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Winter 2013 . Volume 4 Issue 2 Written River is a literary journal published by Hiraeth Press which focuses on poetry and non-fiction prose exploring nature and our relationship to it. Published quarterly in digital format, we strive to encourage the discipline of eco-poetics and return the voice of the poet to the body of the Earth. Eco-poetics is poetry in which the energy of the ecosystem flows through the poem, creating a written river of words which ebbs with the creativity of the entire Earth community. Written River marks the confluence of many streams and many voices as they flow back into the nourishing ground of the watershed. Founding Editors Jason Kirkey L.M. Browning Editor J. Kay MacCormack Issue Design Jason Kirkey Cover Art Amy Johansson / Shutterstock.com Written River is published by Hiraeth Press. Hiraeth Press is a publisher with a mission. Poetry is the language of the Earth – not just poems but the slow flap of a heron’s wings across the sky, the lightning of its beak hunting in the shallow water; autumn leaves and the smooth course of water over stones and gravel. These, as much as poems, communicate the being and meaning of things. Our publications are all poetry, whether they are poems or nonfiction, and reflect the ideal that falling in love with the Earth is nothing short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to wild nature we can birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We are passionate about poetry as a means of returning the human voice to the chorus of the wild. We publish a range of poetry and nonfiction dedicated to exploring our relationship with the earth. Our titles reflect our mission to participate in the recreation of our culture in full participation with the earth community. Our nonfiction titles represent a diversity of perspectives on the topic of ecology, spirituality, and place-based literature. Each of our poetry collections, in their own way, ask “what use are poets in times of need?” answering in voices of rivers and stones. Our books are food: come browse our collection and nourish yourself.

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submission guidelines Written River accepts unsolicited submissions. Our Journal primarily publishes poetry (any form as long as the verse is theme-relevant), nonfiction, (essays, autobiographical stories, and travel writing), interviews and book reviews. Please send a short cover letter, biographical statement and a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) attachment of: •Up to 5 poems not exceeding 15 pages. Please send a query letter and an excerpt if you would like a long form poem to be considered. •Nonfiction work of 5000 words or less. We prefer electronic submissions. This is currently our only method of accepting submissions. Please use the submission form on our website at: www.hiraethpress. com/written-river. We review submissions after the deadline has passed so please be patient if you submit early. Submitted works should be previously unpublished. We are open to publishing a limited number of poems/essays may have appeared in print or online, but the author must hold sole rights to the work. We do accept original artwork/photographs. We request that images be scanned with a resolution of at least 300 dpi. Simultaneous submissions are permitted; however, we ask to be notified promptly if your submitted work is accepted elsewhere. note: If your work is seasonally themed you should consider our issue deadlines below. Written River Submission Deadlines Winter Issue: October 20th Summer Issue: April 20th

contents

4           11  12  13  17  17  18  19  20  22  22  23  24  26  28  28  30  34  34  34  35  36  42  43  43  43  44  46  48  48  48  48  49  49  50  56  57  58  60 

{essay} Watching Wildlife · Geneen Marie Haugen The Return · Geneen Marie Haugen The Amusing Stone · Geneen Marie Haugen Self Help with Peterson · Courtney Flerlage Becoming Human · Julie Fowler These Scratchings · Julie Fowler {art} Bouquet #1 · Melinda Giordano {art} Bouquet #2 · Melinda Giordano {essay} Views of the Empty World · Daniel Hudon Drought · Terry Portillo On Lake Halfsestina · Michelle Menting Ode to the Soil · Carla Ferreira {essay} Paying Homage to Prairie · Janis Rodgers Soule Desert Trilogy · Brian Stafford A Different Star · Steve Bertolino Albion · Steve Bertolino {essay} The Mississippi · Nancy Bunge The Universe, and How We Come to Know Ourselves · Andrew Hincapie Life as an Enchanted State · Irene Mitchell Artist’s Paint Pots · Bill Hoagland Falling Asleep on a Sand Bar · Bill Hoagland {essay} In These Hidden Places · James Liter The Green Branch · Laurence Holden Everything We Know · Laurence Holden A Heart So Wild · Kaye Spivey Monsoons · Kaye Spivey {essay} Keeping Watch in the Dark · Elizabeth Selbst {art} Ocean’s Collected Bounty · Melinda Giordano Loss of Light · Elizabeth Schultz The Heron · Byron Beynon Llanrhidian Marsh · Byron Beynon Seals · Byron Beynon A Dimming Quarter Moon · Donna O’Connell·Gilmore Shelter · Donna O’Connell·Gilmore {essay} Mortality: That Ever·Present Shadow · Benjamin Polley {art} Calligraphy · Melinda Giordano {art} Roots Landscape · Melinda Giordano Contributor Biographies Photography Credits

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watching wildlife Geneen Marie Haugen

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t dawn, two ghosts hovered over Slough Creek. Rising vapor enveloped the pale figures in filmy shrouds. My senses were accustomed to scanning the perceptual horizon for unusual phenomena – which, often as not, turned out to be hallucinations induced by an overactive imagination – and I swerved to a stop, jumped out of the car and fumbled with a tripod and spotting scope. Magnified, the black stilts that made the apparitions appear to float came into focus, then the necks unwinding, the long bills and banded thighs. Meticulous as prima donnas, the whooping cranes walked, raising each foot entirely clear of the shallows, and arced their necks toward water that reflected the pale gold sky. A few dawn-prowling vehicles slowed momentarily, but most drove by with no change in velocity or direction. I couldn’t tell if the drivers didn’t see the cranes, or if they were racing to establish a dominant position for wolf sightings. A part of me wanted them all to keep going, wanted to hoard the giant birds to myself, but part of me wanted to wave and shout at every passing car, “Look! Whooping cranes!” (An anthropological observation of myself reveals frequent conflicting desires.) By this time there were a good number of wolves in Yellowstone – up to fifty new pups that year alone – but these were the only known whoopers, though not the first I’d ever seen. Earlier that spring, I’d canoed around a bend on Idaho’s Teton River and surprised two enormous white birds in the shallows. As they lifted their black-tipped wings and ascended, my tongue twisted, trying to shape their name – “K...whoop! Whooping! Whooping cranes!” I hardly believed the unfamiliar words flying out of my mouth. • Down the road, at a law-abiding distance past the sign marked “No Parking, Stopping or Walking, Next 1/2 Mile,” I pulled into the big turnout already filled with cars, trucks and RVs. Dozens of people huddled in groups, talking or looking through binoculars. Tripod-mounted scopes, some the size of small cannons, were positioned every few feet, aimed all directions. I joined the wolf patrol and positioned my own scope, then scanned the undulating land with binoculars. The Lamar Valley wasn’t the quiet place it had been the first time I’d seen and heard the re-introduced wolves, years ago, with no other people nearby. Instead, the Lamar had become a pilgrimage destination for new wolf aficionados as well as a de rigueur seasonal stop for veteran observers of wild creatures. A Yellowstone ranger chatted with groups and individuals in the parking lot, working the crowd like a politician. When he neared, I asked what he knew about the whooping cranes in Slough Creek. “Not much, I’m afraid. I’ll try to remember to check that this afternoon.” Our conversation turned, inevitably, to wolves. The ranger said that the prior year, people had discovered where a certain wolf was likely to cross the road. At least once, the wolf-jam traffic had separated the mother from some of the pups. After

that, she had moved her den. The entire litter of five had died before summer was over. Nobody knew for certain why none of the pups survived. After the ranger had moved on, a man who’d been hovering within eavesdropping range crept closer. “I saw the cranes,” he said. “I walked toward them, even though I knew it was probably illegal. But I stopped and waited, and then the cranes came to me.” With the fervor of one trying to relay a mystical experience, he continued, “It really wasn’t illegal, because they came to me.” At one end of the turnout, there was a sudden commotion. Everyone ran toward their scopes. “A wolf! I can see it with my bare eyes!” One woman shouted. “There he is,” a man said, satisfied. “Have you got him?” someone asked with concern. “I won’t be mad at you for waking me up at five a.m. if this is really happening.” A woman laughed. “Got him.” “He’s running up the trail, coming this way.” “Wait. He’s gonna howl. Shhh.” “You can’t get a picture from here with a disposable camera.” “My friends are going to be so jealous.” “Shhh. Shhh.” “Does the radio collar bother him? I wouldn’t like it.” “Shhh.” The wolf turned in three directions and howled deep and low, faintly audible over the rush of Soda Creek and the commotion of people. “There’s another one,” someone announced. “Where, where?” A few dozen scopes took aim. “Got him?” “Just past the aspen.” “Which aspen?” “The green one.” “Damn. He’s dropping into the gully.” “Lost him.” “I hope he comes up again.” “This is better than that whale tour we took in Hawaii.” “The first wolf is coming toward the river.” On a bench across Soda Creek, the first wolf headed downhill toward the silver water. The creature slowed and seemed to hesitate. Then the wolf stopped and stared at the assembled multitude, all of us holding it captive in our telescopic sights. The wolf sat on its haunches and howled softly again, looked at us, then veered off-trail, into the sage, and loped up the valley, into the direction of the rising sun. “He’s getting hard to see.” “I’ve still got him.” “The other one’s on the edge of the trees now.” “Got him.” “Got him.” “Got him.” Shame bit down on me, fierce and crushing as a steel-jawed trap. I felt nauseous. I felt dizzy. I capped the scope, closed the legs of the tripod and stashed 5

the gear in the backseat. The ranger appeared and asked if I was going up the valley, the direction the first wolf was headed. “No,” I said. “The other way. This is breaking my heart.” “I was going to suggest,” the ranger said, “that if you went up the valley and found people waiting for the wolf, maybe you’d ask them to move along.” But I couldn’t imagine how a request from a scruffy scopearmed citizen would dissuade anyone trying to satisfy wolf hunger, anyone wanting to claim: I have seen wolves. I’d already seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of wolves myself, so I could hardly begrudge others – even those flocking to the Lamar as if it were the latest must-have experience. Just like the wolf seekers, I had gravitated toward unusual phenomena whenever possible, collecting experiences like amulets, like charms. • In Slough Creek campground, three men appeared carrying a canoe, paddles and large packs. Because I knew that boating any river in Yellowstone is a criminal activity, I asked how

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they’d gotten a permit. One of the men said he radio tracks mountain lions for a government agency, and that he had tried unsuccessfully to cross flooded Slough twice in waders. A canoe was the only safe way. “Any lions back there?” I asked. “Yeah, we hiked way up one of the forks.” The tracker had the grizzled look of a man who spent far more time in the field than behind a desk. His companions sprawled in obvious exhaustion in the bed of the truck, but the tracker seemed happy to talk. I asked how many mountain lions were in the park vicinity. “Maybe thirty or more; it’s hard to say.” He squinted toward the darkening timber up Slough Creek. “We’ve got collars on two of them.” “I’ve never seen a mountain lion yet,” I said. “I hope I do, sometime.” “Probably thirty or forty of them have seen you.” The tracker laughed. “Cougars are curious. You don’t want to get too close to one.” “How many have you seen that aren’t wearing radio collars?” I asked. “All of the lions I’ve seen aren’t collared,” the man replied.

“If you’re tracking a collared animal and you see it, you’ve done something wrong.” At dusk, wildlife watchers and other collectors of unusual phenomena returned en masse to the Slough Creek campground like a sudden hatch of Mayflies. The whooping cranes were no longer in sight. • One minute there was an ordinary sunset, betwixt light: mushrooming pink and silver and deepening. The next minute the sky began to vibrate with what looked like wild snow or a hurricane of dust. The vibration shifted closer, so loud and strange and fast-moving it could inspire you to run for your life. Then the sky filled with wings, pulsed with wings, sliced with wings. Whomp, whomp, whomp: the parabolic arc of wings against the displaced air. Sandhill cranes and snow geese covered the sky in monumental numbers, too numerous for regular people to count, though the officials of New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge count them every year. At dusk the

birds land on the ponds reflecting sunset. At dawn, they lift and fly to the cornfields. At the end of November, just before dusk, the cornfields were in flux with thousands of sandhill cranes. Even more snow geese. Hordes of birds, an infestation of birds, plucking the stubble. But one giant whiteness stood out: unexpected, mythic, chimerical. The whooping crane was not a hallucination, not my imagination gone berserk. It was beaked-and-feathered, real enough, but it was not a natural bird. As an egg, it had been taken from its biological parents and cross-fostered with wild sandhills. It was one of the two cranes I had seen earlier that year, on the Teton River. As a collector of non-ordinary phenomena, I was outwardly thrilled, although a closer anthropological observation of myself indicated an internal disturbance, a sense that something was awry. None of the four whooping cranes in the Greater Yellowstone-Bosque flyway were natural. They were rare beyond rare, but I’d seen the entire population of the flyway in a single season, and now I was seeing one whooper a thousand miles away. So few in number, they were paparazzi subjects. It was a little unnerving, like Disneyland on an epic scale, only with flesh-and-blood birds.

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Every detail of their lives was under scrutiny, their entire history, known. Tracked. Studied. Documented in official places. Living birds. But not fully wild. Catagorized as an “experimental, nonessential” population, the cranes had been manipulated by humans in an attempt to establish a new flyway. The cranes I’d seen in Slough Creek had been raised by a visionary and perhaps madcap Idaho farmer, Kent Clegg, who had obtained “his” chicks from the incubator-hatched offspring of captive whooping cranes. Clegg taught the gangly chicks to follow him, to fly behind his ultralight, taught them to migrate from Idaho to New Mexico. Of the eight eggs he began with in 1997, two survived from hatching to migration to the Bosque. Those two whoopers got confused and separated on their unaided return north the next spring. But they wore radio transmitters. That’s how they had been traced, captured, crated and released together near Slough Creek, one day before I’d seen them there. In the 1940’s, there were less than two dozen whooping cranes in the world, perhaps as few as fifteen. Indigenous to this continent, they are hardly small or indistinct, but until the 1950’s no modern person k new where they nested, just that they wintered in Texas. In the late 1960’s, after the breeding site was discovered at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, the cross-fostering program was established with less than impressive results. Of the crossfostered cranes, only two still survived in 1998. Imprinted on sandhills, the whoopers had never reproduced with each other, though there was one cross, a “whoophill.” But protecting the breeding and migration sites for the wild cranes proved modestly successful. At this point, there were perhaps 300 whooping cranes in the world, some in captivity, most in the Southern Texas-Wood Buffalo flyway, and four in the Greater Yellowstone-Bosque. A tractor crawled the length of the Bosque cornfield and the birds scattered. The whooper ran with its wings stretched high and wide, then came to rest with the sandhills, all of them stunning and comical with their skinny legs and feathered bustles. The sun angled low and I sped back toward the ponds on a bicycle. The birds would arrive at dusk, take wet refuge from coyotes for the night. A cluster of people with cameras and tripods were already standing by a fleet of vans near the water’s edge: a photo safari. They shuffled in the chilling air, made adjustments to their equipment. “Where do you want to eat tonight?” one asked. 8

“Not the place we went last night. The waitress was too slow for the tip we left.” The hills turned gold and orange and the sun slipped away. “What about that other joint, the Mexican?” “Did you get your whooper shot?” “Yeah. I was out early.” “Never know if you’ll get another chance.” “Now I’ve got the photograph to prove it.” The sky began to beat and the birds came in waves, in honking and gargling battalions. Snow geese and sandhills covered the sky, the water. “Have you tried the Gitzo tripod?” “I saw it advertised.” The light bled toward darkness. The musty scent of pond and feathers rose into the quivering air. “Get the Arca Swiss head. Mexican’s my vote, if anyone’s interested.” The photo safari filled the vans and drove away. The ghost birds kept coming. It was impossible to know if the great white crane was among them. But I have seen whooping cranes. • Fifty cars lined the snowcovered road on the National Elk Refuge. People milled around tripods and spotting scopes while some walked the roadside, greeting each other with excitement that – if transplanted to a city – would resemble the enthusiasm of fans awaiting the appearance of a celebrity. “Have you seen anything?” “I saw them yesterday.” “Isn’t this amazing?” “So close to town.” “Were they out of the den?” “All three kittens and the mother.” “They took down an elk.” “Get any good shots?” “Maybe one. The light’s been off.” “I don’t think they’ll come out until it warms up.” The breath of dozens fogged the air. We waited, all of us, for mountain lions to appear. The line of vehicles had increased steadily, every day, as word traveled that cougars had denned within easy sight of the road. SUVs and cars crept by, their occupants staring at the caves, at the dark mouths on the hungry butte. “Do you think so many cars might disturb the lions?” I asked a friend I’ll call “Ted,” a writer and observer of nature and culture.

