Saturday, July 15, 2017

spontaneity vs predictability

of mountain goats and alpine flowers

back when humans were hunters and gatherers,
before we settled down into predictability,
I wonder if it was hard to find us,

we hope to see wolf and grizzly bear this trip,
our roads and schedules and hopes
only might have points of intersection
with how their moments flow,
with how hunger and wind and impulse
move them this way, or that,

a wolf pack used to center itself
where Soda Butte Creek flows into the Lamar River,
no longer, so we seek their cousins elsewhere,
we have chanced upon bear and moose at times,
but those encounters are close to random,

today we drive to a favorite spot,
about 11,000 feet up, 
a place of loose rock and alpine flowers,
where even in July, great banks of snow still abound,
here we have seen a Rocky Mountain goat, or two, in the past,
no sign of the goats there today,
though the flowers and vistas are spectacular,

we drive a few miles further
along this high treeless plateau,
hoping for goats but savoring the flowers,
just as I’m starting to argue for turning around,
my wife notices white shapes to the left of the road ahead,
a herd of 13 goats!
adults, bedraggled looking as their winter coats slough off,
3 kids all perfect and smooth,
quick to react, and to follow a mother,
3-4 juveniles, maybe last year’s kids,
they don’t seem to do well in the pecking order,
as an adult would move into where they were browsing,
they’d jump away to find another spot,
flowers and grasses worth congregating there to enjoy,

people would stop, snap a few pictures, and move on,
some vehicles do not even slow,
for they must have schedules and errands
that do not include the serendipity of the goats,

in contrast, we feel as if we have won a lottery,
and we don’t leave till the goats, in their collectivity,
decide to meander away, 
toward the sleep slopes below the meadow, 
a meadow jeweled with yellow mountain avens
and other succulent mouthfuls for their stomachs and our eyes,

the meadows, the flowers, the rocks,
the distant snowy mountains, the abrupt valley below,
and these incredible animals fill our souls with a glory
that draws us to be here whenever the way can open,

today, the way is extraordinary.

by Henry H. Walker
July 9, ’17

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