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Tom Walsh is a writer living in northern California. He has been a newspaper reporter, editor, wildland firefighter, and more. His stories are in or coming to Litro USA, Hobart Pulp, The Cabinet of Heed, The Dead Mule School, Lost Balloon, Janus Literary, and elsewhere. His cat, born in the UK on the 4th of July, is, of course, named Independence. He prefers coffee, but likes an occasional root beer soda. You can find him @tom1walsh on Twitter.

Black and white image. Background of blizzard-like conditions, and an individual in the front right of frame wearing ski gear including a full snowsuit and face mask.

THOUGHTS WHILE SLIDING DOWN A GLACIER ON MT. RUAPEHU

TOM WALSH

Thoughts while Sliding Down a Glacier on Mt. Ruapehu

When on the glacier, don’t fall on your back, if you must fall. Especially don’t fall on your back with your head on the downhill side. If you do, you must quickly twist onto your stomach while at the same time swiveling so your head is on the uphill side. Then you can plunge the ice axe into the glacier to arrest your descent. But if you’re moving too fast when you stick it in, the axe will rip from your hands, maybe taking a glove with it. Don’t worry, there’s a long way to the boulder patch.

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Observations on the chemistry of different colors of blood

Blood is red for humans and invertebrates, blue for spiders and squids, green for leeches, violet for marine worms. I tapped a vein once when I was exhausted and my oxygen-deprived blood was violet. When sad, I placed copper pennies on my eyelids, and my blood turned deep blue. When giddy, my blood is lime green. My grandfather’s ghost tells me it is my Irish, but I think I’m just hyperventilating.

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Slowing down while descending Mt. Ruapehu

As you gain luge-like speed, look over a shoulder for a boulder that’s punched through the ice. There are many these days. Shift your weight and steer into it. You may bounce off, bruising your thigh or shoulder or chest, but it will slow your descent. You don’t want to hit the boulder field at full speed.

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Observing temporary water restrictions

Around town, the shh-shh-shh of sprinklers whispers through the night air. Authorities are building a temporary desalination plant, again. Or a temporary water line across the Richmond Bridge, again. As if the drought is temporary. As if the shh-shh-shh of sprinklers whispering through the night air is worth the cost.

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What to think about as you slide down the glacier

Split your mind into parallel streams; survival and flashbacks.

Survival: Dig your fingers and elbows and the toes of your boots into the ice.

Flashback: The vacation in Maine when you dissected frogs with your cousin Billy and found green muscles and blue blood.

Survival: Tuck your chin to your chest, clasp your hands tightly around the back of your head and squeeze your elbows together in front of your nose.

Flashback: The smell of your mother’s beef stew mixing with homemade rolls.

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Hummingbird observed through binoculars

A hummingbird in flight stops midair, wings a confident blur. But at rest atop the bay laurel, it looks nervous; tail feathers twitch, head cocks up, down, side-to-side. Its red, oxygen rich blood pumps through a heart that, proportionate to body size, is the largest in the animal kingdom. On Next Door, neighbors debate if the dearth of hummingbirds this year is temporary.

When to worry as you slide down Mt. Ruapehu

A patch of small rocks tears holes in your pants. Your fingers are bloody (red, not green or violet), and your ankle may be broken. You can’t see what’s beyond the cliff ahead.

Observing people is not as fun as watching birds

A fire destroys an RV and several tents pitched along a Petaluma road, where the number of homeless campers has increased. A massive trash tsunami rolls ashore in Honduras, temporarily scaring away tourists, the townsfolks’ lifeblood. In Maine, a town fires two police officers for beating porcupines to death, the red blood on their Billy clubs offering stark proof.

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Header image KarolisPipiras, Getty Images

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Dead Skunk Logo: round logo of a white skunk silhouette on a black background with the words “Dead Skunk” in cursive. “Dead” is neon purple and “Skunk” is neon yellow.

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