“Cars seem like large animals to them,” he said. “They’ll stay away.” “What about the people walking around?” “Maybe she’ll move the den.” My face froze in the morning chill. My feet went numb. We left without a glimpse of the cougars. I didn’t know why I felt sad. Another afternoon, Ted and I drove the refuge road again. By now, the refuge managers had created a mountain lion parking area a few hundred yards from the den. We parked and joined the other pedestrians, carrying scopes and binoculars. “They’re out in plain sight,” a man said as he walked toward us, toward his parked car. I stared through binoculars. I stared with bare eyes. A fast moving double shadow. Two cats, then three. A devoured carcass on the slope. I hurried to where Ted was adjusting his scope. I watched three spotted cubs swat each other, chase each other, leap up the rocks. “I’ve got the mother,” Ted said. I squinted through the scope at the mother’s head, camouflaged behind dry stalks, framed by the darkness of the cave. She yawned, long teeth a jagged profile against the black interior. Without the scope, she was all but invisible, though we were not invisible to her or the cubs. “Can we see what you’ve got?” a passerby inquired. Ted focused on the cubs. We stepped back and the woman lifted her child up to the eyepiece. “I see them!” the boy shouted. Friends greeted each other. Introductions were made. Sightings compared. The cubs tore after each other, came together, split apart. Now and then, one turned to the queue of people and stared, face impassive and inscrutable. “It’s like the Serengetti,” one person said. “Except you can drive to it,” another said. “Wonder why she hasn’t moved the den,” I said to Ted “Maybe they’ll spring down here and take out four or five people,” he said, and laughed. A man waved hello, and told us a refuge biologist thought the mother had a growth on her chest. “Maybe she’s not strong enough to move the den,” he suggested. “But they’re taking down elk,” someone said. More greetings, more introductions, more sighting comparisons. The cubs disappeared behind an outcropping, sprung into view. “This is making me uncomfortable,” I said. “Why?” Ted asked. “It’s great that we can see them.” “It feels voyeuristic.” “You’re so cynical. How often do you see mountain lions? Why not just enjoy it?” “What does everyone want from them? A good photograph? To be able to add another wild animal sighting to our list? It seems a little desperate to crowd them like this.” My friend’s dismay was visible. “People in Jackson Hole are hardly desperate for wildlife sightings,” he said, turning to the scope. “This is one of the wildest animals of all.” He focused on the cubs. “Would it be different if it were just us here, not all the

people?” “Maybe. If we saw them where we didn’t expect them.” The late afternoon light faded. We left. My stomach still knotted with what I could not express. The next morning I awoke suddenly from a dream of a cat springing upon a jogger on the Elk Refuge road. Who could blame lions if we teach them, by our insatiable enthusiasm for rare wildlife, not to be wary? Nevertheless, such a cougar would not be allowed to live. I have seen mountain lions. • Though seldom observed, mountain lions are not considered threatened or endangered. They are hunted, in limited numbers, in the West. The Gray wolves in the Greater Yellowstone region were abducted from the Canadian Rockies and re-located as an “experimental” population, which means they can be – and are – “dispatched” if they attack livestock. Wild whooping cranes are listed as endangered, but the four whoopers in the Greater Yellowstone-Bosque f lyway were introduced, not naturallyoccurring, birds, and thus were listed as experimental and nonessential. But all of these creatures are rare. Rare things fill us with longing. As if possessing what is rare elevates us, somehow, above the ordinary. An accolade. An anointment. A trophy. An object, a photograph, a story shared by a select few. After our excursions to the mountain lions, my friend Ted suggested that maybe some of the people who had witnessed the cats would be a vocal opposition the next time the hunt quota was determined. Perhaps. But roadside wildlife sightings require no reciprocity from us – not even a short undefended walk away from the car, into the creature’s own habitat. Even a casual anthropological observer might note a subtext of longing and grief that accompanies the excitement of crowds at wildlife viewing areas. Or perhaps it’s no one’s grief but my own. After the initial thrill of, say, a wolf sighting, there may be a danger in seeking too many uncommon observations. Out on the perceptual horizon, one may begin to wonder about the experience of the animal in the telescopic sights. Or perhaps one begins to notice how many creatures are radio-collared or banded. One might begin to form questions best left below conscious awareness. (How did the trapped and drugged Canadian wolves feel about their abduction? What happens to the instincts of elk when a chain-link fence blocks their historic migration route?) Maybe it begins to register that – in an attempt to restore some facsimile of ecological integrity in isolated areas – we are experimenting with creatures whose souls may be of no less consequence than our own. These are dangerous impressions, enough to temper the thrill of observing wildlife, raising questions perhaps best left unexamined. Every one of us needs to believe we are making wise, benevolent choices – a difficult task when lives other than our own are affected. Wildlife biologists and environmentalists especially need to believe that, with proper manipulation of 9

animal and plant species, ecological integrity can be restored. And perhaps it is so; perhaps such manipulation is only a temporary detour on the trail to a sustainable Eden. But is it possible to manipulate wild creatures without believing – consciously or not – that they are, in fact, lesser beings, just as one human tribe believes that another is less . . . well . . . human in order to justify relocation, slave wages, medical experiments or genocide? It may be too late to be usefully outraged by the magnitude of the ecological loss that diminishes our present and future, so instead there is a kind of bewildered gratitude for the relatively small habitats set aside as national parks or refuges where the wild others roam, seemingly free. Yet a closer magnification reveals the complicated underside of what appears, initially, as freedom; reveals how carefully the wild others are classified, monitored, controlled. Just like humans, actually, except that we aren’t – yet – wearing radio transmitters. The eradication of human wildness preceded and made possible the extravagant, continuing loss of creatures and land, and thus, the re-introduction of the wild-hearted human may be the most essential, foundational act of ecological restoration. But the wildhearted human is a dangerous, dangerous animal, threatening to nearly all aspects of civilization and culture. I am afraid of the wild-heart inside of me, afraid of how my life would teeter off the comfortable margin if I gave it full expression. My friend Ted said that he’s accepted the fact that the National Elk Refuge, like the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, is a sacrifice zone, where some animals will pay the price of habituation. He’s accepted the triage, the trade off: a constituency of wildlife enthusiasts. I’m not sure it’s enough. But I desire wild creature encounters as much as anybody does. I may need them, in fact, as primary reminders that the world has not gone entirely to the jail hell of commerce and industry. But I’m not yet habituated to watching with a crowd, in a predictable drive-up location, as if the creatures were performing for us. • In early December, one of the whooping cranes from Slough Creek landed in Bosque del Apache. It did not take up company with the cross-fostered crane already on the refuge – that crane apparently supposed itself a sandhill. The other cross-fostered whooper was wintering at another refuge. The second Slough Creek whooping crane went AWOL in December and January. In February, the missing Slough Creek crane found its way to the Bosque. Among more than 10,000 sandhills and 30,000 snow geese, the whooper located its closest kin, its fellow traveler, in a reunion so profoundly wild, mysterious and rare that I hope it was conducted without human witness. But I also wish – oh, inexplicable, conflicting desire! – that I had been there, off-trail and alone, lucky enough to notice a nonordinary occurrence on my perceptual horizon, lucky enough to turn my head at precisely the moment the great white bird separated itself from the sky and alighted beside its nearly-lost companion. 10

the return Geneen Marie Haugen

Some day, if you are lucky, you will return from a thunderous journey trailing snake scales, wing fragments and the musk of Earth and Moon. Eyes will examine you for signs of damage, or change and you, too, will wonder if your skin shows traces of fur, or leaves, if thrushes have built a nest of your hair, if Andromeda burns from your eyes. Do not be surprised by prickly questions from those who barely inhabit their own fleeting lives, who barely taste their own possibility, who barely dream. If your hands are empty, treasureless, if your toes have not grown claws, if your obedient voice has not become a wild cry – a howl! – you will reassure them. We warned you, they might declare, there is nothing else, no point, no meaning, no mystery at all, just this frantic waiting to die. And yet, they tremble, mute, afraid you've returned without sweet elixir for unspeakable thirst, without a fluent dance or holy language to teach them, without a compass bearing to a forgotten border where no one crosses without weeping for the terrible beauty of galaxies and granite and bone. They tremble, hoping your lips hold a secret, that the song your body now sings will redeem them, yet they fear your secret is dangerous, shattering, and once it flies from your astonished mouth, they – like you – must disintegrate before unfolding tremulous wings.

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amusing stone Geneen Marie Haugen

You do not have to be feverish or in communion with peyote to hear stones speaking their minds. They seldom express opinions about politics or religion and certainly I have never heard even the rockiest stock market mentioned. Boulders practice the art of sitting contemplation, and their musings often offer more Buddha nature than Buddha – they cannot help but transmit the lineage of cosmic mystery, tricksters of change, transforming even now, impermanent yet working the same koan for billions of years and sometimes if you rub their bellies you might hear a great sigh, or a giggle or perhaps they will let you know they’d like help turning around: sometimes it is necessary to bow to a different direction. It’s important to help when asked because they will always keep something hidden:  they are shy and hesitant to show how slowly they move at this age, bashful to reveal the sensual longing of stone walking naked, trembling, toward water in aroused anticipation of a bath – or toward a lover who has waited patiently for aeons out of view, farther down the valley.

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self help with peterson Courtney Flerlage Rock Dove Primaries of slate grey and city smoke, rolling coos, ironed blood – a compass needle drawing to night roost. Eyes red, like rust. Once five pigeons found my open field, lined fence as faithful pilgrims; I slept through sunrise, ignorant to the east. I could not point them home. Instead I learned to name hawks by their undersides – red-tails with black shoulder bars, broad-wings tail-banded and white wing-tipped. Make yourself forget grounded feathers clumped in threes or fours. Close your eyes when sharp shadows pass. Sooner or later you’ll forgive the crows their silence. European Starling As a star-scorched sky in eclipse. You’ve laid a hopeful egg or two in the wrong nest, hidden in constricted places – tree hollows, gutters, attic insulation. Garrulous, you borrowed voices – I’ve heard you sneering like a red-tail, as if to conjure talons with the sound. What you do with your fear is your own business, but you live as if the ground craved you – too strictly and by your hollow bones. Herring Gull On the river I forget landlock and call seagull, craving a current that won’t catch me against rock. I am corrected: just a gull. Shoreside, I beg them to eat from my palm, my eyes downcast, face twisted away. Wing shadow skims across sand; I feel a harsh pinch as the bait is taken. Brave bird, to rest on waters that keep tentacle and shark’s teeth,

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to give your thirst to seawater. Yellow eyes gauge the distance, knowing too well the hand that offers can as easily pitch a shell. Double-crested Cormorant In the dive, pierce the surface and push to seabed. You’ve got your uncoated feathers (waterlogged), your swimming

Yes, you’ll feel

fall

(akin to flight).

This is not new. pressure in your blood. Yes,

this deep water

sheds the sun.

No learning here; your body has the trick, to hold your breath like a precious secret, to seek life – sea stars, glowing comb jellies – for empty nets. Accept for a moment

this raucous gravity

Wood Thrush For years you’ve known what the sapsucker knows: the bark is altogether useless. It is the green sapwood you want, teeming cambium beneath hard, dry husk. To understand anything you must pare down, scrape to center. And here a convergence:

And here a divergence:

a maple fell into the crook of an ash, the latter surging to the sun, maple inadvertently cradled until it was grafted in as a splinter sown to skin. the thrush employs the split in its throat to make song: bending notes against each other: broken tones travel far.

Try for once as the tree: to be scored, trusting sap to congeal over this yield of yourself. Try for once as the thrush: accepting eggs from others’ nests, dissecting sounds to make them ring, working life in discarded leaf and brush. 14

Chimney Swift Dusk’s shrapnel-swallows, erratic shadow. Without halyx, perching toe, they cannot grasp – instead they hang from brick walls or cave rock, tail feathers skeletal, acting as brace. How does nature craft a creature lame, convince it to forget the grounding of its feet and live off crescent wing? To raise young in a nest arch of its own saliva? It is not easy to inherit lack. Even still, you might think bat – they love the dark so well they seem to fairly twinkle. Turkey Vulture You could mistake him for the sun – silver-edged wings hoarding light. He circles, searches, leaves. His kind are simple, nesting on the undressed ground; face unfeathered, clean of carrion. You are not as dead as you thought. Trust him – he could smell if the worms had found you, the soil’s sulphurous call for a return. Cleanse a body and it becomes a birch forest: bare, weathered bones. Give yourself permission to forget. Note: The final line of “Chimney Swift” is derived almost verbatim from the species description in Roger Tory Peterson’s field guide, Birds of Eastern and Central North America, Fifth Edition.

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becoming human after reading david abram

these scratchings Julie Fowler

Julie Fowler

The birds sang this morning as I walked. The cat purrs by my side. What is this mess I have made of a chance to be present in this world? I am only human. It cannot be otherwise… and yet, I turn my face upward in the black of night to face the stars. Even when dwarfed by immensity, my knees ache after standing in the cold. Should I fall down in humility, I would find it hard to rise.

Writing, more often than not, the very making of conflict and confusion. My experience of naming that tree is so very different from your tree. You certainly were not there when all the leaves hid me and whispered their balm. Yes, from the time we begin pointing chubby fingers to board books we conjure forests, examples of that green and trunk’d presence in this world. Yet regardless of a language needed for that naming, each of my cells know tree from an earlier time, holding more than this need to name a shared reality. Sometimes that essence calls to me, vibrates a song of recognition. Sometimes that is enough.

Is this, then, the way to begin a journey toward wholeness? Featherless – fallen – bruised – unable to speak? Is this, then, the way to become Human?

