems written by a close friend. I had several hours of waiting ahead of me. There wasn't much movement in the foothills of those mountains, not at that particular time, but there was some noise.

Further up, beyond the car park, a band played to an adoring crowd. I could hear intermittent screams, the distorted drone of guitars, and the deep tumble of drums, their upper registers shaved by the distance, lower frequencies amplified by the rocky landscape. The sound quality depended on the wind. Sometimes it blew crystals of clean tone straight through my open window, other times it would carry the concert further away, perhaps towards other people sitting in other cars waiting for their loved ones, passing time on different parts of the mountain. The changing patterns of the wind made it seem as if that music, already imperfectly rendered by the fact it was happening 'somewhere else', was being subjected to an additional filter, stretching and folding the sound this way and that way, like the tall hillside grass.

I didn't want to turn the lights on in the car, in case I ran the battery down. In order to read my friend's poems, I had to balance the paper close to my right shoulder, at an angle that caught the light of the single orange street lamp glowing nearby. Then, when I wanted to make notes, I had to lower the paper into the shadow of my lap and write without being able to see the marks I was making on the page. This is easier than it might sound, although you feel like you're taking a great calligraphical risk, and each time you raise the paper you expect to see only scribbles, nonsense where you hoped to see words. As my eyes became increasingly comfortable with the gloom, they were even able to sense moments when the ink flow of my cheap pen temporarily stopped, noticing a halt in the production of a line even though it was impossible to read what the line said, or discern any shapes that were being formed.

Occasionally, late-comers to the concert would drift past, some so late it made me question at what point is a live performance no longer worth the walk to get there. Does this point always exist and, if so, how do you know when you've passed it?

Between poems, I would examine the rock faces surrounding me. The patterning on one outcrop close by looked like someone had painted a startled cat with big, octagonal eyes on the stone. That cat had to have been there for aeons, the result of geologic bands roaming across exposed rock in a particular formation which, seen from this particular angle in this very particular light, looked like human vandalism.

I thought about how many strange, human utterances these rocks might have been witness to over the years, each one almost impossibly brief when placed in relation to the landscape's entire lifespan. The sound of tonight's concert, the sound of all the concerts that have been or ever will be performed in that historic venue, would sit like the soft crackle of a microphone in a recording that stretched across all that time.

I waited for this tiny portion of time to end, sensing this could never really happen. I wiped the inner windshield of the car with my sock, removing some smudges, adding others. I applied vaseline to my lips. I tried to stay hydrated. I used the portaloos at least twice. I tried not to let the music from the concert distract me from the work at hand. I tried to work out what that work might be.

Red Rocks 180923