Breathtaking Mountains

(I haven't posted a poem in a while... 
This one came to me while backpacking 
in the Thousand Lakes basin over a year ago.)

These tall granite peaks
     (the ones sitting in a magnificent circle here
     with a basin of mirrored lakes at their toes.
           which are creating
           rock and pine tree Rorschach tests
           on their distant shorelines
     for the deer to contemplate)…
These immense castle walls
      (with the hollow bone-like echoes
      of the last of this years snowmelt
            channeling through their
            crevices and caverns
      and then springing to the surface
      to be filtered by spongy wildflower gardens)…
These eroding ancient pyramids
      (falling apart as boulders, pebbles, and sand
           slowly disassembling into the most
           complex jigsaw puzzle on the planet)…
Yes, these very mountains
      are breathing.
I heard them myself,
      inhaling a breeze up this warm moist valley
               up
                    up
                         up
      to their snowy tops, where they are exhaling it,
      right now
           as puffy white cumulonimbus outbreaths.
So strong, when the mountains breathe,
      that I can help but feel the wind
      sucked from my own lungs
 as it joins the flow to the peaks.
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the point

You can’t daydream
     and sharpen a pencil on
     a rough, damp, streamside boulder
at the same time.
It takes too much concentration
     not to shatter the brittle graphite cone
     with a careless stroke.
But it is worth the effort!
You get a much different point:
     roughly worked wood,
     smelling of fresh cut cedar,
topped by a scratch black pyramid of carbon...
This is a point more appropriate for writing about
a natural canyon with spirits whispering through willow trees,
     the culinary uses of wild plants and ground squirrels, or
     for sketching the observed mating stance of a dragonfly
           than,
           say,
     doing geometry homework.
Conveniently, this rustic point feels quite at home out here
      in the woods where pencil sharpeners are seldom found-
           and okay, I admit it...
           I forgot mine at home.


Tracking

I can see your damp body print in silhouette on the bath towel,
and the tooth marks you left on the tight cap of the new 
toothpaste tube.
     A couple of loose hairs lie tangled in the hairbrush.
     Damp feet mopped up the light rain of last night’s dust 
     on the wood floors and apparently navigated 
     around littered baby toys 
     before turning left towards the what appears to be 
a nesting area...  

On hands and knees now, the light just right
     I see the subtle depressions of your feet on the carpet,
          the fibers slowly standing back 
          to their usual upright position.
Here, the tracks meet those of a much smaller creature.
I see ghosts of small lips and handprints 
     on the sliding glass mirror
     and in it’s reflection, 
          a stuffed white rabbit,
          over-loved and re-restitched, 
     wrapped in a blanket by small, uncoordinated fingers.

Drips of drying milk lead back to a feeding area 
and the scattered remains of finger-painted oatmeal...
          still luke-warm.
     I trail the crumbs of cold pumpkin pie on the counter
     to the well-worn “one minute” button on the microwave
     which begins your morning ritual 
     with a digital “beep.”
I smell fresh coffee on a breeze from the west.

Hot on the trail, 
     I follow my intuition through a slightly swaying side door. 
No less conspicuous than a stick snapped in the wilderness 
silencing sparrows,
     I hear the hum of a clothes dryer stop 
     with the creaking of its door.
Slowly I stalk,
          fox walking, 
          hawk-eyed, 
          ears perked up like a deer,
          into the garage and-
                 There I find you...
                 throwing a warm soft towel, 
                 hot and fluffy from the dryer 
                 over our daughter’s head... 
          our hysterically laughing coyote pup 
     with those five-toed muddy tracks that grow too quickly.  
Funny that you should think it’s time for us to clean the house.

Setting Traps

Setting Traps

What do the string around my finger,
     the note in permanent ink fading on my hand,
     the time-capsule buried in damp mulch 
          beneath the oak tree eight years ago,
     the post it on my steering wheel,
     and the alarm clock set to detonate at 5:30 am 
have in common?

Why did I hide my car keys again?
     ...and where?

There is a freedom in forgetting
     and a pirate thrill in digging up lost memories.
But most reminders tend to make me think,
                                   remember,
                                   plan,
     in the everbusy buzzing of my mind.
More than ever, I need DE-minders, for when I’m lost up here 
     replanning and premembering 
     in nowhere land.
Do they sell daydream alarm clocks or watches that lie?

Sometimes I can be nothing but grateful
                    for bee stings,
                    stubbed toes,
                    seagulls with good aim,
                    and cold shivers: 
things that wake me, unaware, from the cavern of routine.
Thank you, headache, for reminding me I have a head.