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Bouquet #1 Š Melinda Giordano 18

Bouquet #2 Š Melinda Giordano 19

views of the empty world Daniel Hudon

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eauty is the beginning of terror, Rilke wrote in his Duino Elegies, and for the first time, on my way to Los Cedros Cloud Forest Reserve, I understood. The reserve is only sixty kilometers from Quito as the quetzal flies, but it is a hero’s journey. A three hour bus ride from Quito, where school children crammed the aisles and sat three to a seat, took me to the mountain village of Chontal north of the capital. There, I took a truck half an hour up a bumpy dirt track, where, at the second bridge that spanned the surging Magdalena River, a guide met me with a pair of mules. I could do this, I told myself, despite never riding a mule and not being on a horse in more than five years. The soft-spoken guide loaded up my backpack and the food I brought onto one mule and me onto the other. It appeared we were going to continue up the dirt track – it would be easy. For the first five minutes, it was easy, with bucolic views of alpine meadows looming above us. Then we took a sharp turn onto the narrow mule track. Immediately, after a steep climb up the first ridge, the track became precipicial. As we rounded the hillside, the valley suddenly yawned wide: below, a perishing doom in the seething Magdalena River while ahead, a spectacular backbone of mountains rose in the distance, together an anxious and fleeting glimpse through the doors of perception, ever-so-briefly cleansed while I white-knuckled the horn of the saddle and tried not to look down. It was a beauty I was almost

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unable to bear – I could have cried from both the fear and the momentary ecstasy of the expansive view. That section of the trail lasted only a few harrowing seconds – just a couple of mule steps – but I felt like I’d crossed a threshold of experience that showed, if nothing else, I was truly off the beaten path. Soon we passed into the cedars the reserve was named after and I never again got such an auspicious view. Now the biggest challenge was navigating mud holes a foot deep. I praised my mule for his stubborn surefootedness. On the infrequent flat sections, as if bored from picking his way so carefully, he would break into a canter, but I would quickly rein him in. Nerves still afire, slow and steady was going to win this race. We arrived at Los Cedros after two hours, or half a lifetime. It was the beginning of a zen-like existence in the cloud forest. The allure to come here was a long list of natural wonders only a few which were advertized in advance: remote, primary rainforest with half a dozen hiking trails; mountain streams with water clean enough to drink; private swimming holes and waterfalls; and a diverse assortment of living creatures like night moths, glass frogs, wild cats and the endangered brown-headed spider monkey. In the 1980’s, Josef DeCoux came down from the US and bought the land to protect it and do his part to halt deforestation in the tropics. Today, Los Cedros Biological Reserve comprises

17,000 acres of wet tropical forest and cloud forest. It is a buffer for the enormous 450,000 acre Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve to the north and together the two are part of the Choco Phytogeographical Zone, one of Earth’s most biologically diverse habitats. I came to see this unique ecosystem for myself and its seclusion allowed an easy routine. After getting up early, I would eat breakfast and go on a three to five hour guided hike in the morning, have lunch, then take to the hammock for reading time and a siesta in the afternoon. This was followed by conversation with Josef, the volunteers and guides over dinner, evening games of ping pong or chess and an early night. My room was in its own cloud forest chalet and had a writing table that was surrounded by windows and a view of trees that seemed to be always in blossom. Apart from the hour or two of company over dinner in the evening, I could have been a monk on a solitary nature retreat. As in the Amazon basin, where I began my trip, silence permeated the cloud forest. Clouds crept gingerly over the treetops, birds and insects chattered. All gave the impression that little happened here. You could listen to the sound of your own breathing, your heartbeat, the distant stirring of water running down a landscape devoid of human interference. Let nature come to you, Josef told me, as I went off to find the cascada one afternoon. Here I imagined I could share the thirty foot waterfall and its pure downstream runoff with any of dozens of small mammals, or preferably, one of the wild cats. For three days I walked the trails, faintly hoping to see one of the five elusive species of felines: the jaguarundi, oncilla, margay, puma or jaguar. Sly by nature, only the jaguarundi is active in the daytime, the others are nocturnal. In my short visit, it would have been highly unlikely to spot one of these stealthy creatures on my hikes, though my hopes were temporarily raised when the guide pointed out some paw prints on the trail and said only, “Puma.” It was enough to fire my imagination that they lurked nearby, watching safely out of harm’s way. In his poem, “Mountain Lion,” D.H. Lawrence writes, “And I think in this empty world there was room for me and a mountain lion.” I saw the trails as solid lines that meandered over the mountain ridges and crisscrossed by the dotted lines of the solitary puma, who slinked along from branch to branch or crept through the understory before timing its perfect leap. No puma came to lap from the stream while I swam in the pool of the cascada. Nor a jaguarundi, or any of the other cats. I had the entire scene to myself. If not for the tree frogs, I’d wonder if the world here was indeed empty. In the late afternoons, as the sun drifted behind the mountains and left behind a glowing twilight, the tree frogs began calling to one another. From near and far, they emitted a high and slow electronic bleating that reverberated back and forth over the ridge and sounded more like an eerie alarm for a nuclear holocaust or even to warn of the global decline of amphibians rather than “male frog seeks female.” To walk on the

trails at this time was to be immersed in a rich sonic landscape as if the trees themselves were pulsing, and to lie in a hammock then, one had to sit up and look around to make sure it was the frogs and not something more forbidding that was the cause of the alarm. Los Cedros was established as an ecological reserve in response to the alarm of deforestation, an alarm that continues to sound. On my last day of hiking I saw the brown-headed spider monkey, a critically endangered primate numbering less than two hundred and fifty individuals, whose habitat is being destroyed by logging and who is also being hunted for bushmeat. As they swing from tree to tree, bending branches and rustling leaves, monkeys make a lot of racket and are easily seen and heard from far away. While walking along the side of the Quebrado des Monos, the Valley of the Monkeys, I heard the familiar branch-swishing of a troop passing through the canopy. They moved quickly, a group of three or four, and were soon out of range before the guide and I could find a gap in the trees to get a good look at them. Then we saw the straggler, high among the branches, dangling from his prehensile tail, grabbing at fruit. We watched his antics in binoculars. I often thought about the tree of life, its myriad branches and sub-branches. Biologists have catalogued 1.8 million species and don’t know if they are almost done or just beginning. Hominids and new world monkeys, such as the brown-headed spider monkey, share an ancestor who lived in the trees thirtyfive million years ago and we still share more than 90 percent of our DNA with these little-known primates. Curious to see who was standing out from the green of the shaggy bromeliads and epiphytes, the monkey looked at us and went back to his business. We were the ones trying to make sense of the rare encounter. A moment later, the monkey stood between a pair of branches, tried to make itself look tall and looked right at us, perhaps to scare us off. We stayed. Eventually, it tired of us and swung away to rejoin its troop. I fear this is the metaphor for our future. We stayed and the animals left us to our devices, our stubbornness, our environmental impoverishment. The mule trip down was quicker and less harrowing than the way up. This time the precipice was less daunting, as the view the other direction was muted. The guide unpacked my backpack and waited with me for the truck to pick me up at the second bridge. Within minutes, a pack of mules clopped down the dirt track from the direction of Los Cedros, each carrying four freshly cut pieces of lumber, probably cedar. A couple of sullen-looking men followed on motorcycles and an older cowboy with his ten year old daughter. Already a few dozen slabs of lumber were stacked on the hillside beyond the bridge. Here was the forest being dragged out, illegally, one tree at a time. Yesterday’s threats have not gone away. The men busied themselves with unpacking the beautiful amber wood from the mules. We exchanged no greetings. They had work to do.

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drought Terry Portillo

The heavy winter rains which once lashed me to you ceased years ago, when the sun took permanent office. Now we’ve nothing to keep us in. Brown fields. Parched horizons. The trees too proud to plead, though I note their withered leaves and issue rations. I hear you are in Bryce, scraping sand and clay from the fossilized mountains. Painting landscapes rough and red. I say this sun is your doing for it is hard and hot like your works. Here, no one buys your art. They purchase pretty snow scenes set in parks. Moist cheeks. Blue shadows. Water white and thick as summer grass. I do not know what I like. I know only the rhythm of rain which somewhere entangles lovers. Romance, more fickle than weather, breeds victims and victors and summers, dry summers, of solitude.

on lake halfsestina Michelle Menting

On our northern July night, we loaf, imitate lichen and breathe as salamanders do, through our skin. Still and cautious: any muscle twitch, any movement, might turn droplets of sweat, first small at the surface, into running rapids, pools of condensed heat. When loons call from the lake, their porous sounds liberate the leaves. We then part eyelashes and place our feet on cool leaves to tip-toe the wooded path. Grasping trunks of lichen, we follow the loons’ tremolo to take a dip from the heat, to savor their black water, let it loosen our skin. The lake swallows our ankles when we wade its surface, and we laugh: our echoes mimic the waves’ movement. The buck moon shoves the clouds into movement. My sisters and I look up and watch as this vapor leaves. We then link arms, bob like apples at the surface, then wonder: who out there knows what tranquility feels like? So we make a pact to merge below, accept scales for skin. Diving into wet sleep, we become child-fish: free from breath, free from heat.

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ode to the soil Carla Ferreira

You, meshwork of nutrients, you reformer of microbes, chain of plant roots, possessor of the earthworm which wriggles and shifts your intricate spaces, undoing, redoing what holds you apart and holds you together, life source and surface. Breath of earth, you give to us a latent grace, birth and death intermingled. Measured into one single teaspoon, you contain at least a million microorganisms. Cyclical movement courses through you where you quietly defend and the men do not understand your battles – there is a war going on down there, in the soil – disintegrations of life into resurrected refuse, and the mystery of your earthly smells, you, intimate of the caterpillar and the ant and all furrowing creatures. Dirt, earth, rich deep tangled soil – interconnection of plantlife signals, tertiary understandings of subterranean intimacies, the way you move the earth is how you breathe – excrement and aroma, undying in perpetual death, unfolding, remolding, soft moving clay.

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paying homage to the prairie from Aversion to Wonder in the Midwest

Janis Rodgers Soule

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rom the screened in porch next to my cabin, I looked out over West Lake Okoboji, lacquered in modest pink at the end of a cool June day. Nothing in the Midwest is too bright or flashy – not the cabins along the sloping lakeshore, with wide windows spread across the far wall. This simple structure blends with the oaks, the green curtains I’d pulled back to catch light were like leaves stretched out over sparkle-water. Nor the wildflowers in what remains of prairie – the orange butterfly weed somehow melds with frosted sage, pale purple coneflowers and big bluestem grasses to create a seamless symphony. Don’t be mistaken. These names of native flowers are foreign to my tongue, names that didn’t pass through my ear growing up on the northeastern coast of the country. I come from the Highlands of a state known for its interstate and industry, Sopranos and Jersey Shore. I lived on old farmland at the edge of watershed property with no trespassing signs. There was a reservoir of city water where motorboats weren’t allowed, and the foundations of abandoned summer homes where I’d found toppled chimneys and rusted pans. It’s hard to describe the place where you grew up. It really wasn’t like anything I just said, but it was also nothing like the turnpike, the old textile mills, the smell of industry and garbage, most people think of when they think of New Jersey. I never imagined I’d be homesick until I moved to Iowa. I never felt a sense of belonging in my hometown or my home state, but arriving in Iowa in the sluggish heat of late August made me suddenly

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grateful for the cool of lakes and forests, for the companionship of friends who knew me before I’d even had my first kiss. When my boyfriend of four years closed that back of his truck and headed back east, I felt the sharpest pang of wrong decision-making I’d ever felt in my life. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, I spent the whole first semester trying to bolster the courage to leave, then the courage to stay. I resisted the landscape with extreme aversion and took any opportunity to flee – home for Christmas, abroad in the summer, even camping trips to Wisconsin felt like some kind of an escape, some kind of freedom. I felt naked standing upon this open land exposed to wind and the waft of hog confinement. But as I prepared to leave this state, and move further west after completing my degree, I decided to dig my feet into this black soil, run my hands through wild grasses. Falling in love with this place was not something I imagined I’d ever do, but I wanted to take the time to at least accept it, and the impact the years I spent here had on my life. I headed up to Lakeside Laboratory, in the northwestern nook of Iowa’s eroded plains, where I’d been given the gift of time to write. The first whole day was spent in my cabin at the desk I’d positioned in front of the windows overlooking the lake, where I planned to write about places far away from here – the semi-arid deserts of northern Kenya where I picked up fossilized crocodile teeth, drenched in sweat, longing for the end-of-day bath in an alkaline lake. Crocodiles laid their eggs on the shoreline after sunset, leaving

tail marks streaked through the sand come morning. I would write about Dassanetch fishermen who pull nets of Nile perch and tilapia to dry in the sun. I would write about the monkeys of a Costa Rican rainforest from which I’d returned only weeks earlier. However, as I wrote about the brash, deafening calls of Howler monkeys in a forest canopy, it hit me. I put down my pen and looked out over the lake that actually reminded me very much of a lake I’d frequented as a child in my hometown. I’d had my eyes closed to so much beauty right here in my own country, in that state no one in my family quite remembers the name of (Idaho… Ohio..?). I’ve ignored the people who love this place and want to showcase its wonders, renew the tall grass prairie that dominated the north and central parts of the state, known as the Des Moines Lobe, after the retreat of glaciers almost ten thousand years ago. A portion of Lakeside Lab campus colored with yellow and orange milkweed are the remnants of prairie dug up and literally rescued from bulldozer, shopping mall, cornfield. As a nature preserve, historic district, and field station, Lakeside is an ecosystem all of it’s own. I walked down to the dock mid-morning on Little Miller’s Bay to watch dark clouds come in – layers of deep floating cobalt swooned at the far end of the lake, and a cold breeze rushed across the water, raising goose bumps on my arms. Jane, the Education Coordinator, whose grandparents homesteaded on land not far from here, was fishing for plankton in a flowing blue skirt. We peered through a beaker, looking for life – a miniscule squiggle smaller than a thread on my shirt, but still, very much alive. And as Jane would point out, very important. Plankton are a crucial food source to the bass and bluegill that make a home in these waters. “I tell people who come to my programs the Aesop’s Fable about the lion and the mouse,” Jane said. She reminded me of the lion who scoffed at the mouse that would one day save his life. When the lion got caught in a hunter’s snare and could not break loose, who else but the mouse gnawed through the rope and set the entangled lion free? The moral of the story (in Jane’s case with the plankton), being that small things are vital to ecosystems. For humanity, this has somehow translated to mean, the smaller, thinner and sleeker your cellphone, the better. But in the “real” world, we wouldn’t exist without many of the creatures we can’t even see, like the beneficial bacteria in our guts. Even animals big enough to see aren’t often noticed for the role they play in maintaining stability on our planet, let alone for their own inherent value as fellow inhabitants of Earth. When’s the last time you stopped to watch a squirrel gather acorns, or robins build their nests? Looking over the lake one quiet evening, I heard a crackling in the honeysuckle bushes below the deck where I was reading. As I edged over to the rail, I expected a deer munching on the round red berries, but it turns out the black and white snout was that of a raccoon, and not just one, a family of them. They ate quickly and moved on through the undergrowth. I only heard one small chirp, and they were gone. A student from a prairie ecology class held at Lakeside told me that he raised an orphan raccoon and it purred just like a cat. I relished the time I spent kneeled against the deck like a church pew, my small prayer to this bit of wildlife along the lakeshore. I ducked low so the raccoons wouldn’t see me, though one individual poked its head up from berry collecting to sniff the air. Perhaps that’s what alerted them to a potentially dangerous presence, and

