High Center

We were heading up the ridge to drive down the mountain early this morning when we hit a snag.  Well, a rock.  We hit a big rock.

We were driving out of the field where we camped, and the windows were foggy, and we pulled off the track because there was another car coming, and suddenly we heard scraping and the front right tire started spinning.  I got out of the car to investigate. “Rock,” I said to Julia.  “We’re on a rock.”

“Huh,” said Julia. “Let’s see if I can drive off of it.”

She could not.

Willow and Betty were in the car behind us, and we four crossed our arms and surveyed the situation together.  “Seems to be stuck,” we all agreed. “You know.  On the rock.  ‘Cause, that’s like, a really big rock.”

That’s a whole bunch of master’s degree level education at work, right there.

“A big one,” I added.

We had the idea of three of us pushing, while Julia tried again.  Three of us in flip flops and cowboy boots on wet grass.  Three girls trying to push an automobile which was beached on a rock. A big rock.  It made that tire-spinning noise you’d think it would make. A guy came over the hill.  “Hold up,” he said.

He came and admired the rock with us.  “Whoa,” he said.

He went and got a shovel, but the rock was sitting on a bed of rock, so that didn’t help much.  Julia went down to the grove and rounded up some help from the people who were awake. “Wait for Craig,” they all said. “You want Craig.”  Craig, apparently, is The Fixer.  One by one, the guys came over the hill and looked under the car. “Good lord,” they all said, which is not what you want to hear.  They started tossing out ideas. And then Craig came over the hill and there was no waffling.  He immediately got down to brass tacks. “High center,” he diagnosed, and then began to project-manage. “You three, at the back.  We’re going to lift this up and over.  Careful where you grab it, we don’t want to break the car. We get it over six inches at a time, and then we turn the wheel hard right and crank it around and then up between those rocks.” He looked back at all of us.  “Which one of you drove the car onto this rock? Mornin’. Who here can drive stick? Besides that girl? Travis. Mornin’, Travis. Get out of the truck and help us move the car.  High center situation.”

Guys who will move your car off a rock after a night with a cataclysmic thunderstorm before anyone has had any coffee, are good guys.  Nobody even hesitated.


They did manage to move the car, in three six-inch shifts, and Travis cranked the car around and off the rock, and Craig pulled out the big rock and all four tires were on the ground again.  Craig handed the keys back to Julia and thanked her for driving a small car and pointed up hill.”See that next rock? DO NOT DRIVE OVER THAT. Have a nice trip.” And then all the guys evaporated and we were on our way.

Fire on the Mountain is just that kind of weekend.  The whole place, I’ve decided, is like the Room of Requirement, if you’ve ever read Harry Potter.  If you are pure of heart and you have a need for a particular kind of place in an urgent situation, the Room of Requirement just shows up in whatever form you need, or something like that.

If you’re a Dawg, it is the place where you get to lose your leash and just run and run and run and run.  Maybe roll in a cow patty, then run some more. See Fletch’s left ear? How it looks wet? He came trotting back to the campsite and it looked suspicious.  Oh, how I did not want to get close enough to sniff him and figure out what it was.  But I did, and I thought for a minute, and cocked my head and said, “Where did you manage to find bacon grease to roll in?” See? Magic place. Fletch’s Shangri-La. And he got to snuggle with Gracie all weekend.


If you’re these five, you just want a quilt and the hottest, shinest sun you can find so you can lie quietly and bake in the summer heat.  Of course they found that.  They loved it.


Lying in the hot sun and baking in the summer heat is my personal idea of misery, because apparently I am a tender, tender flower. They do not make sunblock strong enough to save me from that, so when the sun got good and hot, I went and sat under a tree and practiced my band songs with this view:


Which was just what I needed, especially since it was the same magic tree with the rope swing from last year, and the same mountain view, and the same quiet.

And then there was an art project, and that kept us going until dinner, and we lost all track of time.


If you’re a kid there are games and movies in the barn and butterfly kites,


and there’s food and friends and music for everybody.


At sunset there’s a party up on the ridge, when you listen to the band as the sun goes down, and sometimes you sing along,


and the actual sunset is not half bad, either.

Then there are fireworks, and let’s not talk about that because Fletch’s reaction was so much worse than when he saw them on the Fourth of July, and I am seriously battered and bruised from that experience in places I did know know I was battered and bruised until I got home and surveyed the damage, and just between you and me there was some additional cow patty involved in that experience, but let us never speak of that again.

After the fireworks we put ourselves back together with an entire package of baby wipes, and when we got back down to the stage again, the band kicked up and the night was just exactly what a night with a couple-three hundred friends and a band should be. It’s sweater weather in August, and you’re breathing mountain air, and everyone is happy.


Which is why I had absolutely no interest in fixing the high center situation this morning. Fletch and I were perfectly happy to unpack the car and just live up in the mountains.  I think we were all game for that idea.

You know how they talk about “thin places” in the world, where the distance between this world and the spirit world, however you’d describe that, are very very thin? Those places are special, and I’ve been to some of them, but I’d describe this particular place as the exact opposite of that. Not because it’s not a spiritual place, that’s not it at all.  It feels to me, though, like one of the most solid places anywhere.  One of the strongest foundations, with the deepest roots in the earth I’ve felt in a long time. Maybe the car draped over a rock is a pretty good symbol of that. It’s a place where you are reminded, every second as the light changes, how beautiful the Here and Now is. How much fun it is to be with a crowd of friends, and how nice the warmth of the afternoon and the chill of the evening are, and how food somehow tastes better when you eat it outside, and how music sounds really amazing playing out into a meadow of wildflowers.  Solid, substantial, comfortable, very real, very present.

Thanks, y’all.  Can’t wait for next year.

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2 Responses to High Center

  1. Craig says:

    Hello. It’s nice to be called “the fixer”, especially when things get fixed and nothing else gets snapped off, twisted or damaged in the process! So glad we could help get you moving (towards breakfast…and coffee!).

    • Axis of Cool says:

      Just so you know, our crowd has spent the whole week using the mantra “What would Craig do?” to solve our problems. Thanks so much to you and the rest of the guys for being so cheerful and efficient with our rock problem!

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