13 November 2008


Timp in the Fall.

While living in Utah, I used to climb Mount Timpanogos on a regular basis. My life came close to ending more than once on the slopes of Timp (e.g. falling into a cravasse, almost sliding off a frozen waterfall, getting caught in a violent electrical storm near the peak). This only made me want to go back more and more; I wanted to conquer every inch of the mountain. I lost count after the 30th time. After a while that mountain started to feel like my friend, and I would miss it like I missed a friend. I'd miss the heavy, wet air in the Aspen Grove valley; I'd miss the refreshing break of First Falls, and how the paved trail would gradually submit to stone and root; I'd miss the dizzying cliffs looming on every side, just far enough away that smoke from the latest forest fire would collect and give the slabs and clinging pine trees a hazy sheen; I'd miss the smell of fresh peppermint and sage, the crunch of pine-needle or the clack of shale under foot; I'd miss the comfort of sitting for lunch at the old shack overlooking Emerald Lake; and I'd miss the consistent burst of freedom as I perched on the peak looking down on the flat, busy valley filled with miniature people with miniature destinations. Everything just felt bigger and more substantial up there.

During this John Muir-ish phase of my life (I hope I hope it's not dead yet; just give me a mountain), I was a bit more prone to poetry. Recent events brought to mind one of the poems that I wrote in a fit of frustration over the fact that I always had to come back from the mountain, back to what I was trying to escape in the first place. It's a poem about trying to straddle a line. I hope it brings a needed change of tone to this blog. I don't consider myself a poet, so judge charitably if you must judge.

sometimes I drive until there’s no more road,
toss the world into my briefcase, seal it up,
and step out of life into life where things are
where pines bow to sprouts in their might
and waterfalls don't boast to dewdrops of strength
and streams don't care to compare their length
but wind and wash and splash bubble run
and giggling trickle when water-time’s done

so when I ascend in the lines laced on stone
to cloudrings and spires and being alone
on the peak in the hall of the mountain king
and with him behold vibrant, prolific spring,
I often extend with my finger and touch
the lip of a petal, a blossom or such,
when then from my finger fade flesh, blood, and bone
so I see as I’m seen and I know as I’m known
and this wildflower withdraws her disguise
to welcome my newly elysian eyes.
Blushing, she curtseys in windbending grace
then fades back into her floral-mask face
I look at my hand, I look at the tree
and notice that he has been studying me
he knows I have pierced it, the thickness of flesh,
if but for a moment, my self-speak is fresh
like something I babbled a day after birth
or eighty-one eons before there was earth.
I speak to the king who is there at my side
we walk in the glory of reverent earth
and witness her ceaseless demise and rebirth.

I stare at my mask of the world
asleep in my briefcase where I left it curled
so foreign, so alien, dirty and cold;
I suppose I’ll wear it until I'm sufficiently wise
to live with the king in his natural land
while walking and touching the world with my hand.

June 16, 2002

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