they fled. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what it feels like to be a God, to peer down on creatures without our power to create and destroy. Or in the case of humans, who often act like Gods of the earthly realm, to peer down on creatures without the things that we consider essential – language, Wifi. On the dock, I asked Jane about the weather, if I should go out to Cayler Prairie that morning. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, as long as you’re prepared for it,” she said, lifting another water sample from the lake rippled now by raindrops. “Besides, the colors of the flowers will be beautiful against this gray sky. Just watching the clouds move will be magnificent!” I felt ashamed for not thinking of this myself. With that I changed my clothes and headed off the highway, down a gravel road edged with farmland and over the Little Sioux River. I parked in a tiny lot at the side of the road, a sign read: No Horses, and underneath, a picture with a slash-mark running through a snowmobile. At first, I was disappointed. This is it? I didn’t know where to walk – I could see where the prairie started and ended – wind turbines to my right and farmland on virtually every other corner. In my imagination, prairies are like oceans, ranging as far as the eye can see. I stood in one place, disheartened by the seemingly small scale of this natural place. Then I looked down. Hundreds of species of plants danced against my legs – purple blazing stars, big bluestem, blackeyed Susans, prairie sage and wild roses. Again, I was ashamed of having not noticed them sooner, of having closed my eyes to the red-winged black birds and bobolinks flying overhead. Before long, I was down on my knees. As I explored wetlands, morsels of prairie preserve, and unique remnants of glaciation, I began to understand what this place means to people here. Although less than 1% of the state still retains any prairie – which for the most part was plowed down when homesteaders came along – prairie is very much in the blood and bone of people like Jane, who scour roadsides, often a last refuge for prairie, looking for seed sources to restore grass and flower to its natural habitat. I never felt the need to preserve the place I lived, or felt such a strong connection to the earth where my parents raised me. Sure, I spent my summer days hunting frogs and turtles in a nearby pond, but as the land was owned by another city as watershed property, it never felt like my own, and from a legal standpoint, I was trespassing. My aversion to that flat Midwest had turned to appreciation and wonder in the space of a few weeks. I only wish it hadn’t taken me two and a half years to have this change of heart. I visited Cayler Prairie many times over the course of my residency at Lakeside. I went in the mornings and the evenings, on days that were sunny and days that were gray. And Jane was right – the purples and blues really did stand out against gray sky. The names of flowers and birds became urgently important to me and I wrote down detailed descriptions of everything I saw. I’d abandoned my writing project on a rainforest I had recently visited in Costa Rica, and instead focused on what was around me. I was even lucky enough to spot what I later learned was a Dickcissel on a barbed wire fence. I stopped my car and peered through binoculars at a bird I had never seen or heard of before, singing its little heart out, a red splotch on its chest bursting with each staccato song: dickciss-ciss-ciss! 25

desert trilogy Brian Stafford

but not forever In the middle of the sandy wash that lies beneath the immense rock swale that looks like elephant’s skin sits a vibrant, spiny cactus, made of eighty green barbs with light brown tips and sharp teeth along the spines. The spines protect the heart of the cactus. Amongst the spines are delicate white hairs, four for each spine it appears. It thrives in the wash, collecting the rain water through its roots, and holding the liquid in its heart and spines. There are days when it is submerged by the flood of rainwater, anchored by its root. There are seasons when very little water comes through the wash and the spines protect the sacred liquid from creatures wishing to lap at the water at the core. Attached to its base and lying in a downstream direction is its former self. No spines, no hairs, just the husk of the dried out heart. How does the cactus know when it is time to die? Does new potential push it off its main root? Do water vandals make it through the defenses and create a sacred wound? Or does it die in its own timing, sharing the water from its center with the lizards in the wash, allowing new life to spring from its heart? These are mysteries I do not understand. These are mysteries I do not understand. The raven soars high above the land. The spines protect the heart, but not forever. The white hairs whither and blow away. And the heart dries up, but not forever. A new heart, deeper roots, succulent green spines, and soft white hairs sprout from the new soul that holds the source, continuing life in the middle of a dry, sandy wash below an immense rock swale that looks like elephant’s skin.

if cain could speak Father Ponderosa stands stately in the desert – the tallest living being here. Beneath his many needled branches grow two junipers, one still thriving while the other lies wounded by lightning. Half of that being is alive while the other sends scorched arms into the air. Beneath this trinity lie dried berries, last season’s pinecones, brown needles, and oddly-shaped sap objects, some that look like chess pieces. You can smell the tree better by sniffing the sap, but you cannot tell from which tree it came. The ants crawl in the sandy dirt and don’t care about such questions. A tiger-striped butterfly perches in the high limbs of the father. A tiny jumping spider finds a dead bee near the base of the family,

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but hops away unable to carry the weight. The healthy juniper is sheltered by the higher branches of the pine. I want to name the junipers Cain and Abel. One favored by the father’s arms, One felled by a bolt from the grey-black sky. The fallen still survives though wounded at its core, its branches like a jagged crown of thorns piercing through the desert’s brow. “And what fate awaits you father? And you, brother; for I once grew beneath the sheltering shoulders as well. Who knows what wounds will become when given from above? Which living being is more sacred? The protecting father, the sheltered son, or the wounded one who survives and thrives with an open heart.”

desert nuggets At the edge of a sandy wash strewn with smooth rocks and ornamented with cacti, shrubs, and short-lived flowers lies the open trunk of a once magnificent ponderosa. In an instant one can see that it was struck by the mystery of desert lightning. A single bolt likely shot through the bark and into the heartwood, blasting it open and felling what stood above the trunk. Charred limbs lie quite a distance from the felled tree, a testament to the power that seers from the sky to the ground. Part of the remaining trunk still stands, its heart open to the wash. Lizards crawl over the fallen limbs that project like giant desert thorns. An occasional dragonfly alights on its wood. Grasses and sage grow up between the bare branches, and other plants flower in its shade. And the heartwood remains, drying until desiccated, then cracks apart from itself into countless golden-brown nuggets, still held in the torso of the trunk. Some are dislodged by the rare floods that occur when the rainwater is shunted off the sandstone formations and into the wash. They might float to the edge of the wash, or collect behind other obstructions. Some make it to the wash’s destination – the seasonal creek, the shallow river, and eventually down the river to the sea. How long did the tree live before it was pierced? How long has it been eroding? How long does it take a nugget from the heart to reach the sea? I do not know this nor many things. But I can praise the tree, the storm, the lightning, the wash, the questions, and the heartwood that arrives in the vast blue not imagined by the desert.

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a different star

albion

With evening the air bunches up, while the trees shiver, pull together. The sky sweeps away

See there Elfydd, little seagull, as you cross, islet to basin, as you skerry. Chalk and flint, one holme: all you need for visions of Kent-land secure in sun or wind, hidden by a whiteout like never-melting snow. Blockade in symbol more than fact after men took to the skies, curtains at evening-tide unnecessary; the soldiers out on Grey Nose never did venture a kilometer further. In reassurance or homesickness, the cliffs yet stand. North Foreland shines the lighthouse beam, manned or no. Churchill stomps on wet days, down in the tunnels, headquartering the Battle of Britain. Glimmering, ever vast, these white shadow faces you see, crossing by day or by night, little seagull, contrast movement of the tides: chalk and flint, static.

Steve Bertolino

the birds. Receding, our sun fades orange, starts glowing and pulsing, dying embers surrounded by smoke. And those clouds are low and calm, first star peek-a-boo, mischievous and tricking you into wishing on a different star, one you could see, the younger sister. Your wish won’t come true now. The evening loves you anyway, loves you for noticing how gentle it is, how it puts the toys away and sweeps the room, unasked, and gets the house ready for quiet talk and wine, the hushed communication of family, or visiting friends, or traveling strangers who have come here to stay, from as far as Regulus, or a different star.

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Steve Bertolino

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the mississippi Nancy Bunge

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ne July afternoon a few years ago, as I drove to a friend’s house in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where I grew up, the beauty of the Mississippi River stunned me. I had to pull off the highway and look at it. As I sat there taking in the enormous brown rolling river surrounded by bluffs, sandbars and marsh grasses, I felt as though I had never seen it before. But I realized that I had passed this very spot dozens of times at dawn, when it must have looked even more astonishing, as my best friend’s father drove us back to town from their cottage. I tried to recall those trips, but nothing surfaced except “The Typewriter Song” playing on the radio as Mr. Esch made jokes. And then a remark came back that I had remembered since a

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fifth grade trip to Wyalusing State Park, just south of La Crosse. As we stood on a bluff trail above the river, Tommy Burgess, who had lived across the alley from me since the beginning of consciousness and rarely startled me, announced, “Some people wait all their lives for a picture like this” as he snapped a photo of the Mississippi. I found his comment bewildering and took no pictures of the river myself. Instead, I set my sights on friends, teachers and Villa Louis, a mansion built with fur trade money on top of an Indian Burying Mound and, of course, a sign saying Wyalusing State Park. I didn’t need a Kodak of the river: I saw that murky water all the time. Despite my indifference to it, thinking back I realize that the

Mississippi has run through my life as persistently as it has through American geography and culture. Before I was conceived, my mother got up early one snowy morning and walked through the drifts to enroll my brother in the Campus School, the elementary and middle school we would both attend; my brother’s admittance guaranteed me a place. The students there provided practice and specimens for those studying education at the local Teachers College, so I had professors for instructors from Kindergarten through 8th grade. But this did not attract my mother to the school nearly as much as weekly swimming classes in the college pool; she wanted to do all she could to keep the Mississippi from sweeping away her children. My best friend’s father also got up early and enrolled her, so every school day would begin with my walking down the alley to pick her up. Ann was bright, lively, and imaginative, so our trips from the alley to school or to Fuller’s Drug Store or 10 blocks west to the center of downtown, never dulled, even though we traveled these routes together for thirteen years. Ann, an only child adored by both her parents, did what she wanted, no matter how others judged it, making her a valuable ally in a town so firmly in conformity’s grip if one went downtown alone, friends one encountered could demand an explanation for this eccentric choice. Although Ann and I could and did tell each other anything, we also kept each other alert with

competition: it still galls me to recall that she could spell the word “Mississippi” first. Our persistent friendship probably goes a long way towards explaining why two girls from the same alley in La Crosse, Wisconsin grew up to be college professors who produced books shaped by their passions. The school we attended also helped. It makes sense that we both chose to spend our lives on college campuses because we had such a great time during our first visit. Although our childhoods passed in the conservative fifties in a conservative town in a state represented by Senator Joseph McCarthy, we barely noticed because our school forbad grades, homework, and competition. When people began aspiring to play Mary or Joseph in the Christmas Pageant, the traditional presentation abruptly ended, as did the Valentine Day’s competition between the 3rd and 4th grade when the 4th grade girls cried after losing to us. Although we might compete to dance with the cutest person in our class outside of school, at school we did only square dancing. The people running Campus School understood that measuring ourselves against each other would interfere with our learning to trust our own perceptions and judgments. Because they wanted us to rely on ourselves as soon as possible, we repeatedly dreamt up our own projects and then evaluated our progress with them. And we were introduced to the larger world in a way that gave us the equipment and confidence to form our own opinions about

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it. The Social Studies teacher, Mr. Fredericks, also read the news on the local television station so he knew how to correctly pronounce the most convoluted Slavic names. Every day, he would test us on whatever world news appeared on the front page of the local paper, insisting that we pronounce even Russian and Chinese words correctly. He also steered us towards controversial topics, assigning religion, Russia and Red China as subjects for our research papers. In the seventh grade, he had us debate the admission of Red China to the UN. Later I commented to my mother that it surprised me no one had called him a Communist; she replied that people had. Still, he persisted in showing us how to educate ourselves about political issues so that for the rest of our lives, we had a way to defend ourselves against adopting the latest ideological cliché. In other words, the school taught us to treat ourselves and those we encountered compassionately. This helps explain why, until we left the Campus School, we lived in a world remarkably free of cliques or hostility. We all got along just fine. And when I think back on La Crosse, that generosity seems as persistent and unacknowledged as the Mississippi. Weekends and summers, our lives revolved around the Mississippi, but we didn’t talk about it. We said we went to the beach or we spent the day on Tausche’s boat or we picnicked with our family in Pettibone Park or we skated on the lagoon. I spent

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many, many spring, summer and fall days at my friend Ann’s cottage, without ever realizing that it sat on a manmade lake filled with Mississippi water. The Mississippi itself came up in conversation only during spring thaws when it would invade people’s homes, prompting instructions over the radio about how to clean them, along with admonitions that because of the river’s extreme filth, people should burn all the rags that they used. Those of us who lived far from the river would wonder once again why anyone would want to live near it. When we became adolescents, we tested ourselves against the river. When Sigurd Midelfort showed me a place where I could deposit myself into a current and have the river carry me rapidly downstream, I found the discovery thrilling. I reported it to my mother who vehemently instructed me never to do that again. I concluded that her Chicago childhood made it impossible for her to understand and looked forward to repeating the experience. All my adolescent lies to my mother involved the river. I told her that I had swum in the country club pool with a lifeguard watching over me when in fact I swam in the Mississippi at midnight with friends who would shriek, “Shark!” before diving underwater and pinching each other; I told her I was going to Linda’s house when in fact Linda, Jack, Mike and I spent the evening savoring the wild world on the Delta Queen as it paddled up and down the river, and

I just didn’t mention to my mother that visits to Hoeschler’s cottage inevitably involved ripping across the river in a jet boat filled with teenagers screaming at the driver to go faster. One New Year’s Eve, I did stop at home shortly before midnight to ask my mother if I could go skating on the lagoon. She passed the responsibility for this decision to my father who had just worried out loud about my whereabouts and declared that I should be home. He told me to have a good time: he had grown up in La Crosse, too. Three high school classmates lost their contests with the river. No longer able to stand working on their senior research papers in the public library on one of the first warm spring evenings, they took a skiff out into one of the Mississippi’s many swamps. The search for their bodies went on endlessly. During that time, Mr. Wheelock, my social studies teacher, insisted on chronicling the events as they unfolded. “Well, they found a boot today,” he would say and I would try to avoid thinking about the empty chair right behind me where one of the missing boys, Bill Kreutz, had sat. I believed the rumor going around school that none of the boys knew how to swim even though it made no sense: our high school required everyone to take swimming classes once a week. And I resented Mr. Wheelock’s making me so uncomfortable by hovering over these deaths. I barely knew Bill Kreutz and I had never questioned my ability to handle the Mississippi; I refused to start at the cusp of my graduation from Central High. I found the people along the Mississippi’s banks much more frightening. The social hierarchies that the Campus School tried to exclude defined La Crosse’s social life both inside and outside the high school. In the town itself, a family signaled its rise by buying a house that once belonged to a family important enough to have its name permanently attached to the building, like the storied Funk house with its pool, unused since someone drowned in it, and its playhouse with running water and electric lights. Because of her history as a Chicagoan, my mother found these unspoken social mores bewildering. She repeatedly confused a grocery store clerk with a woman from La Crosse’s elite and would ask one about the wellbeing of people related to the other. Mrs. Schams, who cleaned for us, told how when she served at a party my mother attended, as she arrived with her tray at my mother’s side, my mother put her arm around her and said, “I’d like you to meet my friend, Hilda Schams” and introduced her to those gathered around her, forcing them to stop eating and drinking long enough to acknowledge Mrs. Schams’ importance. My mother’s faux pas did not bother my father, a relaxed La Crosse native. Indeed, my family frequently spent Sunday mornings sitting around the breakfast table laughing as someone read aloud pretentious claims made about local people in The La Crosse Tribune. At Central High, I was on my own. I did have the company of the same friends I’d known and loved since grade school and, at the time, considered myself comfortable with my status as a nerd. Despite my illusions of self-assurance, I must have felt deeply uneasy. I slouched to make myself shorter, I squinted so I could pretend I didn’t need glasses and when reporting my SAT scores, I lowered them. Graduation Day, I asked my mother if I could skip the ceremony because I worried about tripping as I made my way up the steps and across the stage in my new high heels. She not only insisted that I attend, afterwards, she said that she felt ashamed of me as she watched a boy in my class with an uncooperative leg

