The Garden of Wilderness
The garden of wilderness
was my heart’s delight:
gray dawn met alpenglow
in the long morning
of deep rivers
and distant mountains.
Windswept timberline tarns;
far away the machines and levers work.
Alas, the mechanism must be mastered,
all the law-and-order and social ranking
step by weary step down to the low lands;
So I came to leave the mountains.
The days spent on the trail
fade in a flurry of miles as we speed
parallel to the mountains on Route 395.
All is forgotten in the exhilarating rush
of dotted white lines and speeds not attained over months on foot.
This compaction recalls memory:
the terrain of years disappears
leaving only peaks and valleys.
At first I am startled by the jolt of “civilization”;
later, recalling the calm of alpine meadows,
the last light on the tall peaks in the evening,
I understand that these memories last longest.
Looking at a Map
A topographic map of the wilderness:
the contour lines denote height and evoke
distant valleys and mountains leading by rivers
to unknown forests; enchanted places all.
Alone in the dismal city watching gray snow fall
I envy cartographers and explorers of wild places:
the sun on their backs, the morn on their faces,
nights of brights stars and moon;
the wild, wild wind most of all.
Back to the Wilderness
When the gray spider web of the city
wraps its filigree around my heart
and the subway roars in my naked ear
and the lonely cold does its part;
When its been so long that the stars go unseen
and I’ve forgotten to go out and walk;
with phone calls and meetings
and all this empty talk;
It might be that it might be time to go back to the wilderness.
The wind that will blow around me
and the flowers that garland the trail
will make living worthwhile and my days young again.
While We Were in the Wilderness
While we were in the wilderness
the sunset of humanity
We spent so long walking on the trail,
sleeping under the star-encrusted sky,
heeding the call of the marmot and water ouzel,
that we forgot about everyone.
So who knows precisely when it happened,
or what caused it.
We simply came down from the mountains
empty stomachs and badly needing a hot bath
to find: no one.
This could easily be the future, we say:
as we watch the sunset turn red then to blue evening,
distant valleys disappearing in the oncoming night.
Author’s note: I wrote these poems quite a number of years ago during what was obviously not the happiest period of my life. Always, periodic adventures and wilderness walking have been refreshing for me, and solace for my soul. In researching for the upcoming webinar presentation I will be making with William Neill in early September, The Solace of Nature, I remembered this cycle of poetry, and decided to look for the drafts among the many boxes of my papers and art work in our basement. I’ve edited the poems lightly from the original versions, with the advantages that distance in time can sometimes give.
You might also be interested in the webinar we have scheduled for October 3, 2020: Photography and Writing | Using Your Words to Become a Better Photographer.