set down the sun gently for me-
roll it west like a word off the tongue.
my best friend and I will sit on the back porch
watching cottonwoods snowing and
ringing their leaves like bells
across the river, the mountains will glow-
flushed with satisfaction at a day lived well.
mountains become lampshades holding the sun:
long after the sun has set, they will carry its burn
like a kiss
Montana in the summer is a cathedral full of vespers
let the sun fall like a curtain-
draping the hour in red.
on the back porch we will talk in hushed voices
watching the river continue its intrepid race and
beginning to reflect the stars.
miles and miles of rainy road
roll before me like Venetian canals
I have nothing but choices:
how to steer, how to think in the clouds.
laudate, how to praise.
highway medians and swollen plains
lie bunched and spongy, receiving all that falls.
I pause- – – to teach myself trust
in the green-soaked evening
I make my own happiness
and I become the blackbird at rest
sitting in a tree with closed wings,
dripping wet songs
receiving all that falls.
8/30/14 – 1:49pm Greenwich Mean Time
We took off about half an hour ago. Goodbye, Britain. It’s been historic. I have new favourite places all over the country. When we first got to London, I didn’t really like it. But I think it was mainly the culture shock and fatigue. Even though we speak the same language, there are innumerable small differences between America and Britain that take adjusting to. It smells different, for one thing! The cities smell kind of like coffee and smoke and something else I can’t describe. The rural areas don’t have the same smell, though- I guess the wind that blows through the world kind of universalises the smell of the outdoors. They do have lots of flower smells of which we Texans are regrettably deprived. Sometimes I would just be walking along a street and smell lilies. Once I smelled honey comb waffle cereal and I am still baffled by that! Anyway, London was just so big, crowded, and different. But when the culture shock wore off, I enjoyed the city quite a lot. It’s so diverse- it should be nicknamed ‘the city of endless discovery’, because every corner you turn, there’s another ancient church sandwiched between two modern buildings, or a lady playing classical violin in a square, or a little independent shop that sells paints, or yet another antiquarian bookstore. I like best to stroll along the Thames, seeing two vast swaths of city and a swirling crowd of humanity divided by the river that creates enough space for reflection. When I come back to England (and I do hope to!) I think I would do London in the middle of the trip though, not the start and finish. I might start in Oxford! Oxford was definitely one of the best places we visited. It’s impossible to pick a favourite, though! Canterbury, Dover, Salisbury, Oxford, the Letcombes, Wantage, York, Alnmouth, Alnwick, Edinburgh, Inverness, Glencoe, Keswick… out of all the towns we spent much time in, it would probably be a contest between Oxford, Dover, Salisbury, and Keswick. But the most jaw-dropping scenery was in Scotland for sure. I totally fell for that country. We’re up above the Atlantic, and the cloud-trails of other planes stream like kite tails beside us. It is something to be PART of the sky I always crane my neck to see. And it was SOMETHING to be part of the country I have always dreamed of visiting.
8/23/14 – 11:05pm Greenwich Mean Time
I like my bed at this Keswick YHA because it’s a single twin by the window with a tiny shelf and a bed light. There is a set of bunk beds in here as well, but their occupants are elsewhere. And there’s a sink in the room! And the window overlooks a river! So it’s quite cozy.
The Lake District is incredible. Of course it is. The bus ride from Penrith rail station was flooring. The mountains remind me of the Scottish highlands, but since this is further south everything is more developed. The slopes are embroidered with hedges and knotted with sheep. So it doesn’t have the same raw vastness of Scotland, but oh, is it spectacular. The sun lavishes some serious affection on these hills. On the way here, I had to just put down my camera, lean my head back against the seat, and stare. There’s too much to take in! In places like this, it’s best to lie like a stone in a river, letting the beauty flow over you. And, like a stone, let the moss of a place grow into your pores so that wherever you go, you will always wear the stains of that life.
8/24/14 – 8:17am Greenwich Mean Time
If Scotland was glory, this place is glory covered in a quilt and made comfortable.
