It’s been years since I thought about the ring-necked pheasants that came down from the woods and into my yard when I was a boy. My mother woke me one Christmas morning to tell me they were here, their heads and necks shimmering like tree tinsel, their long tail feathers bright as new copper pipes. They waltzed among our frost-covered garden, dipping and strutting over the furrows, then disappeared at the first sight of our young collie Caesar. My father said the game warden stocked the woods for hunters and sometimes strays survived nested in the trees near the dying farmer’s fields. His children sold the land for housing tracts, named the new roads after grace that passes so quickly in and out of our lives.
One Mountain Seen Through the Trees of Another Mountain
Maps never show a view like this, yellow blazes on trees leading to a ridge, the trail so close to the edge just walking feels like falling. A five-day trip away from towns or news of the world brings me to moments so sublime I forget myself. Anthropologist say joy in landscapes is burned into our DNA, distance a factor of dreams. Below, the lake is starting to ice over, a cold that’s been building for years. And this mountain loop I’m walking could go on too. In the next county there’s a hill called Hope, and here one called Sanctuary. I’m walking down it now to a lake the settlers used to feed their families. Its feeder creek powered the old iron forge also called Hope. So many things named for what we want. Or is it what we have? My legs grow sore on the rocky trails I climb to get home. This path called Daybreak might be the one.
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much?
Today from a ridge top I can see a thousand acres ripened with maples and chestnut oak. The last road an hour out of sight. Rain a season old still draining from spring cricks. Is this what we save the soul for? Losing grip on a cliff edge, a river still remembers what it was like to carry coal dust, the occasional body, over white rapids. Still a million raptors navigate the pass every year, chasing summer into hollows and gorging on sparrows. Four sharptails just now cartwheeled in the wind. A bridge is falling somewhere. There are protests in Tehran and Prague and a furniture sale at the home goods store. I’m tired of walking today, but the sky is blue crayon blue, and the ridgetop haired by low blueberry bushes stained russet by October, so I’ll settle for a solo of meditation while fewer birds migrate south again, some music in the wind I can’t put a name to, stuck in my head like hunger.
Even at the dry hinge that closes summer into fall, when the mower cuts down the last surviving mint, its bright scent lingers like a spiderweb after rain the way some lives do, thriving even when all signs say otherwise. This mother of bees through summer, accent to tea and gin, is even now preparing roots for winter as our transitory geese announce their night flights, leaving behind a season’s dead weight and long evenings with firelight. Still, a fresh green shoot is trying to hold out alongside red rose haw and pumpkin, creeping along the ground, something new to wrap your hand around.