Wednesday, August 17, 2016

of bears and falls, and sweat

Cades Cove in Mid-August

there is a valley,
just west of the great wrinkled upthrust
of the southern Appalachians’ high ridges,
with a limestone geology surrounded by pre-Cambrian sandstone,
Cades Cove like a window, contend the geologists,
into the sky great green rounded mountains reach into the clouds,

tractors and grazers keep the fields low and grassy
so that turkeys and deer have a home,
and views are open enough from the absence of trees
that bears can often be seen,
today, for me, in a wild cherry tree by the road, 

I hike hard down the stream which empties the valley,

bedrock strata hold and channel the water as if shelves,

I fear for the fish, for if they venture forth,
a kingfisher, a heron, a fisherman can be upon them,
it’s much easier to hide in the rest of the Smokies
where geology narrows, deepens, and darkens the streams,

I find myself at a great waterfall, Abrams Falls,
close to the lowest elevation in the Park,

I come to the cove hoping to see bear,
but I knew a waterfall would not be as elusive,
my heart, my lungs, my soul loved the effort and the result,
though the humidity wrung prodigious water from me,
I take plenty of pictures of the falls,
cardinal flowers, the ridge top, the flat stream,
and I pick up a bag full of trash thoughtless hikers left on the trail,

on the way out of the cave
a bear enjoys a mid-day meal of cherries

while I watch and photograph him,
I was prepared to miss the bear
and to still savor the visit,
I appreciate the gratuitous act of kindness
that the universe shares with me through the bear.

by Henry H. Walker
August 15, ’16

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