Aug 172011

Half Dome goes up like a soap bubble from a toy pipe. From any distance, seen while you put away a corn dog or roasted banana at the valley cabin picnic tables, or glimpsed as you brush past a bushy pine branch in your meander up the Lower Falls, Half Dome appears delicate, improvised from air, palely unreal as a Martian landing craft or the fat end of a telescope viewed a century before Galileo. Indeed, Half Dome could be a fallen inversion of the Moon, all the mystic glow and mystery of her motion brought to ground. Every other year a few souls slip off into death attempting her ascent, like old Renaissance mariners pouring over the flat edge of the map, angry elaborate cherubs blowing at their backs as the known ocean becomes a steaming waterfall. Standing warily alone, off-trail by a few tens of yards, a thin wind flaps the tip of my collar into my mouth. It is so simple, standing here looking up as if some shouting finger had spotted Superman in an indicated corner of the sky, to imagine Neil Armstrong striding up the side of Half Dome in his astronaut suit, his clown shape bouncing in balletic timelapse arcs, to plant a wired American flag in grey powder at the crest of the rock, a lofty poem bubbling spontaneously to his lips, rolling around in his bubble-helmet behind the golden faceplate.

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