Friday, March 07, 2008


I'm ready for it. Now. So is Solomon (the fine looking fellow taking his spring bath in this photo)

It's not so much that I'm tired of the cold weather; I'm simply ready for a change. I'm anxious to dig in the dirt and even more anxious to go hiking.

Years ago Solomon and I laid claim to a trail running through the Mark Twain National Forest. It's technically set aside for fourwheeling, but we rarely cross paths with anyone. We've spent a lot of mornings wandering down though those woods and we know every inch of th trail by heart. Early on we were tracking (a hobby of ours). Now that Solomon's older, it's about just about exercise and solitude.

The trail is cut into rolling steep inclines, parallel to a wide stream which intersects at the dips, with lesser creeks after the rains. So in order to get where I'm going, I have to skip from rock to rock or resign myself to tennis shoes full of achingly cold water. Either way I'm forced to slow down and contemplate where I am and what I'm doing. And--if you know me--this doesn't come naturally.

Solomon's priorities are a little different than mine. I'm more into the wildflowers (wild violets, daisies, morning glories, star of david, st John's Wort, and Henbit) the trees, the sound of running water, and making every mile count. Solomon's goal seems to be to swim in every creek that crosses the trail. Unlike me, he has no trouble living in the moment. My husband grumbles about wet dog in the car, but there is no way I'd deny this goofball this simple joy.

I went looking for the old picture above today and when I found it, it was paired with a poem I wrote just after 911. It's been a while since this poem's seen the light so I thought it would be fun to post it.

The Sun Stops Here
"On the Eve of War"

Solomon and I search along spilling paths,
take footholds in half-rained away mule tracks.
I strain to hear—half-consciously—the distant beat

of a Black Hawk. Solomon pulls low in his harness,
huffs, warbles an alert, as fingers fumble with clips and rings.
Find, I say, and follow his nose

downhill through cedar, scrub, and blackjack,
into the white noise where water breaks against rock.
As we descend, light is marked less and less

by patches of pale grass. I slip
down slopes in the near-darkness,
grasp seedlings, swing-stumble to bottom,

fall to a splayed stop as chert sloughs off into the wash.
Solomon braces against my legs,
rumbles to protect him or me, I’m unsure which.

The sun stops here where the creek narrows,
bottlenecked by tree roots and rounded stones.
The Black Hawk beats closer, passes north

of the hollow; trees, scrub, grasses shift
under it’s passage. I am poised between
water and soil, a prisoner of the wait

and the change in the winds.
Find, I repeat. Solomon splashes
into lightlessness and I follow.


Scotty said...

Sounds like a fun pastime for you both, and that's a nice vignette you paint; I especially liked 'a prisoner of the wait and the change in the winds'

half-rained away, hmmmm.


I keep wanting to see that as half rained-away


Mary O. Paddock said...

Hiking with just the dog was half the reason I took up tracking. I love hiking with my husband, but in the woods he goes from being a quiet, soft spoken guy to a total chatterbox (whistles, sings, talks . . .). Solomon doesn't have quite so much to say.

Where were you when I posted this piece for critting six years ago? Good suggestion. Thanks :)