struggle up the steps. And when I returned to my 10th high school reunion, I realized that if I had stayed in La Crosse, I never would have had the confidence to do anything simply because whatever talents I had bore so little resemblance to what the people there valued. So, the social structure along the banks of the river could kill more mercilessly than the Mississippi. But my friends all did just fine. At the end of the summer after high school graduation, we held hands and sang “For Auld Lane Syne” while standing around a bonfire on the lawn at Ann’s cabin with that unacknowledged Mississippi water pushing against the shore. And then we went off to explore and settle into a multitude of places and situations. One flew B-52s in Vietnam; one taught school in Alaska; some people traveled to Africa in the Peace Corps; one became a dentist in Hong Kong; another lived in both Brussels and Tokyo; another went to Japan and fell so in love with Japanese tea huts that she filled her Ohio yard with them. After all, we could all handle the Mississippi; how could anything else stop us? Last summer I returned to La Crosse for my high school reunion. The first evening a fellow Campus School alum had a grade school reunion at his house; we all had a terrific time catching on decades of living. But the next day the high school portion of the reunion began. I went to a picnic searching for a friend and found only former cheerleaders, athletes, their buddies and admirers; we conversed with all the enthusiasm of someone encountering a bill collector. It took me ten minutes to realize that Patti would never appear at the picnic and twenty-two minutes to flee. The cool kids clearly still dominated our class, even though a couple have spent time in the penitentiary. At the dinner that night, when people circulated, I sat with a friend’s husband whose Parkinson’s made it hard for him to participate. I left the banquet as soon as the cheers and speeches stopped. The next day I had signed up for a brunch on a boat that would travel down the river: the thought of being trapped somewhere surrounded by condescending cool kids terrified me. My friend Patti, the only person from “my group” who would also attend, insisted on picking me up for fear that I simply wouldn’t show. We wound up at a table with kind and genuine classmates we hadn’t hung out with in high school. And we had real conversations. One told about the terror of arriving at a home leveled by a tornado and finding his wife holding only one of this two children and then of his relief at learning that the other child, whom he called, “my Annie,” was safe at a neighbor’s. A couple told of how lucky they felt to find each other and complained of people’s insensitivity to the trials of isolation. And the fellow my mother had admired at our graduation talked animatedly about how he loved living in Washington, D.C. When the talk slowed, I noticed cheerleaders and athletes settled at a nearby table. But I escaped. I followed my mother’s hero up the steps to the boat deck, where he looked around at the Mississippi, held out his arms and said, “What could be more beautiful than this?” The rest of our table trailed him, too, and Patti called out, “Here we are Mark!” to a friend making a video so that he’d take pictures of us laughing against the backdrop of the river and bluffs. Mark threatened to put the results on YouTube and we all laughed hard again. All the while, we moved forward on the Mississippi, past bluff after bluff after bluff thick with trees, savoring the kindness, courage and loveliness that would continue to nourish us, whether or not we realized it. 33

the universe, and how we came to know ourselves Andrew Hincapie

Outside, we finally talked of real meaning and the collective human experience of finding simple ways to describe the biggest feelings, when words get in the way of what we mean. We separated stars to find a sign of life, or prove in all those blinking lights out there, we’d maybe find a hint of something real. You pointed at the sky and yelled “That’s right – we’re talking about you!” At that moment, I saw a streak – I knew you saw it too. We could only stand there staring – speechless, connected.

life as an enchanted state Irene Mitchell

And in that happy consciousness is found all the marvels of this world. Suppose it to be a world without symbol or dread; that is enchantment enough for me. Presume it is a world of composure and beautiful speech. Speculate upon this world as if humankind were steeped in a blissful poultice, pain stopping suddenly over a wounded countryside. Let me be honest while the blue hydrangea still is blue; into this dream I melt. It is the dream of Blithewood Garden where phoebe sings phoebe, cardinal sings figaro, ah, what frenzy! and lark flaunts his ave maria.

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artists paint pots yellowstone national park

Bill Hoagland

Take the path, take the wooden steps, hold the rail tight, an easy climb from runnels dried and glittering under the sun to the gurgling sulfurous gumbo, but when you get there another blow clears and slops – there’s a whale underground like your old subversive psyche wallowing on a winter day. Pools: green caverns on the sill of boil, the clearest water all irony when air is steam and sky mirage by boiling slop and bloody goop. We may vaporize in a hissing wink. “Are you ready for death?” mud gurgles, “Are you ready for re-birth?”

falling asleep on a sandbar Bill Hoagland

Third night out, bedded down on sand, no tent to break your line of sight, the Milky Way a silver stream you trace between your finger and your thumb – three days like that, the float so good so far you’re ready to believe nothing else exists except the feel of a paddle in your hands, the river always falling up ahead. Wash and backwash sing above your camp, upstream where boulders split the river into three-part harmony – a tenor lilting trills for inchling minnows; an alto melody for rainbow; a gurgling baritone for browns. Somewhere above the cliff an owl calls, bidding you to dream a way through easy channels overhung with glossy aspen boughs where onion, coral root and iris lean, blooming on the banks, and more tomorrow.

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in these hidden places An Ecology of Wild Beauty

James Liter

Photo © Casey Folkertsma

Do you think that somewhere we are not Nature, that we are different from Nature? No, we are in Nature and think exactly like Nature. – c. g. jung

S

erpent’s Egg Grove was calling to me this morning, so off I went…. It’s late November. The trees are bare now. The wild flowers are gone. The fields and meadows seem to miss them, and sharply bend rather than sway in the wind. The forested ridge to the south is also bare, and everything is brown, with the exception of some berries and apples still punctuating the branches with a bright red. Standing on the hill just outside of Serpent’s Egg allows a view through the bare branches and bramble into the center of the grove. There is a spirit wheel made of vine there, hanging from one of branches, adorned with a lone feather. It isn’t visible from here, but I know it is there. Nature is beautiful. We often say that, but what does it really mean? As living things, we are together with nature in an active and collective ecology of aesthetics, so to understand what we mean when we say nature is beautiful, we should ask not what beauty is, but what it does. Since our participation in this ecology occurs through

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the perception of our psyche, it will be useful to first place the term psyche into proper context. Tracing it to its Greek roots, we find that psyche is not limited to the idea of the mind or brain; this limitation only grew into fashion in the 19th or 20th century.1 Before that it was used to denote a wider sphere of human experience – the Greek psykhe was more an idea of soul or spirit.2 The understanding of psyche, as soul, not only deepens our ability to know on the level of conscious awareness but also allows knowledge from the deeper, unconscious parts of the soul to emerge into that conscious awareness. This numinous process is a quality of the psyche that has been commonly recognized. The comparative religionist Rudolf Otto, for example, described the experience of the sacred through psyche as mysterium tremendum et fascinans – mystery, fear, and fascination.3 With this broader, and more accurate, understanding of the psyche, we can now engage on a more solid foundation the question of what wild beauty does. We can clearly see that it is through the numinous functions of our complete psyche – soul - that we encounter beauty in nature.

This wild beauty isn’t composed of just line and form and color, though that certainly is important at times. It isn’t something exclusive for “people of taste.” It isn’t hard to know when we witness wild beauty - the experience ignites some inner process that transcends and mocks the galleries and critic’s pen, and invites everyone to participate. The sense of belonging that is engendered by such aesthetic experiences can only be mirrored through representations in art or other cultural artifacts. Within the awareness of our belonging, we know that wild beauty is not separate from us, trapped away in objects or things, but is an inner and outer process of witness and creation. The soul responds to wild beauty in a way that unmistakably says, “this is beautiful, and I am one with it.” Serpent’s Egg Grove, a remnant stand of ancient apple trees in a nearby park, roughly laid out in the shape of an egg, is beautiful in this way, and one of my favorite places. Somewhat off the well beaten path of nature trails, it is encircled with columns of weathered trunks and covered with a low canopy of gnarled and twisted branches. It is full of the pungent scents of earth and of apples becoming earth. I found the place last spring by following a snake, and to reach it required picking my way, sometimes painfully, through brambles and thorns. The first time I made it to the center of the grove, I knew I had entered a hidden place, a place of sanctuary and quiet; a place of inner and outer beauty presenting an ecology that could be consciously engaged. As the name I came to call it by might indicate, Serpent’s Egg Grove is, for me, a place of beauty, symbolic form, and soul knowledge. Encountering wild beauty in this way is a numinous embrace which occurs in the dance of our conscious awareness with the personal and collective unconscious. The beauty of the natural world is the source of all aesthetic experience, which in turn is the wellspring of symbolic form. Symbolic form is soul knowledge. Sometimes we humans get glimpses of this knowledge. Sometimes we create this knowledge. We are nature, after all, and participants in the same aesthetic flow as the rest of nature. Our soul’s knowledge mingles with that of nature’s soul into a single knowing born of aesthetic awareness. Seeking out this awareness is an intrinsic part of our being in the world. We long to include wild beauty in our existence, in our experience, and we miss it when we are not able to do so. Through wild beauty, we enter a dialogue of glimpsing and creating symbolic form through deep aesthetic experiences. Our fascination with nature has always been the impetus for this fulfillment of archetypal imperatives for psychospiritual development. We have evolved a spirituality that allows us to engage and transform these aesthetic experiences through a process of mythologizing into symbols pregnant with essential meaning. Through the inherent and autonomous process of this depth aesthetics, vital for our development, nature becomes more than forest, stream, or mountain. It becomes a dense and active symbol containing the soul’s knowledge of what it means to be alive, which is at once a personal and collective experience. The collective experience is not only human - the dance with wild beauty allows our awareness to enter into ecology with nature’s awareness. This great dance is an unveiling of things already known, a nurturing and making conscious of unconscious

images. Intentionally engaging this dance is part of what the philosopher Martin Heidegger termed sorge (care). In some respects, sorge is a form of stewardship, but one that encompasses all of what he called Da-sein (being-as-such, or being-in-theworld). Da-sein is the whole of existence, with nothing left out. It is the physical, mental, and spiritual expansion of being-as-such, existing “for the sake of itself. As long as it is, up until its end, it is related to its potentiality-of-being.”4 Da-sein is thus being and the processes of its unfolding authenticity and potentiality. Sorge is concerned with the nurture of these intentional processes of becoming a true self, the striving for authenticity and realization of potential. The unfolding of da-sein is ever ongoing, and the encountering of the soul’s knowledge through aesthetic experience is inherent to sorge, to nurturing da-sein. Through this, we realize a more immediate relationship to the world, and we suddenly know the unity that our souls always already know. Encountering the collective ecology in this way is a tremendously aesthetic experience. Based on my experience at Serpent’s Egg, a large part of sorge is simply becoming aware, either intentionally or by being confronted with wild beauty. By practicing intentional awareness, all places can be powerfully aesthetic, but it is obvious that some places are inherently more powerful than others and can actually provoke mindfulness through their own beauty. Serpent’s Egg Grove is such a place for me. It is truly liminal, neither here nor there, but unequivocally announcing itself, making itself known through its undoubtedly present beauty that is the birthing place of broader awareness. As I stand in the grove I become aware of the passing blue, grey, clouds, and sun in the sky. Warmth, coolness, breeze, and stillness all are part of the experience. While Serpent’s Egg is, for me, more powerful than many other places in provoking awareness, I can more easily become aware of wild beauty everywhere by intentionally engaging a similar awareness wherever I am. Serpent’s Egg Grove is a mentor in allowing my relationship to wild beauty, wherever it is experienced, to emerge into conscious awareness. Any place of wild beauty can initiate this process, and spending time in Serpent’s Egg Grove reminds me that quieting my mind and simply experiencing my experience of any place allows wild beauty to enter my awareness. As memories and shapes of places inhabit my soul – branches and fruit, birdsong and breezes – they all become a temporal and spatial part of my awareness of wild beauty, empowering my sorge of da-sein on a deeper and broader level. The experience of wild beauty in this way is an event that ignites the psyche with sufficient intensity to mythologize the experience into a symbol. This process is an expression of sorge that is a passionate and participatory experience of wild beauty which encourages the development of the psyche by taking all elements of the experience and synthesizing them into symbolic form. The depth psychologist Anthony Stevens formulates this process as “Archetype + Experience -> Symbol.” 5 The symbol represents not only what we saw or did but also what potential arises in the world because of the aesthetic experience; it informs the expansion of our own da-sein with knowledge to be integrated into our overarching attitude or worldview. The symbol resulting 37

from the mythologizing process not only incites the development of the psyche, but also calls forth creative endeavors that spark further experiences of beauty and subsequent development for self and others in an ongoing cycle.6 It becomes an active archetype with which our psyches can build a meaningful relationship. Symbolic form is container and impetus for our human propensity to become, and time and place are the containers of beauty which allow the mythologizing process to occur. While it is sometimes the case that a place or event provokes an aesthetic experience in and of itself, we typically don’t suddenly appear somewhere and experience beauty. We bodily move into a place. While we might focus on some central characteristic, a more inclusive but subsidiary awareness exists of the many other elements which make up that place. A story of the place emerges into an aesthetic awareness as we inhabit the entire place on different levels as a place within a series of places we have been or will presently go. This occurs in an ecology, for as we become more aware of our movement within nature’s dynamic and integrating presence, she becomes more aware of us. This inhabiting of place includes ourselves - we become a part of that place, as subject and object. It is similar with time. Each moment, each ‘now’ is comprised of bits from the preceding and the

expected subsequent moments.7 Being moves through space and time, never resting fully in one place or moment. All of nature participates in this liminal process of aesthetic experience through time and space. Each of our stories are entwined in a larger story; form and matter, archetype and archetypal image. Although oftentimes nothing of exterior note happens when I visit Serpent’s Egg Grove, something tremendous always happens. I am invited to consciously become part of a re-construction of awareness of my story as one part of a larger story. I realize through an awareness of the passage of space and time that life and death, like the changing sky above me, are only parts of a cycle of comings and goings, only episodes in a long story. The countless stories of the universe are entwined with one another and part of a single tradition of branches and fruit, birdsong and breezes; mountain, tree, and stream are chapters of an immense story. Recognizing my story as part of this immense story allows for a heightened awareness of the aesthetic experience. The awareness practice of sorge that I engage in when visiting Serpent’s Egg Grove helps me understand why it and other places become named and tended places. The sorge relationship is an organic result and outward manifestation of an inner transformation sparked by the experience and awareness of

