In the Event That You Carry Poetry with You

13083200_10153742998021843_4230254008857559222_nI walk down the hill in anticipation. Away from the road my feet know the way. In the distance I hear the west bound Amtrak cross one last road before it dives into the mountain.

Over the first swell of hill I hear only the sound of birds, small planes, and my own footsteps I’m not ready to settle. I walked quickly letting my thoughts cycle through. Always aware of the slim book in my pack. At a dip in the trail I pause. My feet in mud from the shadowed pile snow nearby.

It is only then that my mind slows enough to turn birds into separate calls- five of them, I only know the crow. In my silence I find cicadas, flies, and squirrels.  My eyes closed I absorb the sounds of the hillside. The smallest rivulet of water has it’s own song. All of it washes away the rawness that comes from the constant noise of Denver.

Finally I open my eyes, the colors more distinct. Streaks of blue rush from one tree to the next. Blue birds with their straight flights and the scrub jays with their arcing paths. Magpies and the crows (who will follow me for the rest of the day). There are others that I can’t identify. Black and white birds with patterned wings and a whole spectrum of oak and wheat birds going about their work. The birds were not why I am here so I soon continue on.

Knowing that I have a book with me is like knowing my water bottle is full. I may not ever open it but it is there.

Yet for today I need the words even more. Because in my search for quiet I also want direction. Not the spiritual sort that others find in religious texts but a rhythm that comes from someone else who often seeks the solitude of nature.
The trail continues.
When I finally find a rock that is right I sit down to read.

All night
The dark buds of dreams
open
richly.

If I was inclined to be stingy I could have stopped there and been filled double. But I read on a few stanzas later.

Finally you have spent
all the energy you can
and you drag from the ground
the muddy skirt of your roots

For all my vibrant dreams of the past week I pause from reading to try to remember them. I see the crows one hill over circling their ellipses mimicking the shape of the land. Their ink stains against the blue sky then dipping towards the hillside- all dead grasses threaded with new growth.

13096357_10153742998401843_8568354818332893961_n

Still three crows stay close by.  More interested in the sun on my water bottle than whatever was rotting on the next hill. There wings louder than the planes each time they circle closely. Then they start to caw and even the squirrels are quiet. The crows continued their circles safely in the sky.

Being me I look for the cause of the silence. The ancient storyteller brain that fills so much of my mind wakes and searches for details.

A PSA on mountain lions in the car that morning
A wooded spot away from the trail
An empty week day hike
A PSA on mountain lions

I try to turn it off- my mind that is. But that always goes sideways.

Woman found at White Ranch Open Space in first reported attack in this area.
Officials say the misguided woman should have stayed closer to the trail
even though it was midday. They remind visitors to the foothills this time
of year that after a lean winter mountain lions are in search of food though
mule deer are their primary source of food, sitting alone quietly is probably
what did this women in. Again they suggest hiking in groups and making noise.

I pack my things and get myself back to the trail. As I go down the trail the songs of the birds return and I return to the poem. It sits in my mind wanting resolution. I need the rest of the words. Further down the trail- once I undress the jacket of my imagined death- I find a new rock to sit on. Closer to the trail in a meadow- the rush of a stream nearby.

I unpack again- a snack, my notebook, and the book of poetry. I read the final lines. But this day calls for more to banish the edges of the day dream. So I read the words aloud to offer something to the world around me, my call. Not once but twice so I can  feel them against my tongue.

Now the birds are quiet, the sun washing out the color of the day- it is natural. Even my crows are off somewhere else leaving as I read the poem a second time. It’s just me here now with the cicadas and the stream.

[To hear a full reading of Dreams by Mary Oliver join us on Facebook]

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