“In the last days of the fourth world I wished to make a map / for those who would climb through the hole in the sky.
My only tools were the desires of humans as they emerged / from the killing fields, from the bedrooms and the kitchens […]
In the legend are instructions on the language of the land, how it / was we forgot to acknowledge the gift, as if we were not in it or of it.”
--From “A Map to the Next World,” by Joy Harjo
I have known the heart of the sun,- / In the dark and light of a dry place, / In a flicker of fire brisked by a dusty wind. / I have heard, in a drip of leaves, / A slight song, / After the midnight cries.
— from “Journey to the Interior,” by Theodore Roethke
Warmer temperatures are here and it’s a pleasure to once again spend time outside amidst a newly reborn landscape. With most of my friends and family on the road to be being fully vaccinated, it’s hard not to feel a bit optimistic about the…
“Accurate scholarship can / Unearth the whole offence / From Luther until now / That has driven a culture mad / … / The lights must never go out, / The music must always play, / All the conventions conspire / To make this fort assume / The furniture of home; / Lest we should see where we are, / Lost in a haunted wood, / Children afraid of the night / Who have never been happy or good.”
- From “September 1, 1939,” by W. H. Auden
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves; / We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident / As the rock and ocean that we were made from.
- from “Carmel Point,” by Robinson Jeffers
It’s a gray and slightly chilly day in September 2020 and risk is very much on my mind at the moment. I’m climbing with my friend Jan and his daughter Annamaria at Linville Gorge. It’s my first time climbing here and I’m about halfway up a route that is-even for me, someone who hasn’t climbed much recently-very easy.
The route is a classic. It…
Dim memories of a watery world haunt our human consciousness. As if to hearken back to a time before our evolutionary ancestors made landfall, many of the world’s creation myths tell of a terrestrial world brought into being out of the formless cosmic void of primordial waters. In Genesis, God says “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Ancient Egyptian and Greek myths similarly speak of a world that emerged from an oceanic abyss in the dream-time of prehistory.
It hit me with the force of an ocean wave-the sudden scent of the giant sequoias drifting through the golden-green light of morning in the forest understory. It was my first trip to Yosemite and my friend Carlos and I had come here to climb: sight of the world famous cliffs of ‘The Valley’-El Capitan, Half Dome, The Sentinel, Cathedral-awaited us later in the day. But traveling through the park from our hotel in Mariposa, it was the presence of the sequoias that was making me giddy, before we had even caught a glimpse of the airy granite heights. Or…
They call all experience of the senses mystic, when the experience is considered / So an apple becomes mystic when I taste in it / the summer and the snows, the wild welter of earth / and the insistence of the sun
- from “Mystic,” D. H. Lawrence
It’s only the first week of February, but I have apples on my mind. We are still in the dead of winter here in North Carolina though the days are lengthening. If recent history is any guide, many of our fruit trees will soon be budding. …
What we see, we see / and seeing is changing / the light that shrivels a mountain / and leaves a man alive / Heartbeat of the pulsar / heart sweating through my body / The radio impulse / pouring in from Taurus / I am bombarded yet I stand
— from “Planetarium,” by Adrienne Rich
As February passes into March, the cold nights of winter begin to warm a little and the balance of darkness moves toward light. My eyes have grown tired of the brown monochrome that is the daytime landscape here and begin to thirst for green…
But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! —
powers and people —
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.
It’s very early in the morning, right around the summer solstice of 2011, and we’re three hours north of Salt Lake City, in the high desert of southeastern Idaho. The further we go, the darker it becomes, and colder. Crossing through the fringes of basin-and-range country, the temperature drops into the fifties. By now, Tasha and I are far from the metal…