Photo © Casey Folkertsma 38

wild beauty. The patches of sunlight falling through the branches merge with the breeze; the thud of apples falling to the earth announce the sounds of children on the nature trails somewhere to the north; the feel of the soft earth under my feet as I walk into the grove is informed by the sting and scrapes of the bramble. All these events merge into one another and become the wild beauty of Serpent’s Egg. The movement of time from one moment to the next, each bearing the seed and sprout of the other is the language with which the story of wild beauty is told. Story is inherently symbolic, and thus, as the wellspring of story, so too is place. Serpent’s Egg is a story, with dense symbolism that allows the relationship with the deeper levels of my psyche to engage the movement of the story through time and space, and through that, with nature. Through this mythologizing of wild beauty, it becomes both input and output of dense archetypal symbols. Thus, it is not only an act within an intentional space set aside, but the ongoing process of dedication through awareness of the story. This is a sure sign of the shifting of my attitudes through the engagement of the wild beauty of Serpent’s Egg. It is an autonomous and spontaneous coming into an inhabiting awareness of the sacred geography of time and space. Becoming aware of my place within the wild beauty of Serpent’s Egg Grove is my way of approaching and expressing the sacred story of being in the world. Wild beauty is thus intimately connected with time and place, occurring within a complex chain of inner and outer events. This series of events include those leading up to the perception of beauty and those we expect to follow after. Beauty appears between and within these events, in the present moment in which we perceive nature in relation to other things, with wild beauty demanding attention more than any other thing.8 Considering the fact that this chain of events is ongoing, it follows that the aesthetic flow is dynamic, and the context in which we experience beauty is always giving way to a new context, a new ‘now,’ and a new opportunity for beauty.9 This wild beauty is in everything, or as Hillman explains, “if beauty is inherent and essential to soul, then beauty appears wherever soul appears.”10 Where there is life, there is beauty. We and nature, being personal and collective souls, are made up of events. When beauty is thus recognized as beautyas-event, it must also be recognized that events are the substance not only of beauty but of life itself, of existence-as-events. Each of these events is a source of potential beauty and thus a source of encountering the soul’s knowledge in conscious awareness. Through the function of mythologizing, all experiences of

beauty are eventually transformed into symbolic form. Symbols are a composite entity of the value, meaning, or emotions that we attach to something, such as an image, object, or experience. This then becomes a part of our perception of that thing, giving it depths of meaning beyond the first layer of sensuous perception.11 Through the aesthetic experience of nature, our knowing of nature is encoded into our soul in symbolic form. Mythologizing an experience of wild beauty involves taking the varied events of the experience, such as the temporal, spatial, emotional, environmental, and especially the focal event – the tree, stream, or mountain - and transforming it into an entire mythic narrative contained within a highly condensed symbol. A similar process is seen in the heroes of myth who are never Photo © Casey Folkertsma limited to their role within the plot of the story but actually are complete narratives condensed into the symbol that their character personifies. An especially rich example of such dense symbolic form is Dante’s mythologizing of Beatrice into Love-as-such, the ultimate psychopomp, and even a salvific incarnation of Jesus.12. The first human perception of beauty was in nature, which is ever-present and ever-changing through weather, seasons, wind, or activities of animals. The mythologizing process is inherently dynamic, always requiring such new aesthetic experiences to synthesize into symbolic form and provide knowledge of the world to the soul. This serves the ultimate goal of the psyche: to ensure the well-being of the ecology and the sorge of dasein. Beauty-as-events allows these archetypal imperatives of beauty and symbolic form to be fulfilled. Thus beauty-as-events becomes the absolute necessity of life as it is an obvious process of existence-as-events. By providing the human psyche with new and dynamic experiences and images – the events upon which it thrives - with which to create new explanatory narratives, associated archetypes, and dense symbols, nature can be seen as the source of all aesthetic experience. Moving through nature with a heightened awareness of the temporal and spatial ritual of aesthetic experience is a contemplative and numinous experience. It is a movement out of the cultural conditioning of aesthetic blindness and into an intentional inhabiting of soul knowledge. Through this process the further development of the psyche is empowered and occurs as the product of an autonomous integration of the experience with new or existing archetypes. The original language of the psyche is symbolic form, and the images resulting from experiences of wild beauty are condensed into symbols with which the psyche can 39

work as it develops into an individuated entity. We become better able thereby to effectively engage the events of the world which are the fabric of beauty. Wild beauty is the confluence of the dynamism of the inner and outer events of the world, comprising a collective ecology of aesthetics. What happens to us when experiencing this beauty is itself one of those events that create beauty, and through this cycle we are simultaneously witnesses and artisans of soul knowledge. This might be said of any aesthetic experience. When this occurs in nature though, it is within a living collective soul, and this enlivens the experience with the very breath of life, circulating through all elements of the ecology. It is inherent to our being in the world to seek and experience this enlivening which goes beyond the aesthetics of art or other cultural expressions. This is certainly not to take anything away from art, only to differentiate the primal from the cultural. Wild beauty is the primal source of all aesthetic experience, and to intentionally engage the mythologizing of these experiences into symbolic form and active archetypes is to enter into our unity with nature. This is what beauty does. I was embraced by the dynamic character of this ecology of aesthetics earlier this evening as I came in out of the year’s first snow. Orion’s Belt is again gracing the night sky, and the northern hemisphere is descending quickly into winter. It is beautiful. When I began this essay, just a few days ago, it was already cold and the trees had just finished throwing off their leaves. Everything was brown except for the red of some stubborn apples and berries in Serpent’s Egg Grove. Though not much time has passed since then, everything is now covered in white. It isn’t a deep snow, more just a promise of things to come, but there is a hush and glow outside that only comes on winter nights. It is as if all of da-sein is holding its breath in a celebration of beauty but wants to be sure that there is enough light to witness the snowflakes falling and glistening in the moon. It is in that stillness that my soul responds to the winter evening, saying “this is beautiful, and I am one with it.”

3. See Otto, Rudolf. Das Heilige, über Das Irrationale in Der Idee Des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen. Trewendt & Granier, Breslau 1917. 4. See Heidegger,  Martin. “from Being and Time.” In G.  D. Marino (Ed.), Basic Writings of Existentialism (pp. 299-336). New York: Modern Library. p. 300 5. See Stevens, Anthony. The Two Million-year-old Self. College Station: Texas A&M UP, 1993. 6. Wieman, Henry Nelson. The Source of Human Good. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1946. p. 135. 7. Edmund Husserl, the founder of Phenomenology as a philosophical discipline, distinguished different types of time. This is his phenomenological concept of time as it is experienced by the human individual. See Husserl, Edmund. “The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness.” Routledge Phenomenology Reader. Dermot Moran, and Timothy Mooney (Eds.). New York: Routledge, 2002. pp. 109-123. 8. Wieman, Henry Nelson. The Source of Human Good. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1946. p. 133. 9. Ibid. pp. 134-135. 10. See Hillman, James. A Blue Fire: Selected Writings. Ed. Thomas Moore. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. p. 302 11. See Stevens, Anthony. Ariadne’s Clue: A Guide to the Symbols of Humankind. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998. 12. See Hillman, James. A Blue Fire: Selected Writings. In Thomas Moore (Ed.). New York: Harper & Row, 1989. p. 299

notes

2. See Hillman, James. Re-visioning Psychology. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992. p. 2 40

Photo © Casey Folkertsma

1.From http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=psyche: “1640s, ‘animating spirit,’ from Latin psyche, from Greek psykhe ‘the soul, mind, spirit; breath; life, one’s life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding’ (personified as Psykhe, the beloved of Eros), akin to psykhein ‘to blow, cool,’ from PIE root *bhes- ‘to blow, to breathe’ (cf. Sanskrit bhas-), ‘Probably imitative’ [Watkins]. “Also in ancient Greek, ‘departed soul, spirit, ghost,’ and often represented symbolically as a butterfly or moth. The word had extensive sense development in Platonic philosophy and Jewishinfluenced theological writing of St. Paul (cf. spirit (n.)). Meaning ‘human soul’ is from 1650s. In English, psychological sense ‘mind,’ is attested by 1910.”

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the green branch Laurence Holden

Up Green Branch Trail from the spent dream behind me, late September, the trees still light filled with green, the branch bubbling over its rocks, the trail worn to a sunken trough between two standing waves, deeper and older than any source of water. Bound now outward from a house no longer mine, up through laurel thicket I find you. I lose you. You change. You stand still, in a makeshift bower of shadows. You leave. I have followed you as far as I can. Dark falls in the woods. I turn away and leave, a living branch in my hand, seized from the wrack between us, a torch, a green knot of desire by which I will find my way back. In this burning last flight of summer I keep a fire and tell a story.

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a heart so wild Kaye Spivey

It’s like you’d been inside That space I couldn’t slide into,

everything we know Laurence Holden

Fingers of coming light trace Pine along the far ridge untethered above the mist. Just a chimera drifting in and out of sight, in and out of existence, as if playing with the idea of being and not being. River too does this, but in her own way taking everything with her but never leaving. We too, in our own way, believing, unbelieving, hoping and refusing hope, singing and crying. I have not spoken of such things in a long while now. Could not, my mouth stuffed with rocks and sand, so much not understood. I could have drowned, not knowing how mountains and rivers move, rise and fall in an instant here and now, for all in the quick arrow of light loosed upon this world. Everything

I, the quiet storm Still out of step And tumbling up the coast. You reminded me that trees grew here, And that when they were restless They picked up And sailed. You reminded me of what the wind can do When you stop standing in it And let it move you.

monsoons Kaye Spivey

The rain changes everything a little bit, Redirects the morning. The spitfire breath Of nine hour days lazes off To the lightning and thunder That doesn’t scare anyone When it cracks across the whole, wide sky And leaves footprints of the storm In the corners of the clouds. A moment for a coffee break, A moment for sometimes we stand around waiting As the warm air rises off the mountains And the clouds sink down, Fill in the spaces Where the sea used to be.

we could not know changes, yet remains the same.

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Keeping watch in the darK Elizabeth Selbst

M

y parents’ house on the Connecticut coast – the house where I grew up – sits on a short stretch of high ground, bookended by a small cove lapping at both ends of the street. The tide chart is a well-worn pamphlet tucked into the second desk drawer, jumbled in with Metro-North train schedules and extra stamps and a big mess of knotted twine. We consulted this booklet when it was time to dig for mussels, to swim out to the float anchored past our neighbor’s dock, to help my dad winch his Flying Scot down from the parking lot into the water before a weekend race. We planned and waited, counting the days until we could push a friend’s boat through the marsh grass, wakeboarding across the trailing wake of the island ferry, squealing like bandits if we lost track of time and had to slink back through the knee-deep sludge of low tide. The house behind us had a tiny square porch on top of the roof. This feature used to be called a widow’s walk, where dead sailors’ wives are said to have paced, scanning the sea for long lost ships to return. It’s a lookout these days too, I guess, not for ships, but for squall lines moving in off the horizon. The first time I can remember our house flooding, I watched open-mouthed from my bedroom window as leaf litter swirled in a stream pouring across our front yard. You can more or less predict the floods – just a combination of strong winds, storm surge, and a high tide. What you can’t know in advance is how weary you’ll be moving cars up the hill at three a.m. to avoid salt-rusted engines, or

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what kinds of dead animals will wash up through the crawlspace the next day, or how deep the water will be when you decide to wade out. There’s a lighthouse not far from our house, just outside the breakwater for a major harbor. Many years ago, a tugboat too large to maneuver around the jetty had anchored on the far side of the protective wall. A sailboat returned late to the harbor, without running lights on deck, and sailed straight over the submerged heavy cable wire connecting the tug to its barge. The ship’s keel sliced off, the boat capsized, and the passengers drowned, all within sight of the shore. The first time I heard this story, I was a young teenager smirking my way through a Coast Guard-mandated safety course. I was preoccupied thinking about the afternoons I would spend zipping across the Sound with my newly-earned motorboat license, and I understood it then as a cautionary tale about turning on the appropriate lights and knowing how to make emergency radio calls. The story feels more like a fable to me now, or a maybe just a puzzle: how do you learn to navigate the waters when you don’t know what’s lurking beneath? Even if you know a tug is anchored, how do you keep watch underwater at night, when you’re doubly blind? Sometimes I think we know plenty about climate change – or at least enough to keep ourselves safe. After the recent tsunami devastation in Japan, cleanup workers uncovered giant stone blocks inscribed in ancient Japanese, “Don’t build your house below this

mark – the land is not safe from the sea here.” If you’re watching the horizon, you can tell a storm’s coming long before you feel the wind across your face. On the Cape Cod National Seashore, a man named Guglielmo Marconi constructed huge steel towers on a stretch of high dunes. From this beach, he proved that wireless telegraphs could be sent all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, effectively laying the foundation for modern telecommunications. He spent at least one stormy winter on the Cape working to build these towers, and I like to imagine that while the entire scientific community denounced Marconi as a lunatic, he listened to waves pounding against the beach and let the dull roar drown out their voices. The dunes are fragile, now threatened by erosion and the loss of native grasses, and the Park Service removed the old statue of Marconi that used to stand amidst the ruins of the towers years ago. I learned to sail on a one-class dinghy design known as an Optimist. These are child-sized boats, supposedly modeled after soapbox derby pine cars, shaped like bathtubs and requiring three airbags just to float. The front is a short pram rather than a sleek bow, serving both to temper the boats’ speed and to dampen the impact of collisions with other boats. The mast is so short it requires a third spar bracing the mast and propping up the leech end of the sail. As I grew older, I learned that the best sailboat racers study tactical maneuvers and learn to draw precise whiteboard diagrams of “tacking to cover.” But I also came to understand that the best sailors learn to read the sail like a map, pumping the jib as they see a puff of wind crossing the bow, shifting their body weight intuitively as a wave rolls under the stern. One summer when I was eight or nine, a big storm caught us unexpectedly as we were out in the middle of a practice racecourse. We turtled our boats, flipping our lightning-rod masts straight upside down under the water. I pulled out the grease pencil taped behind an airbag strap, my hands shaking as I marked a big X on the underside of my boat, a sign for the Coast Guard to look for sailors if they found the boat abandoned. I watched electricity crackle from the clouds down blindingly bright lines to strike points scattered in every direction and whitecaps swell up around our boats. Nothing about putting your Photo © James Liter head between your legs and hoping the storm will pass you over unharmed feels intuitive. When I worked as an ocean lifeguard, we made double overtime waking up early to paddle out-of-shape triathletes back to shore when they decided to quit halfway through races. Some years later, as I started waking up early to train for a triathlon of my own, my mom made me promise to ask strangers on an unguarded beach to keep an eye out for me as I swam lengths in the water. I know that the ocean is an objectively dangerous place. I

respect the awesome power of rip currents. I know the force of being pinned under a crashing wave. But sometimes I think of the underwater tug cable and wonder how we are supposed to protect against the dangers we don’t understand. Nobody knows why for certain, but for the past few years, sharks have been swimming closer to shore along New England’s coasts. Sharks have always been within reach of ocean beach swimmers, but it’s only when they’re in plain sight that people start to get upset. Some people say that our discussion of adaptation to worst-case climate scenarios is fear-mongering that panders to our base instincts, a discussion that ultimately fails to engender hope and inspiration about our planet’s future. I don’t know that hopefulness matters when climate change is still framed as conjecture rather than consensus. As long as the sharks are underwater, it’s easier to forget they’re even there at all. Scientists believe the oceans are acidifying at rates faster than ever experienced in the previous 300 years. Sometimes I think about tall eelgrass swept over by the force of a receding tide, resilient and springing upright before the tide washes back in again. I wonder if we even know how to measure the extent of the damage we are causing. When I was a teenager, my grandparents took me to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. There’s a long hallway filled with presidential cars, in line with the museum’s apparent mission to celebrate America’s love affair with automobiles. The exhibit is static and never changing. The Secret Service destroys new versions of these vehicles, decommissioning them in secret military tests. You can stand right next to the limo where JFK was shot, imagining him slumped over his bloodstain on the backseat and then across the hall, encased in a glass box, you can see Lincoln’s chair from the Ford Theatre -- two grotesque presidential artifacts linked by our nation’s strangely violent history. Henry Ford was a personal friend of Thomas Edison, whose Menlo Park laboratory has been relocated to sit on the museum grounds. I stood on the creaking floorboards, staring at rows of empty chemical bottles and light bulb prototypes, while a man dressed as Edison offered his best crooning impression of Edison’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the first recorded phonograph in history. I stand in awe of these two men, of their creative genius and the way their inventions and innovations revolutionized our lives. But it’s also hard to imagine two men more implicated in my own daily contributions to climate change. Every time I turn the key in my car, I combust fossilized carbon to move two tons of steel a half-mile down the road to the grocery store because it’s convenient. Every time I flip on my light switch, I draw power from a coal-fired plant to stretch out the number of hours I can 45

keep working through the night. Both of these men link me to a continued cycle of actions that keeps increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a never-ending test of nature’s resilience. I look out over a blood-orange August moon hanging low over the water and wonder when sea-level rise will reshape the coast where I grew up. There will come a time when no insurance company in the country will be willing to sell a flood insurance policy for my parents’ house. But nobody can say whether it will happen in ten years or a hundred. There’s no mimeographed pamphlet you can pull from the drawer for climate change, just a set of statistical projections and pages upon pages of government reports. There are insurance risk adjusters and climatologists and computational meteorologists running simulations to describe what the Earth’s atmosphere might look like in the future. All of their work is conditional on an unruly mess of assumptions about how humans will behave in the future under different climate conditions. On a warm April day on the barrier islands of the Carolina coast, I rode in a hang glider, watching the winds swirl sand across the dunes. I asked our guide, a deeply tanned college kid with sun bleached hair, where the Wright brothers first flew. He shrugged, and said it could have been any of these bluffs. The truth is that the wind moves these hills so often that the spot where humans first launched into flight is probably worn to the ground by now. The last spring I spent in North Carolina, an early spring shot buds into full bloom and tiny green inchworms dangled from the sky. In the mornings, I was jolted awake early as light filtered through the blinds, not knowing whether it was the frenetic pace of the biological rhythms moving outside my window or the thoughts swirling inside my head that kept springing me out of bed. A fine dusting of pollen settled on my car’s windshield every morning and weeds sprang up through cracks in the sidewalk, growing taller every minute. The smell of a neighbor’s barbeque mixed with laughter and string band music as it wafted in through the open screen door, and I let the time-honored tradition associating springtime with regrowth, rebirth, and renewal pulse through me. Classmates asked if I thought the unusually warm spring was a portent of catastrophic global warming, the so-called statistical “fat tail” possibility that climate change will be swift, extreme, and devastating. I adopted a new mantra, “Weather is not climate,” and responded with an uncertain shrug. To accept the possibility that the early spring was evidence of pervasive climate change felt too much like tendering an early resignation. If the early spring was cause for concern rather than joyous celebration, why would anyone get out of bed in the morning? In the fall, I move back to New England, for a job in Boston and the sight of the sea and a geography that feels like home. In October, a vicious hurricane slams into New York City. The storm surge was devastating, but something tangible seems to shift in the public’s perception of climate change. Formerly unconvinced government officials show up on camera to soberly discuss the