8/21/14 – 5pm Greenwich Mean Time
Having just walked over a mile from a cafe near the Glencoe bus stop to our hostel, I can definitely say I’m glad we packed light! The bus ride from Inverness was incredibly scenic; especially once we neared Fort William. The mountains are stunning. Oh, Scotland. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.
I have felt the slow creeping of fern-like things budding in my mechanical heart.
and the streams I see tunnelling under Scottish roads; they flip over themselves in haste for the sea…
I have felt the slipping streams tunnelling through me.
8/16/14 – 12pm Greenwich Mean Time
We’re on the train to Hexham, bound for Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve had this line from W.H. Auden rolling about in my mind since I saw it in York: “And down by the brimming river, I heard a lover sing; under an arch of the railway: Love has no ending.” I guess the trains keep it fresh in my memory. If I have any money left when I get home (doubtful), I want to buy Auden’s ‘Age of Anxiety’ with intro and annotations by Alan Jacobs.
The landscape is fantastic. And varied. Right now there are hugely tall pine trees looming over the fields, and horses with oversized feet grazing the hillside. And now there are ancient oaks and slender aspens with ferns going crazy below. There are hills green with grass and fields yellow with wheat. Several kinds of purple flowers- some with long rush-like fronds and some with small round petals and white centres- follow the track. And when we pass a village there are always brick houses (with the inevitable white window frames) and a church spire looking extremely historic, but the details of which I’ll never know. Incredible, the surplus of history that is packed into this island. And the surplus of blackberries is also ridiculous. =D
8/11/14 – 9:43pm Greenwich Mean Time
With extreme skill at research and bus-schedule-memory, Dad saw to it that the bus which took us to Blenheim Palace today also made it possible to visit Tolkien’s house and grave. We did a lot of hopping on and off buses today. =) I sang ‘Into the West’ at Tolkien’s grave, which simply felt like the right thing to do.
Blenheim P was huge. Not just the palace, but the grounds! We didn’t even see everything. It was very impressive. The room where Churchill was born was less ostentatious than the State Rooms, but its significance made up for the lack of grandeur. “Here’s where the 20th Century was saved,” said Dad.
Back in Oxford, we spent some more time in Blackwell’s, ate dinner (steak, ale, and mushroom pie) at The King’s Arms pub, and did some more wandering around Oxford. I’m growing more and more fond of this city. Its streets form a labyrinth of treasures waiting for me to stumble upon them.
8/2/14 – 6:25pm Greenwich Mean Time
I am living the London experience to the hilt right now. We took the Tube from Covent Garden Market (so crowded!!) to Tower Bridge, and I’m sitting on a ledge right on the Thames with the bridge on my right, to the East, and the Tower of London across the river. (Okay, but a security guard with an Indian accent just told me to get down, so now I am standing once again on aching feet.)
It was supposed to rain today, but it never did. It’s been mostly overcast, but now the sky is open, with grandiose flat-bottomed clouds meandering slowly. It’s lovely out here over the water. I much prefer this to the constricted city streets. I guess I’ve been living in the country for so long that it’s hard to acclimate to city life.
Tower Bridge is so beautiful in this early evening sun! It was funny; as we were walking here, we were discussing whether we were going the right way. This British man walking by heard us say Tower Bridge and said, “That way! Definitely that way!” as he rushed past us. The people here are fun.
I am deeply full of simple things;
of anticipations and doubts and light brushes with the universe.
Like the painted buntings ruffling the goat weed-
now poised above it, now diving beneath it-
I do not wish you to attend to me.
Soon I will walk in two-thousand-year-old cities
and I will be like a single cobblestone, or a half of one.
Two-thousand years of feet will flow over me,
and I will not be crumbled by time’s trampling,
but I will hold out my hand for the marks.
I will walk in great shadows and not shake,
for it is good that they be large and I be small.
On mountains that will outlive me, I will be a single fern;
curling and unfurling once, twice, and then no more.
I will only be a worshipper.
Only in honour of Valentine’s Day do I post twice in a row. =)
You’re My World
We were newlyweds on a Holland dike
With a picnic and a tandem bike
Traveling the world like we had always dreamed.
