Archive for May, 2012

When Slugs Make Love

A few years ago I was standing on a deck closed in on three sides by white stucco walls about eight feet high. I was standing there trying to figure out why humans, the most advanced species on earth–in all things, just could not seem to understand one another, to agree, to get along. I was after that one single thing that made the world go around, that made us what we are and that made us do what we do.

Having failed, again, I was about to go back inside, when I noticed a slug of normal slug size coming over the wall and at the same time, another slug coming out from under the deck on the same wall. They were separated by maybe ten feet on this clean, roughened screen of white stucco and they seemed to be making a beeline for one another at a slug’s pace and with all the riotous clamor that slugs are responsible for.  It seemed as if nothing could slow them down.

So I sat down again to watch play out whatever it was that was about to play out. As the two got nearer and nearer and nearer and nearer to one another on this broad expansive field of play or of war, in my own mind, I began to hurry the story along.  Was it really to be all-out war? A slugfest to beat all slugfests? Which one would I root for? Should I intervene and run the risk of throwing the workings of an entire ecosystem out of kilter? Granted it wasn’t a pair of great bull elk squaring off to keep, or to take, a harem or even the three yards and a cloud of dust of Buckeye lore, but still, here before me was pure, raw nature; red of tooth and claw!

When they got to within maybe an inch of one another they began to circle and then…they met and … embraced. I swear it; they embraced and all their body parts began to visually tingle. They wrapped each other in everything they had and truly, truly, physically became one. There was no separation at all, the single knot of being swelled to golf ball size but the color was not white; it was blue and gold and red and violet and it all glistened the glisten that only a fiery opal or a fresh abalone shell could ever equal.

And then, with only the tiniest bit of protoplasm attached, that single entity released from the wall and slowly lowered itself on a pale blue lanyard of its own tissue to hang motionless as if at rest.

After a minute or so a small breeze caused the ball to touch the wall again, where it stayed. Slowly the color faded to sluggish brown, the one became two and they went their separate ways. I do not know if telephone numbers or even names were exchanged.

Now… I wrote this for a couple of reasons. The first is because I wanted to. After all, how many human lifetimes have passed without ever seeing slugs make love? I’m getting old and have been around the block more times than I want to remember. I mean, I have spent time on farms and ranches; my dad, brother and I raised any number of rabbits before I even got out of primary school, my wife and I have shared the same bed for fifty years, and I have stayed in way too many thin-walled hotels. But even now I have to say that that incident there on a deck twenty-five or so years ago was the most sensuous and exciting and awe-inspiring that I have ever seen. It seemed that it was preformed especially for me; to make it abundantly clear that if I am to understand anything at all it has to be through observation and not through the arrogance of human judgment. Imagine if two people met like that. They would begin on opposite sides of an eight-foot thick tower at a distance of over one and one half verticle football fields covered with hundreds of three-foot overhangs, meet without a word and undertake the most intimate act of any and all others. It also seemed to me to be the most perfect of communication—literally of communion.

And that is the second reason I wrote the story down. I have mentioned before the trouble I have in trying to unravel all the things that Forrest Fenn taunts us with in his poetry, his photos, his stories, his clues, his metaphors, his “blazes” and his life. The language of his Memoir is not my language but somehow I will have to travel where he has traveled, and to think his thoughts. Only then will I break the code.

Slugs to ya. Amen and amen,


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A friend of Forrest Fenn’s, although un-named here, is known for a great many things; but he will be remembered most widely for the following piece of inadvertent poetry:

“[T]here are known knowns;

There are things we know we know.

We also know there are known unknowns; . . .

We know there are some things we do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns—

Things we do not know we do not know.”

There is a fourth verse to this poem, perhaps purposefully left out by our accidental poet, or maybe it was skipped over because of a fortunate and timely hiccup or because of an unsuppressed full glottal stop–a high risk if one gives a press briefing soon after a D. C. power lunch.

Native flowers of the Northern Rockies

The absent verse treats the subject of “unknown knowns” which is a term with a couple of definitions: “that which we know but prefer not to admit,” or “things that are known by a speaker or writer  but that are ‘unknown’ to the speaker or writer in the context in which the listener or reader sits exposed.”

And so it is with the clues of Forrest Fenn. For example, he says that there are nine clues in his poem. I say there are fifteen—as reported in an earlier posting (Forest Fenn Renews His Poetic License). That difference, a mere six of his counting fingers, was enough to bring an immediate response from Mr. Fenn to the effect that not only did the sheer beauty and ripening promise of Rosy Poesy create a vacancy on the spelling side of my brain, but I “couldn’t count to fifteen using all ten of my toes and the thumb normally stuffed up my nose”—or something to that effect. But that is nothing compared to what I am about to tell you.

Mr. Fenn says that, in addition to the nine (fifteen) clues in his poem, there are a “few other subtle clues” scattered throughout the text of his Memoir. After an intense, yearlong study of this memoir, I conclude that not only are there more than a “few” clues in there, some of them are not even subtle.  As a matter of fact, I count a full seventy of them if you agree to the fifteen in his poem.  And that figure doesn’t even include those non-clue “clues” that caused some of us to fan out over the Taos Mountains, trespassing hither and yon, as if Forrest Fenn’s clues were so simple that we just knew we would soon be dining on pasta alla putanesca at an outdoor restaurant in Milan courtesy of the Major himself.

Now, a disclaimer or two: neither the term “subtle” nor the term “not so subtle” are the same as “simple” or “easy” and the idea of “unknown knowns” does not necessarily indicate “dissembling.” But when Forrest Fenn describes in detail the beauty of the places he knows, recounts their history as if it were his own, and then says that he “knew exactly where to hide the chest” and then says, “I even plotted to have my bones rest forever, in silent repose, beside the treasure chest,” I begin to think that these clues are not subtle at all, and although they may be, for him, just descriptions of places that he loves and fantasies that he entertains, they are, by any definition, “unknown knowns.”  He may not have meant them as clues at all but, for me at least, they are, indeed, clues of major interest. And, as such, they mean late nights at the Google machine searching out just where it is that “. . . yellow and purple flowers flourish where no one is

yel-pviothere to see.” They assure fascinating discussions with cohorts and family as we attempt to find the meaning of what he has written; and best of all, they mean yet another trip into the mountains.

Be safe,


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