Life’s Mysteries

Alpine View

Open the gate.
They await.

Unknown, unique;
Unanticipated,
Beyond imagination.

So simple,
So complex.

You might reach a summit
In the middle of a foggy night,
And stand on a rock looking out
At distant peaks
Poking out above the clouds,
And illuminated by a full moon.
It could happen.

Perhaps, you’ll walk for miles
Along a hot beach
To get to a place
Where you can see sharks
In a feeding frenzy,
And where Tapirs still
Roam around at night.
It could happen.

It’s possible that you’ll retreat
From a poorly conceived climb,
And walk-up on a naked beauty
In the middle of nowhere
Washing off under a waterfall.
It could happen.

It’s not out of the question,
That an unknown young Tarahumara man
Will walk into your camp
And invite you to a
Dutuburi.
It could happen.

Perhaps you will be lucky enough
To see elk calves
Sliding down a snowfield,
And being scolded by their elders
When they reach the bottom.
It could happen.

Maybe, an Andean wolf
Will appear
Out of the clouds,
On your way down
From a high-altitude hut,
Look you over,
And just disappear back into the clouds.
It could happen.

Sometimes:
Upper stories of hotels are uncompleted;
Moths fly into ears;
Anchors hold;
Treble hooks get lodged in eyelids;
Rattlesnakes don’t strike;
Storms end;
Trees go up in flames;
Boats show up with your gear;
The Corona truck falls off a cliff;
The fish are biting;
The trail just stops;
The Northern Lights appear where they’re not supposed to;
Handlebars break;
Your hair stands on end;
Shortnosed Spearfish take the hook;
The wind blows your raft upstream;
Climbing routes run out;

Don’t close the gate.
Just be ready for the unexpected,
Because mysteries happen.

Audio Version:

3 Climbers

The Night Sky

The Milky Way

The sun goes down
And once again
The nightly spectacle begins.

The stars begin arriving early.

But wait!
The bright light of the full moon
Is overwhelming
The masterpiece of the skies.
It makes everything else invisible to the eye.

But thankfully, like always,
The situation is only temporary.
And the show will go on.

So, for the moment, I relish the things I do see.

I stretch out in my sleeping bag
In an open meadow and look up.

I stay awake
Long enough to
See the moon set.

The temperature is dropping,
But my sleeping bag
Is made for that.

So, I warmly
Look up as the stars
Begin to take control.
And I imagine.

The afternoon’s storm
Has long passed
And cleaned the air.

The night is brilliantly clear.

And suddenly,
The Milky Way
Shows up in all its glory.

To the south,
The constellations of the Zodiac
Are on the march.

One of them,
Scorpio, Scorpius– the Scorpion, is particularly obvious.
At least for the moment.
But it’ll soon disappear into the horizon.
Because it always does.

For me, it’s the constellation of summer,
And adds to my warmth.

But it also makes me think of Orion,
My constellation of winter.
Though unseen,
The thought of it sends a chill to my feet.

Almost overhead,
Mars casts its red light
In untwinkling brilliance.
The untwinkling part is proof that it’s a planet.

I scan the sky for another planet.
But everything is twinkling.
Points of light are everywhere,
Inundating my senses.

My eyes are full of stars and galaxies.
But what of the millions
That are there, but beyond
What I can see.

And then, the fog begins to roll in.
Think fast before it fully arrives, I conclude.
Did my Kentucky great, great grandparents
Look up at the same sky, I wonder?
Is their vision of what they saw floating around out there in space?
Is a vision a concrete thing?
How far away can anything go?

The questions begin to accumulate.
Will they be answered before
The clouds takeover?

Then suddenly, I arrive at a non-answer
As I decide to figure it out later.
And the sky goes dark
As I drift off to sleep.

Audio Version:

Before the Stars Arrive

Sitting on the Summit

Looking Toward the Conchos

On the top.
Looking out,
Seeing things
You didn’t know
Were there.

Clouds float past,
Racing fast,
Where do they go?
Perhaps,
We cannot know.

But for the moment-
Rest, relax, ponder, breathe.
Soak it in.

Sitting still,
A moment longer,
Thinking harder,
Feeling stronger.

And then……….

A Marmot scampers,
A warm wind whistles,
A crow soars past,
A distant storm erupts,
A Pika chirps,

No mystery has been solved,
No thing resolved.
More questions,
Than answers.

But for another moment,
Rest, relax, ponder, breathe,
Soak it all in.

Audio Version:

The Summit of Huayna Potosi- Bolivia

 

Some of Life’s Good Things

After a Storm

The wind at your back.
Warm sun on your face,
And a bluebird sky.

Hot unflavored dark roast coffee.
A climbing rope that holds your fall,
And a self-arrest that works.

The first time a trout takes your fly.
A big stack of dry firewood,
And burned-bottom cornbread.

Rain pelting your tent with you inside it and dry.
A full water bottle,
And tires with enough air.

Arriving back.
A trail that flows well,
And a Snickers bar.

Shifters that work.
A hoppy IPA,
And a thunderhead in the distance.

Good sitting spots next to a campfire.
A warm coat,
And chips and salsa.

Extra room in your backpack.
A tank full of gas,
And shoelaces that stay tied.

Heading out on a journey.
A flat place to sleep,
And new terrain.

Star-filled skies.
A light switch that works,
And money in your pocket.

A crime report that doesn’t include your name.
A colorful sunset,
And paint that doesn’t peel.

Someone to tell your stories to.
A rock that breaks where it’s supposed to,
And lightning that strikes something besides you.

Sitting on a mountain summit when it’s not windy.
A bear that leaves you alone,
And a falling tree that misses you.

Crawling into your sleeping bag on a cold night.
A near-miss,
And homegrown tomatoes.

Tent zippers that work at 2:00 am.
A river that’s not flooding,
And fresh batteries in your headlamp.

Trouble-free audio on a Zoom call.
A door that only opens when it’s supposed to,
And a full roll of toilet paper.

The smell of a forest after a rain.
A waterfall where there’s not supposed to be one,
And duct tape.

Someone to tell you stories.
A red sky at night,
And new places to go.

Audio Version:

10.5 mm of rope

Mystery

 

Going Somewhere

Walking somewhere,
And not knowing why.
To lands unknown,
With limitless sky.

Step into a world
Without any walls.
Possibilities are endless,
Mystery calls.

Climb the mountain,
Because it’s there.
Gaze from the summit,
The feeling’s rare.

Savor the moments,
When discomforts befall,
And you figure it out,
To answer the call.

Consider tomorrow,
Yet today’s cold and wet.
Cause a place warm and dry,
Waits for you yet.

Clear rivers roar onward,
Canyons bleed blue.
Caves shatter darkness,
Colors for you.

It’s always around us,
Wherever we go.
To bolster our moments.
And add to the show.

Audio Version:

Canyons of Blue

Nighttime

The night before Summit Day…..

Climbers in Alaska
The Climb

The night was long and restless. He was cold inside his sleeping bag even though the three of them had worked so hard to make things cozy. And then, there was the wind. It blasted the tent relentlessly, and he was worried about getting blown off the ridge. What would that be like, he tried to imagine? There was no actual sleep. But there was a sort of vigilant grogginess. While his body was mostly still, his mind actively raced in a frenzy of hyperactive speculation. He was uncomfortable, and the situation was damn near depressing. But thankfully, he wasn’t outside climbing toward the summit- yet. That would happen soon enough.

Continue reading “Nighttime”