Tired of waiting for grace or luck 
     to bring me to the present,
     I’ve mapped out my Monday blind spots,
     hidden along my well-worn game trails
                     between the bathroom, 
                     the computer, 
                     the teapot...

And here I am setting traps for myself, 
     camouflaged in regularity and custom
     to catch me in oblivion.
     Won’t I be surprised 
     to find this bucket of ice water 
     suspended from the doorway 
as I come into work tomorrow morning?

Peacemaking

My stomach’s not hungry,
but my tongue wants to eat.
My eyes want to travel,
but not so my feet.
My body is tired,
but my mind’s wide awake.
My two legs are quarreling,
don’t know which side to take.
I want to be alone,
but I could sure use a friend.
My itch wants some scratching,
but my elbows won’t bend.
My heart craves some music.
My ears want it quiet.
Those ears hear a scrub jay,
but my eyes cannot spy it.
I think we could agree
that this sunset’s resplendent,
if only my parts weren’t
so damn independent.
And so I’ll just sit,
‘till my pieces agree.
To cast off their differences,
and for a short while, just be.

Revised Idioms

     Revised Idioms 

If we’re clever, we can feed two birds with one scone.
After all, there’s more than one way to pet a cat. 
Let’s provide the straw that seasoned the camels snack.
Let’s leave all our eggs in the nests and save the basket
     for those lovely lemons life keeps dealing us.  

It may seem like we have to wait ‘till the cows go roam,
     or until we finally let the pigs fly, 
but changing our ways will be 
     easier than shooting 
     pictures of fish while surfing in a barrel,
     which is to say, 
difficult.  

But let’s start seeding around the bush.
People who live in glass houses should really grow seedlings.
Let’s turn under an old leaf
     making rich fertile compost.  
It’ll be like taking candy from a baby 
    and replacing it with a healthy homegrown peach.
To err is human. To try again, divine.
A switch in mind takes time.
After all, Rome didn’t topple in a day.
Curiosity took but one of the cat’s lives...
     the other eight died of boredom and apathy.

Trees don’t grow on money, you know.
A fool and his free time are easily parted by money. 
A penny slaved is a moment burned.
And that guy with the bird in his hand is a swindler,
     the two in the bush are priceless.
Life boils down to survival of the fittest. That is,
     those that fit the best on this beautiful, interconnected planet
     persevere indefinitely.  
Don’t put all your legs in one casket.
Divide and conquer? 
Rather, unite and concur!  
It’s a dog greet dog world. 
Splints and salves can mend our wounds, but words can truly heal us.
When it comes down to it, 
     laughter is the best medicine
     and he who laughs last 
laughs alone.

So let’s go out on a limb and watch the sunset.
We’ll talk of how the proverbial glass is completely full… 
     half clean water, half fresh air.
Come, the hour’s getting late.
Who cares if the shoe fits... 
     bare it!

Seven Falls Poem and Painting

Seven Falls

Time is a thin veil here, 
      where the mountain plays catch with the creek
      tossing it into the air seven times and bringing it to rest in
      seven cold emerald pools.
      It is fun to imagine all of the others 
      who have climbed this sandstone jungle gym 
and slid down these mossy water slides…

Look at these shadows of Chumash kids laughing here 
      hundreds of years ago 
      as if it were yesterday.
            What do they call the “cannonball” 
            in a world of stone tools, I wonder,
      as they leap from that ledge with a splash
      long before Fremont’s soldiers pushed cannons 
over muddy San Marcos Pass.   

Look at those Franciscan monks  
      sneaking upstream from the Mission below
      through the oaks and sycamores
      to strip down and lighten up 
      long before the city sprouted below 
and oil platforms invaded the horizon.

And look now at the evolution of the swimsuit styles
      that the swimmers have donned here for the last hundred years,
      from striped long-underwear to bikinis
      on the families of ranchers, fishermen, oil workers and 
      now suburbanites and college kids.
      They appear and disappear in strobe light flashes 
like an old grainy filmstrip before these lovely pools.

Different swimmers on common ground…
We’re all still here in one form or another, 
      the natives and the pioneers.  
We’ve all come to bring out our inner amphibian—
      to dive beneath the cold living water 
      with our much older ancestors
      the frogs and salamanders… 
Feels so good, doesn’t it?
      …to crawl out on our bellies 
      and warm our blood 
      on these radiant sandstone benches 
freckled here and there with fossils.
Seven Falls