Tuesday, March 15, 2011

into the woods

baskins and the gauntlet

I feel ready to run a gauntlet,
to hike & explore & lose myself
in the forest and mountain upstream from me,

I am ready for branch and experience
to slap against me, to wake me up, to test me,
to remake me by knocking off the callouses
with which the tame world so often
hides away the nerve endings
that allow me to soar, to plummet,
to laugh with water racing back toward the sea,

the first blossoms on the spice bush and myriad yellow violets,

to mourn trees dying before their time,
as an adelgid scythes the hemlock,
and a great beech I’ve known all my life
slowly, inexorably readies itself to pass on,

the gauntlet holds true as tree after tree has fallen
across the way I choose to walk,
and branches grab me, poke me,
I only notice my torn t shirt after the hike is over,
trunks force me down, to bow, to crawl,
and maybe 10 times the blowdowns force me completely off the trail,

I even lose my hat for awhile high up
where the hollow often has bewildered me a bit
and today goes even further with testing tangles
that deny there is a way,
I retrace, find my hat, and I make my way forward,

I cross the ridge and drop to the next valley,
there the creek makes a waterfall as dark and hidden as any I ever see,
generous rain and snow-melt impress me a bit
with the size they give to the falls,
here where the bedrock allows, in fact, requires a steep drop,
I don’t spend much time here,
this waterfall seems less welcoming to me than many,

just upstream I visit an old cemetery

perched on the side of the hill,
facing where the sun rises,
ringed by hills at the rim of the upper valley,
a view hidden by the trees in summer,
those trees who weren’t here when those here were laid to rest,

I pull myself hard up the steep trail that climbs to the ridge,
and keeps climbing, though gentler in the elevation gain on the ridge itself,

I drop down to where Cherokee Orchard was,
drop down the road,
drop down the trail,
until I’m back home at the cabin,

the creek pulls me into it to wash off the sweat
and get me ready to know where I’ve been,
where I am, and to find words to describe
losing myself in a day full of subtle wonder,
no great view, few flowers, no grand animals,
just two valleys and a ridge at the end of Winter,
a stage upon which Spring, Summer, Fall, and the next Winter
will captivate me, and anyone else nearby, with the dramas that await.

by Henry Walker
March 12, ’11

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