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threat of climate change to coastal communities. The National Guard evacuates my parents’ town. I listen to a professor from MIT describe his life’s work modeling hurricanes. If we assume the climate of the 21st century hasn’t changed from historical climate conditions, then we would predict a storm of this magnitude would occur once every 800 years. So perhaps, he muses, we were just extraordinarily unlucky this year. My dad cancels our family Thanksgiving, sharing pictures of dirt below the house’s exposed foundation. The walls I ran through as a child are stripped to the framing joints, now an unfamiliar skeleton of beams and wires. The construct of flood insurance means that people acknowledge the risk of this kind of damage, but does anyone ever expect it will happen? Running lights on deck can only help us see so far into a dark night and darker waters ahead. I’d like my grandchildren to see glaciers one day, just as I’d like them to see the bloodstain on Lincoln’s chair and the dock at the end of my parents’ street and the remains of Marconi’s towers. If my own children learn to sail, I will teach them to remember that no matter how bad the crisis seems, the best captains save the lives of their crew by taking stock of the situation around them. Half the battle of staying afloat is to trust in the buoyancy of your life jacket and to remember to find your sources of calm in the midst of a terrifying storm. If they tell me they’re going to chase waves after a big hurricane passes through, I’ll inhale sharply through my teeth just like my mom used to, and then I’ll remind them to take a big breath before plunging into the unknown.

Ocean’s Collected Bounty © Melinda Giordano

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loss of light

heron

At twilight, there’s a ruckus in the wetlands: response to the loss of light. Geese, anxious, rise perturbed into the air. Sparrows, clicking, chattering, settle in amongst brambles. Grasses are restless.

The heron sieves the water with his eyes, eliminates the trick of light, side-glances this porous territory where he resides, a watchman wading the feeding grounds for his quota each day, standing still, concentrating on the wrinkled flow beneath him; his true shore drifting home the long way where borders pass under strange skies, his eddy mirrored and sculpted in a resolute conduit.

Elizabeth Schultz

It happens soundlessly. No switch is flipped. The light simply seeps away over the rise. Its last traces, ochre and rose, dissolve as the dark door closes silently, leaving an illuminated crack from the other room. Stars don’t click on, and the moon, as always, is calm as an egg, knowing light is still everywhere.

llanrhidian marsh

seals

The language of saltmarsh with muddy creeks, durable ponies, reflected light eagerly awaiting the ebbings of signs to be read; nature’s art a bonus for the enduring senses to reach across, meanings that draw the quiet eye within, capturing a sudden scape, constant moods which return here, a scenery of performances caught on a physical stage.

This morning you telephoned that two seals were swimming in the Tawe, they brought with them innumerable seagrams, navigable rhapsodies gleaming with motion, a lustre of sea-eyes that floated in fields where tides registered global warmth, changeable seasons; for a moment they held your breath, sensed their need to escape at one with their tidings delivered across the miracle of unchained waters.

Byron Beynon

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Byron Beynon

Byron Beynon

shelter

Donna O’Connell-Gilmore A lean-to appears in our woods. Branches caked with lichen, thin trunks stripped of bark incline against an oak. A crude bench waits inside. Skin does not cover this tepee. It opens to sky of morning, noon, and early night before stars flash their daggers.

a dimming quarter moon Donna O’Connell-Gilmore

My back to the hearth, I watch you, boot deep in the early snow, grilling salmon in the darkened yard. The Weber flames up lighting your thin figure coatless in the cold, as you sear the pale pink flesh. In every season you work the yard, now heavy with seed heads dried from August’s love, and the eglantine June pruned, bearing rosy hips some mockingbird in late March might consume.

I can almost see her in an oversized knit sweater, him in a scruffy brown jacket, sitting in silence. His tanned hand, blue veins flaring like a fan, clasps hers. A school bag rests under the bench. They hear trees sparring limb to limb, notice a blue jay bury acorns beside the oak, woodpeckers with crimson heads scour the bark of pines. He is about to kiss her, and she averts her eyes, although for years she lay awake, before her breasts began to swell, and imagined that he would. We don’t go in.

I inhale the bread, steaming breaths of yeast, and toss the greens, dark curls of basil heavy with balsamic the way you like it, bringing a note of summer in. Wind breathes down the flue. Apple wood shivers to ash. I hear a nor’easter blowing in from the sea. Coarse clouds cover this quarter moon. Tomorrow you plan to wrap the burlap round our long-caned Dortmund rose. 49

mortality That Ever-Present Shadow

Benjamin Alva Polley

W

alking slowly and silently to upper Kintla Lake, Mike and I pass by hair, bones, and gut piles, coppering the snow. Off in the trees to the north, a cacophony from an unkindness of ravens shatters the thick air of winter. Wolf tracks veer off in the same direction. We begin bushwhacking into the thick forest as the same conspiracy of ravens scatters and rises off the ground by the dozens, wheeling above and scolding us. Sniffing the air, I smell the putrescent odor of rotting flesh. In front of me, a whitetail deer lays exposed with the rib cavity ripped open and organs missing. The deer’s eyeballs are pecked clean, leaving behind an eerie vacuous stare where consciousness once stirred. We are now standing amidst trees that once stood straight, but are now slanted downhill. After inspecting the dead deer we see another, not too far away. Like a flashlight beam, our attention goes to another deer. Then another and another. We find deer carcasses underneath aspen, and Douglas fir trees. Trees are splintered off several feet above ground, while others are broken at their base; some are completely uprooted by heavy snow, barreling down. Over a hundred yard swath of trees are mowed over. Hiking up, beyond the destruction of deer and trees, toward the chute, we come up over a wall of snow deposited two to three stories high, studded with dirt, snow, and tree debris. Deer, with senses more alert than our own, could not escape an avalanche of this magnitude. Dozens of carcasses were scavenged by wolves, coyotes, birds, and we also notice mountain lions had investigated the 50

mayhem from the snowslide. Scavengers have devoured the organs first and over time will return to eat the rest of the animal. They went for the creme de la crem first. We conclude that the avalanche volleyed off Long Knife Mountain, plowing over the trees like a derailed train, crushing and clubbing to death dozens of deer. “Who knows what else could be buried in here – like mountain goats, bears or even wolverines. Why are we carrying deer legs as bait? There is an all-you-can-eat buffet right here.” Mike says to me. Animals will be eating off this eviscerated smorgasbord for a long time. Trudging up over another wall of undulating snow, I see movement! Figures flee. I yell to Mike, “Hey, look over there!” Five grayish-tan and black wolves scurry off into a wall of green-standing conifers. We startled them, probably sleeping off full bellies. “Everyone talks about the big-bad wolf, but everytime I see them, they always run off and don’t want anything to do with me.” I say. Judging by the size of trees this barrage of snow plowed over, this chute has not released in several decades. Avalanches are a product of heavy snows on top of weak layers that build up on steep mountain slopes, eventually leading to the weak layers giving way. Heavy snow barrels down the mountain, allowing the avalanche to gain more snow and momentum. This winter was strange, with snow in the high country coming early, followed by rain, then sub-zero temperatures, followed by more snow. A warm-up happened, melting snow, then cold temps making ice, then accumulating more snow

on top of the slippery layer of ice. The top, heavier layers of snow must have slid, triggering the white freight train to come barreling down the mountain creating a killing field in the upper Kintla valley. Two days earlier, mist rising off the river wets our faces as Mike and I ford the North Fork of the Flathead, just north of Polebridge, Montana, as chunks of ice and slush bounce off our waders. We struggle through the current, trying to find purchase on slimy river cobblestones, with ski poles stabbing the river floor. Skis strapped to our packs, boots, tied and dangling around our necks, as we cross over the imaginary boundary into Glacier National Park. Tied to the top of our packs is a deer’s hind quarter weighing us down. We’re stripped to a minimum living out of a backpack for the next three days. Approaching the riverbank, piled high with snow, we unstrap our packs and pull out our skis. We sit on them, pull off our waders and step into ski boots, placing heavy waders on a tree branch to pick up on return. . We kick-step up the bench overlooking the river, post-holing three feet deep before reaching the Inside North Fork Road, which is a one-lane gravel road buried in snow. We ski toward the foot of Lower Kintla Lake for a wolverine study. But also, and even more so, because I am drawn here by the wildness, like a long lost lover, wanting to experience all of her many moods and seasons. Slowly, we ski the undulating landscape through mosaic forest of burnt black lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, and still-alive needleless larch trees. The Wedge Creek Fire raged through here nine years ago, charring much of the forest. Many larch survived because of thick fire resistant bark and high branches that prevent flames from climbing its branches. Elk, deer, moose, and wolf tracks temporarily tattoo the snow. A pine marten scampers behind a tree before curiosity gets the better of it. It peeks out again, then crawls back into a burrow below an upturned root wad. As we ski I look over at Mike and notice his ski gait is a little off. “Everything alright?” I ask. “Yeah, for the most part. Abrei didn’t want me to go on this trip. We fought about it last night. She thought something could happen back here and there’s just the two of us going. Also, she’s been pushing me to find a more serious, stable job – as in a career with benefits so we can raise a family.” While we ski the four miles to the foot of lower Kintla Lake. Mike’s words resonate with me more than I expect. A part of me is tired of being restless and following one seasonal job to the next. That element in me wants to settle down and quit being a contemporary nomad migrating with the sun. Once we get to the lake we pull out binoculars and glass the frozen lake looking for wildlife. Nothing stirring, just tracks on the snow, like ghosts of the animals. Beyond the lake, toward the Continental Divide, the summits are socked in with clouds, making me feel small. I realize seasonal work has its limitations and I want to contribute more to the world, take some kind of leap, leave a mark – whatever that may be. Two hours later we arrive at the boat dock and find a ten-foot post, standing erect against the gray sky. Bronze colored wire-

mesh brushes are attached to the sides of the post to snag hair samples. Brown and black eagle and raven down feathers are caught in the tiny, wire fingers of the mesh brushes. But, no wolverine hair and still no answers to life’s gnawing questions. The brushes, the same used for cleaning guns, are used to snag wolverine hair, when they climb the post to get to the bait lagbolted on top. The deer’s hind quarter strapped to our packs will be the new bait. The hair is collected and mailed to a DNA lab to identify individual wolverines to help answer questions about this elusive creature. Researchers and biologists used to lure wolverines into live traps using dead beavers, jabbing the wolverines with a tranquilizer then a veterinarian would surgically implant GPS units inside their bellies. It was invasive, but worked better than collars because wolverine’s necks are as thick as their heads and radio collars slip right off. The study has been going on for several years and biologists are trying to get a population estimate of wolverines who call Glacier Park home. The post has plenty of flesh attached to the deer leg we’d hung two weeks ago. Unscrewing the cap off the bottle of animal lure that consists of beaver castor oil and skunk glands, I gag at the smell. Replacing the brushes. “They figure over forty wolverines live here,” I say. As far as the rest of the state is concerned they have no idea. The state allows five wolverines to be trapped a year. Biologists want to find out if the allowance of five wolverines taken a year is feasible or whether wolverines should be placed on the Endangered Species List. The viability of this species is in question. Another looming plight facing wolverines is a warming planet. They live and den in high elevations and need average annual temperatures around seventy-two degrees. If their habitat warms a couple of degrees it changes as subalpine firs encroach further up into the alpine. Mountain goats, their preferred prey, will therefore also be affected as their food source, lichens, diminishes. After inspecting the brushes and re-baiting the post, we get ready to ski or hike, depending on which is necessary, to the head of the lake, where there is a small ranger station cabin where we’ll stay for two nights. “Do you think the lake is frozen enough to hold our weight?” I ask. Intimidated by the expanse we look out over the lake one more time. Mike shrugs his shoulders, “Hope so.” The lake has a thin veneer of snow, covering whatever depth of ice that lies below it. “I heard from a previous researcher that the lake was ice-free two weeks ago,” I say. How frozen could it be in that amount of time? Little pools of water line the edges of the frozen mass revealing the fragility and impermanence of the ice, while a muskrat hunkers near an opening, gnawing on twigs. Skiing deeper into the wildness of Glacier’s Kintla Valley, the ground looks like autumn, a product of Kintla’s rain/snow shadow. The dried brown tawny grasses of winter are not blanketed by deep snow as they are in other drainages. The grasses stand erect like they do in the late fall before snow flies and the forest is laid to rest for the season. We start skiing down trail before we notice wolf tracks in a 51

short diagonal across the frozen cove. From coming here in years past, I know that if the lake is not frozen, we’ll have to walk down the snow-free trail for seven miles to the head of the lake. After seeing the wolf tracks, we decide that if the ice can hold a hundred pound wolf then it should be able to hold our weight, distributed upon skis. We decide to go the way of the wolf. Summoning a leap of faith with each slide of the ski, Mike is telling a story, when crackling lake ice suddenly races outwards like spider webs. Quickly we ski closer to the shore. Once secure, we both stop and look at each other, fear retreating in our minds and let out a deep sigh. According to the Flathead Basin Commission, lower Kintla Lake is 390 feet deep and if one falls in, chances of survival are slim. Kintla Lake is fifteen miles north of Polebridge Ranger Station, which in the winter has rangers intermittently staffed. The nearest town is Columbia Falls, forty-five miles south on a rough road. Whitefish, with a local hospital, is ten to fifteen miles beyond that. A rescue would take more than four hours and that is being optimistic. Standing on skis along the shore, the lake gives off gurgles and moans of growing pains that reverberate and echo inwards and outwards as if a living entity is speaking in a language older than words and beyond human comprehension. According to Richard Nelson, a cultural anthropologist of Native Alaskans and author of Make Prayers to the Raven, the Koyukon believe the lake makes these noises asking the heavens to insulate the lake with thicker ice and snow to shelter it from the freezing air of winter. We continue to ski on the lake, but near the shore, we notice in the woods above, that the snow dwindles to a dusting. The rain/ snow shadow haunts the western shore for the next fifteen miles, to the head of upper Kintla Lake. Clouds carrying moisture in the form of snow come in from the northwest, get ripped open from the nearby mountainous ridges of Long-Knife but blocked by Starvation Ridge, releasing their snow up high, but not down low. The east-facing slopes have a dwindling of snow. Who would’ve thought that the deeper one goes into the northwestern Rockies 52

