The hills are alive with Memorial Day campers and our world has changed. This morning the two blues and I headed out for some “alone time” in the national forest, as has become our habit. We were accustomed to tents in a few camp sites along the road as the weather has been warming, but this morning each one was filled.
When we rounded the bend for the parking lot I felt dismay when I saw the brown, iron gates that had blocked the roads on either side of the fork were now wide open. Since we moved here they had been closed to regular vehicles and only available for snowmobiles in the winter. Since mud season began we had been hiking in our own personal playground: the only souls in sight the trotting elk tails and also tracks from moose, deer, and bear. All that has changed.
We drove down the road we’ve walked a dozen times at least, parking where we normally turn around for our walk. Maybe half of the campsites along side the road had RVs, tents, and one white Subaru with a contorted yoga form we left in a cloud of dust.
Our untried trail claimed to be a loop and we found ourselves at the fence line of houses keeping watch over massive hayfields and the lake. The ancient mountains looked back, keeping watch over them.
The loop met up with the road, Stillwater Pass, and as we approached, two vehicles a few minutes apart passed in different directions. We trekked the gap down the road back to our truck, ready for cars, managing to jump off the road for the last one we met near where we parked. For months we had been alone. I had come to feel as if we were in our own backyard where my only concern was avoiding animals and their babies.
I’ve never been one for change, even though change is the one thing that we can count on. Still, with one ear cocked for ATVs, the other heard birdsong and squirrels. I was surrounded by pines and aspens, brand new flowers, and a vista sparkling with a lake and dripping in melting, snowcapped mountains. It’s just another day in paradise.
We walk among the dead.
Decimated by an epidemic of
A literal graveyard.
834 million trees standing, dead.
One in fourteen trees, dead.
Death is a gray haze on a hillside,
Foreshadowing the smoke of future fires.
The physical presence
Merely a symptom
Of the thing we have imagined,
The thing that shall no longer be named.
Dry warm nights inviting, welcoming
First the mountain pine beetle (3.4 million acres)
Now also the spruce beetle (1.7 million acres).
Admire the blue-stained wood.
Make guitars, snowboards, skis.
Carcasses carved and cooked.
Sing songs about the days when
Snow piled under snowboards and skis.
When forests had winters.
When trees could grow.
And for our final (optional) prompt, I’d like you to take your cue from Borges, and write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.
It’s not what you think. Carrying everything between your shoulders up a violent mountain. Beginning the ascent thinking will I be able to? and taking another step. One woodpecker drills a rhythm. The creek straining out of ice bonds, pehlunking and bloop bloop blooping before running away as I switch back. My fingers peeled free, now cradling bamboo-topped sticks, warm where just hours ago were only frozen stubs. The sun arcs up over blood. Filtering light. Slumbering trees. My breath deep and quick and strong. Almost at the top and the rhododendrons intertwine glossy, cold-curved leaves until I’m cocooned in gold-green. My steps stir faint must of awakening earth. Emerging into voices, a dog barking, and an improbably solid stone shelter. I scramble up giant boulders, witness the smoky vista, see the world. Blood Mountain: most likely named for a battle between Native American tribes. Or the reddish lichen. Not for killing thru hikers.
And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Following the suggestion of our craft resource, we challenge you today to draft a prose poem in the form/style of a postcard. If you need some inspiration, why not check out some images of vintage postcards? I’m particularly fond of this one.