We rode a double-decker bus
And all the lights displayed for us
But we scarcely saw them, scarcely saw them gleam.
Isn’t it a funny story?
Here we are, with so much glory
All so new
In plain view
But I just want to look at you!
Isn’t it a laugh worth living?
All these things we dreamt of seeing
All those years
Now we’re here
And they just seem to disappear!
We were newlyweds on a Paris roof
And the Eiffel Tower beamed, aloof
But I was just admiring your eyes.
The Northern Lights reflect your face
Or maybe it was the other way.
When you held me, I forgot about the sky.
Isn’t it a whimsical surprise?
You’re the world I’ve dreamed of all this time.
I took a week off from real life. I wandered up and down the bank of the Frio River like a wanderer come home, stepping on the same ground I visit every year. I remembered a game I made up when I was very young: trying to walk as far as possible without touching anything except cypress tree roots. I spent my childhood here, and somehow I managed never to take it for granted. It’s the simplest place in the world, a combination of peaceful and exciting that I needed so much. When did I turn into a grown-up with a life to escape from?
You would love those sprawling cliffs and the deep water below them. When you swim ten feet above the lazy catfish parties, it’s like you’re alone in an aquamarine mystery, and the mystery is more beautiful than the answer. I don’t think there is an answer, and that’s why it’s beautiful. The breeze turns the stillness into contented energy, and little ripples kiss your upper lip again and again like there’s no tomorrow and all we have is now. The past is gone and the future will never come and no one cares. You just swim into the 4 o’clock sun. You see poetry in everything. And for once, you exult in being alone… but then you’re not alone. Because your little sister and your fabulous cousin come and play seals right next to you, and then you exult in being not-alone. And you swim through the ripples to the diving log and pretend it’s a ship. Sometimes you can feel a fresh-water spring under you and it’s so COLD you scream and everyone thinks you saw a snake and then you laugh at them.
Then it’s eleven in the morning on another day and you’re alone again, down by the rope swing without much sunscreen, building a waterfall and channels for three hours. When you’re finished, it’s a quality establishment, and that sunburn on your back? It hardly matters. And your chipped fingernail polish? It doesn’t matter at all.
There’s a big hill from the upper campground to the lower campground, and it’s perfect for riding your bike with no brakes. People talk about throwing precaution to the wind, but I don’t think that’s what happens. I think the wind whooshes around you so fast that it snatches your precaution away from you, whether you’re holding it tightly or not. And I never hold mine tightly on that hill anymore. I’ve been hurtling down it at top speed ever since I was nine years old.
You would love the annual catfish-fry… sitting on rocks with fishing poles all day long, baiting with hot-dogs, naming the fish you catch, and throwing away the “stanleys”. And then at the end of the day, you haul your stringer back up to the cabin and your dad tries to show you how to clean the fish and it’s disgusting but now you’ll be able to survive in the wild. If you had a knife. And matches or flint. And cornmeal and Lowry’s salt and oil to coat the fish with. I fried them this year, and it took forever.
Oh, and then when you feel like it, you can walk up to the office and charge any number of ice-creams to your family’s account.
It was a week of enchantment and detachment. When being alone didn’t ever feel lonely. A week of painted rocks and curious fish and family and hardly any other campers to bring my mind back to the present. I don’t think I took a week off from real life, really. I think I took a week of visiting it. Maybe paradise is what’s really real, and everything else is simply the contrast material.
Scratch the maybe.
Ah, but the contrast material always seems so very contrasting when I come home. When I was a kid, I used to be sad to come home because home wasn’t as fun. But now I’m sad to come home because home is so much less home. It’s so much more complicated. Here is where I have to think about the future and figure out how to deal with the past. Here is where alone always feels lonely. But I tell myself to get a grip and wear a smile, because even while I miss that carefree river, a River of Life is flowing inside of me and I only have to look to the Source to realize that I will never despair and I will never let go. Even when all I want is to fade, there’s colour holding onto me that won’t let me give up. I can’t stay in paradise, but I can carry it with me always. And I will.