to the foot of the Continental Divide that snow would become diaphanous and nil at times? The rain/snow shadow creates a wintering ground attracting both prey and predator alike. From miles around, a large living, moving, and breathing ecosystem migrates to this place every winter. I feel the same attraction that the animals do and must make the journey. Meanwhile, we continue skiing the remaining five and a half miles across the lake, but closer to shore, to the head, fresh mountain lion tracks punctuate the dusting of snow in front of the cabin. All day long the sky is dark with a glacier gray hanging over the valley, but right before dusk the ceiling of clouds parted. A pocket of blue opened in the fabric of cloud, revealing mile-high Mt. Kinnerly and its icy-white rime-covered summit. Mountain peaks, looming high above, snow-crested and draped in winter gowns, shadow our small endeavors. Long Knife mountain, Gardener’s Point, and Parke peak tower above. A raven’s jet-black wings beat the cold, still, winter air and a bald eagle rides a column of air high above. That night, while we sip red wine and cook. We stretch out our shoulders from the heavy packs we carried in. “You going back to the park this summer?” Mike says. “You’ve been there a long time.” “Yeah, a decade. Probably. Dunno. I want to do something more, though. You? You going to keep working for the Montana Conservation Corps?” “I dunno” Mike says. “Probably.” “What do you want to do?” “I like working with people, but I also like being in the woods, so something that combines both.” “Wanting to work in the woods is the thing I can’t let go of either, and writing about being in the woods. I’d like to connect the two that way, but the park pays. Writing – who knows?” We wake up the next day to a gunmetal gray sky heavy with rain. Slipping on our tennis shoes, we place our ski boots inside our packs and strap our skis to our pack. Then stick our heads

through the loop of our avalanche beacons and strap shovels to our pack and avalanche probes in the pocket of our packs. As we start walking to the upper lake, dozens upon dozens of whitetail deer bound away from our approach. Three bull elk stand next to giant gray boulders, beneath old-growth larch trees with their thick reddish-brown bark. The bulls browse on red-osier dogwood, scratching themselves with tiny outstretched branches before they hide from us. Off to our left, a discordance from a storytelling of ravens disturbs the silence of winter. Wolf tracks also lead off the trail in that direction. “Should we check it out?” Mike asks, “Let’s finish our job first, then explore!” Continuing on, we drop our packs at the foot of the lake, pull out ski boots and snap into our ski bindings to cross the snowcovered lake. We decide to put the post in the shadow of Mt. Kinnerly. We ski across the eastern shore, then with a handsaw I cut a downed tree to ten feet. While Mike attaches wire mesh brushes I pull out the garbage bag with the deer leg. Pulling out a bolt with washers I feel the best place on the hind quarter to screw in the lag bolt. Turning a socket wrench, the bolt grips through the deer hair and frozen meaty flesh before it takes to the scapula, puncturing through bone. Then attach the bait to the top of the post and wipe animal lure all over the post. We hoist the post up in the air and carry it near a root wad. We wrap and tie metal wire around the post, attaching it to the root wad to stand it up. We ski back to where our tennis shoes are stashed, take off our packs, step into our shoes, and start hiking back toward the raven discordance and the upheaval that began this story. Arriving at the place where the wolf tracks lead off is where we come across the avalanche. After investigating the aftermath of the avalanche, Mike and I head back to the cabin in silence, overwhelmed by all the death. The two of us are harboring unsettled emotions and thoughts; not too unlike the layer of snow that gave way on the mountainside causing this devastation.

Back in the comforting confines of a cabin, we each pour a whisky tumbler and toast “To life and to Ben’s 33rd birthday tomorrow!” Mike leans back in his chair with whisky glass in hand and wonders, “What, or when, is your time? Who (if anyone) decides this? Why did those deer die and not the countless other ones we saw? Will these wolverines of Glacier be around much longer? I have to do what I can while I am here.” In a way Mike and I are also seeking shelter from the storms of change and uncertainty of life by desiring a more stable lifestyle. We come to this wild place with dreams hidden away below the surface and just out of view. Mortality, that ever-present shadow, haunts and taunts us to our grave. When we are in nature we must realize that the animals we encounter are operating on ancient laws written in their DNA. While we are there, we must abide by these same rules too. If chance is kind, our lives will be nourished and we’ll return to share our stories. I’ve been drawn to this drainage for years, like the animals that come here year after year. There is a magnetic urge that calls from deep within that attracts me like a long lost lover. That night we raised our whisky glasses to life and death and everything that comes between!

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Calligraphy Š Melinda Giordano 54 56

Roots Landscape Š Melinda Giordano 55

contributor biographies Steve Bertolino lives in Middlebury, Vermont, where he works as an academic librarian and serves on the executive committee for the New England Young Writers Conference.  His recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Right Hand Pointing, Big River Poetry Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, Red River Review, Bone Parade, and Third Wednesday. Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales. His latest collection of poems is The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions). Nancy Bunge grew up on the Mississippi River, but has spent her adult life teaching at Michigan State.  As a result, most of her publications read as though a professor wrote them.  But she most enjoys producing pieces like this one and hopes to do more of this kind of work when she can finally afford to retire.   Carla Ferreira grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where she read and wrote poetry from a young age, and developed a passion for urban education. The city often finds its way into her poems, especially in relation to nature. After her childhood, raised on Dickinson and Frost, she went to college to major in English and minor in French. The year following graduation, Carla taught English language at a high school in Bordeaux, France. She currently is studying in England, working on a master’s dissertation on T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman. Her future plans are to teach high school English in the inner city. Like Whitman, she likes the feel of mud beneath her boot soles and writing poetry that takes it in. Courtney Flerlage received her BA in English from Hollins University, where she earned a minor in Biology and realized her love for ornithology. She currently lives in Southern Maryland, learning the names and songs of bay birds and waiting for them to find their way into her creative work. Her poetry has appeared in the Alabama Literary Review and Paper Nautilus. Julie Fowler grew up in Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Delaware in business and currently lives in Pawling, New York.  She is especially drawn to writing that is firmly rooted in the imagery of the natural world and considers it a privilege to devote time and energy to causes that shed light on those who are engaged in making the world a more humane place. Her work has appeared   or is forthcoming in many literary journals and anthologies, including A Handful of Dust, Amoskeag, Anderbo, Apropos Literary Journal, Blast Furnace, Broad River Review, Dove Tales Literary Journal, Moonshot Magazine, Open to Interpretation/ Intimate Landscape, Prairie Wolf Press Review, Seven Hills Review, This Great Society, Verdad, From Under the Bridges of America and Wilderness House Literary Review.

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Melinda Giordano is a native of Los Angeles, California.  She is a graduate of U.C.L.A. and works in public relations.  Her artwork has appeared in publications such as Pearl, Amedia, Rag Mag, Stone Country, new renaissance and The Bellowing Ark.  She is also a published writer, writing flash fiction that speculates on the

possibility of remarkable things.  Melinda is interested  in history - art, fashion, social - and anything to do with Aubrey Beardsley. Andrew Hincapie is a recent graduate from the Creative Writing program at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. His work has been featured in various national online and print publications, and he has self-published a collection of poems entitled “In A Silent Way”. He is also the founder and editor of the Ozark Line literary journal, which publishes student-produced work around the Northwest Arkansas area. Geneen Marie Haugen wanders the wild Earth, explores participatory consciousness and the human imagination, and serves as a guide to the intertwined mysteries of nature and psyche (www.animas.org). Recent writing appears in Parabola (Spring 2013), Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth (2013) and Ecopsychology (December 2013). Bill Hoagland served as an Associate Professor of English at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, until his retirement in 2013. His poetry has appeared in The Denver Quarterly, Nebraska Review, Poem, Seneca Review, Writers’ Forum, South Coast Poetry Journal, and many other journals, as well as in the anthologies The Last Best Place and Ring of Fire: Writers of the Yellowstone Region. He has published a chapbook of poems entitled Place of Disappearance, and has been the recipient of two Wyoming Arts Council awards in creative writing—a Fellowship in Creative Writing and a Neltje Blanchan Nature Writing Award. Today he lives in Cork, Ireland. Laurence Holden is a writer and visual artist. He lives in the North Georgia Mountains of the US, drawing his images and poems from his connection to the land. He believes that image and word are just two natural dialects for the same thing - bearing witness to the Creation, and that if we can restore our understanding of the land, we might save ourselves too in these perilous times. Laurence’s poems have appeared in three issues of the Chrysalis Reader (Lenses on Reality  ,  Your Turn, and It’s a Deal: Dynamic Transactions), as well as in  Appalachian Heritage, 2011,  three issues of The Reach of Song: The Poetry Anthology of the Georgia Poetry Society, 2011, 2010, 2013, and The Written River 2012. His work received an award of excellence from the Georgia Poetry Society in 2010, an honorable mention from the Byron Herbert Reece Society in 2011 and from the Porter Fleming Award in 2011. His paintings have appeared in over 20 solo exhibits, and are in over 200 public, private, and corporate collections. To view more of his work, please visit  www.artistspath.info and  www. laurenceholden.info. Daniel Hudon, originally from Canada, teaches writing, math, physics and astronomy in Boston. He has published a chapbook, Evidence for Rainfall (Pen and Anvil Press), a popular nonfiction book, The Bluffer’s Guide to the Cosmos (Oval Books) and has a travel manuscript, Traveling into Now, that is looking for a home. He has new work coming up or in Canary, The Chattahoochee

Review and {Ex}tinguished and {Ex}tinct: An Anthology of Things that No Longer {Ex}ist (Twelve Winters Press). He blogs about environmental topics at econowblog.blogspot.com and some of his writing links can be found at people.bu.edu/hudon. 

He is interested in how cultures relate to the landscape through mythology, art, science and technology. Benjamin is a lover of all that is wild and free. He has been published in Black Heart Journal and in other publications.

James Liter is a photographer, poet, and philosopher residing in the Great Lakes region of the United States. He is currently pursuing a degree in Archetypal and Environmental Human Science with a research emphasis on the intersection of depth psychology, philosophy, mytho-religious traditions, and environmental studies. A deep concern for nature and the human condition has led to his current interdisciplinary research in the human sciences, with a strong Jungian focus on immanence and symbolic form as aspects of the origins and functions of human relationships to nature, self, other, and sacred. His previous publications include a collection of poetry and photography for diverse publications.

Terry Portillo lives on a small farm at the southern tip of Tornado Alley with her husband, her daughter, a motley crew of rescue dogs, a horse, a donkey, two cats, a flock of chickens, and whatever else the wind blows in. She attributes her rapport with nature to her Celtic, Cherokee, and Iroquois ancestry. Portillo studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. A five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she has read from her work as a juried poet at the Houston Poetry Fest and her poetry has been featured on Public Radio’s Houston Living Arts broadcast. Portillo is currently a writer-in-residence with Writers in the Schools Houston. She keeps herself in tea, chocolate, and ink by teaching English classes for Lone Star College and creative writing workshops for inner-city school children.

Michelle Menting’s poems, essays, and short stories have appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Bellingham Review, The MacGuffin, Superstition Review, PANK Magazine, and Poecology, among other journals and magazines. She is the author of Myth of Solitude, a chapbook from Imaginary Friend Press. Irene Mitchell, a longtime teacher of writing in New York, is the author of A Study of Extremes in Six Suites (Cherry Grove Collections, 2012), and Sea Wind on the White Pillow (Axes Mundi Press, 2009).  Formerly poetry editor of Hudson River Art Journal, Mitchell serves as poetry contest juror, and poetry workshop facilitator.  Donna O’Connell-Gilmore used to write about birds in weekly newspaper columns before she moved to Cape Cod and began to write poetry. Twice she has been awarded first prize by The Falmouth Historical Society’s “Katherine Lee Bates Poetry Contest” and won first place in the Cape Cod Business Women’s Association’s contest “In Her Own Voice.” She received special honorable mention in Byline Magazine’s contest “Reason to Rhyme.” Donna has published poems in Off the Coast, The Aurorean, The Cape Cod Poetry Review, and Prime Time Magazine. She is a regular at open mics on the cape. She runs a part-time practice of psychotherapy. Benjamin Alva Polley writes from Montana. He is a trail artist and has been working in the woods and mountains for over 13 years. He has been a trails leader, a wilderness fire lookout, a carpenter, is an artist, a backcountry ranger, helped with numerous wildlife studies from studying lynx, fishers, wolverines, mountain goats, loons, and harlequin ducks. He has also stayed at a remote cabin four miles from the Canadian Border with no running water or electricity in the fall for over seven seasons to help keep an eye out for poachers and smugglers in Glacier National Park. Benjamin has a degree in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Wilderness Studies from the University of Montana, Missoula.

Janis Rodgers Soule is a writer, anthropologist, and adventurer from northern New Jersey. She received her BS in Evolutionary Anthropology from Rutgers University, and spent her undergrad summers studying monkeys in Kenya. She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, where she documented a chimpanzee conservation project in Senegal for her thesis. She currently lives in southern California. Elizabeth Schultz has become a dedicated advocate for the arts and the environment, following retirement from the University of Kansas’ English Department. She continues to write about the people and the places she loves and has published two scholarly books, two books of poetry, a memoir, a collection of short stories, and a collection of essays. Her scholarly and creative work appears in numerous journals and reviews. Elizabeth Selbst grew up along New England’s rocky coast. She is currently keeping sight of the sea from afar while landlocked in Washington, DC.  Kaye Spivey is an Eastern Washington University graduate. She is currently working in Winter Park, Colorado, soaking up the wide open skies, clean air and vast mountains. Her poetry has previously appeared in Northwest Boulevard, Sterling Magazine, and The Penwood Review among others.  Brian Stafford wanders the deserts of the southwest, the peaks and meadows of the Rocky Mountains, and the jungles and estuaries of Costa Rica. A former academic psychiatrist and pediatrician, he now guides individuals to the place they most long and fear to go – their own wild and indigenous soul.  This series of poems arrived after several ceremonies while on a Vision Quest in the Escalante Wilderness. www.eco-psyche-artistry.com 57

photography credits

Page 4 photograph © Alex1961/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Pages 6 and 7 photograph © Loren Kerns/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 8 photograph © U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Pages 10 and 11 photograph © Nomadic Lass/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Pages 12 and 13 photograph © LassenNPS/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Pages 14 and 15 photograph © Ephemeral Scraps/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 17 photograph © ZionNPS/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 20 photograph © Dallas Krentzel/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 22 (top) photograph © Mike Nielsen/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 22 (bottom) photograph © Nomadic Lass/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 23 photograph © Caitriana Nicholson/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 24 photograph © Joshua Mayer/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Pages 26 and 27 photograph © Kevin Gessner/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 28 photograph © daniel.stark/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Pages 30 and 31 photograph © Yinan Chen/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 32 photograph © C.P.Storm/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 34 photograph © Loren Kerns/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 35 photograph © Martin Cathrae/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 42 (top) photograph © Jason Hollinger/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 42 (bottom) photograph © normalityrelief/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 44 photograph © kreezzalee/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 49 (top) photograph © NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 49 (bottom) photograph © Guto Robles/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 50 photograph © GlacierNPS/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Pages 52 and 53 photograph © The D.F./Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 53 (bottom) photograph © Ellie Attebery/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license. Page 59 photograph © Lars Tiede/Flickr.com under Creative Commons license.

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Hiraeth Press

Poetry is the language of the Earth—not just poems but the slow flap of a heron’s wings across the sky, the lightning of its beak hunting in the shallow water; autumn leaves and the smooth course of water over stones and gravel. These, as much as poems, communicate the being and meaning of things. Our publications are all poetry, whether they are poems or nonfiction, and reflect the ideal that falling in love with the Earth is nothing short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to wild nature we can birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We are passionate about poetry as a means of returning the human voice to the chorus of the wild.

Written River Copyright © 2013 Hiraeth Press All poems, art, and essays copyrighted by their respective authors.


Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics Winter 2013