Pomegranates & Pussy Willows

pussy-willowwmWe gathered around a table where Mrs. Straub showed us what she’d brought in this time. She gave each of us a branch to hold and observe with our eyes and hands. While they didn’t taste as good as the pomegranate seeds she brought in, the softness of the pussy willow is embedded in my memory. Though I know they can grow in other parts of the United States, I don’t recall seeing them in Missouri where my family moved after Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

 

And so, as I run past them in my new home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a pang of joy wells up in my eyes. I was blessed by a first-grade teacher who understood the importance of hands-on science learning. When we weren’t able to get out of the classroom, she brought nature to us in the form of pomegranates and pussy willows.

This morning I paused on my run to peer at the pussy willows clustered in the wetlands. I made another scientific observation: rain beads up on pussy willows as it does on my rain jacket. Thank you, Mrs. Straub for helping me to appreciate our world.

When I’m Ready

When I’m Ready
Oasis to Come
Oasis to Come. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License, BY-NC-ND 3.0

On the trail,
all alone,
I’m not.

On the trail,
a partner,
sometimes silent.

On the trail,
a sojourner,
always present.

On the trail,
a voice,
a companion.

***

My companion,
listens,
as I cry & yammer.

My companion,
encourages,
free thought.

My companion,
appreciates,
randomness.

My companion,
smiles,
and love and hope hug me.

My companion,
speaks,
in word, sign, & through vistas.

***

When I deny, avoid
and question,
the companion waits.

In my confusion,
along the other paths I find,
my companion marvels at slug & frond.

When I worry,
and the world wounds my soul,
my companion points to  the lilies.

When I avoid,
choosing the present,
my companion warms me in the now.

When I push  back,
shouting “I hate you!”
my companion sticks around.

When I yearn & crave decision.
my companion offers a word or sign,
wrapped in hope, love, patience, & a hug.

***

A decision,
an issue,
flutters inside.

A decision,
interacts with,
bud & puddle of mud.

A decision,
an issue, pros & cons,
take turns deep within.

A decision,
with each step,
floats to the surface.

A decision,
is apparent,
and I lack trust, & confidence.

A decision,
eludes & hides,
behind fear and angst.

A decision,
waits patiently,
until I choose to hear.

***

On the trail,
all alone,
I’m not.

My companion,
listens,
as I cry & yammer.

When I deny, avoid
and question,
the companion waits.

A decision,
an issue,
flutters inside.

***

When I’m ready for joy,
the word or sign,
wrapped in hope, love, patience, & a hug await.

 

Bridge of Breath & Dust

Bridge of Breath & Dust
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Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 

Beside the fir’s olfactory balm,
I step and step again.
Pausing I breathe in Mama Gaia.

Healed.

The silence and chittering creatures,
lose their dominance as I continue.
Trickles and gurgles become roars.

Curious.

Beneath the green canopy,
the end of tunnel light beckons.
Emerging solar warmth embraces my skin.

Energized.

Hopeful yellows, purples, & reds
dot the spring shoreline beyond the roaring.
The icy danger disrupts my forward journey.

Yearning.

In the mountain’s domain,
far from she and far from he,
I stand beneath the blue skies.

Flummoxed

Beside the rushing waters,
I gaze beyond the treacherous sea.
No steel or human-crafted expanse facilitates my journey.

Decoding.

Fear and desire compete.
“Maybe here. Maybe up that way.”
Turning around feels like giving up.

Trepidation.

“There!” I spy rudimentary clues.
Those who’ve come before point the way.
Challenge, skill, and hope lure me across the rushing risk.

Cautious.

A little muddy, damp, and chilled,
I look back to where I’ve been.
Ethereal kindred united self with me.

Bridged.

In the mountain’s domain,
the breath of divine wholeness reveals,
the dusty camaraderie of humanity.

The Urge to Strip Bare

The Urge to Strip Bare
Sacred Mountain. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Sacred Mountain. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Above the clouds, beneath the blue atmosphere I had an urge to strip bare. This despite a sixty-two degree moisture-filled breeze and deeply ingrained social taboos. I’ve had the impulse before while hiking.

No. I am not an exhibitionist; I’m a very modest person.

Neither do I succumb to the urges. Usually I open my shirt allowing the wind to dry my sweat-soaked skin. On a particularly hot day I’ve been known to remove my shirt for a time before I put it back on for fear I’ll burn.

But that’s different.

When the urge to strip bare comes over me it is not about hot weather. It is about a feeling of unrestrained awe in the presence of the divine. It’s about a desire to strip away anything that separates me from the sacred. Within the caverns of my soul, I yearn to reveal my whole self!

And why wouldn’t I?

I am created in the image of God! Why would I hide anything from the boundless love? When the very breath of God blew across the peak of Wind Mountain this morning I slipped off my shirt. Though the thermometer read 62, the sacred breath warmed my sweat soaked skin and weary spirit.

I Find a Rock.

I Find a Rock.
A Rock. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
A Rock. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Sometimes, the pre-ordained destination is the only thing that will give me peace. I must reach the end of the trail, the waterfall, the lake, or the top of the mountain to feel a sense of completion.

But not always.

As I begin to wear out, as my motivation and ever-loving oomph dissipates I find a rock. It might be halfway. It might be three-quarters of the way or even nine-tenths of the trek to the anticipated destination.

But when I find my rock, I sit.

“I’ll sit for just a moment,” I tell myself, “and then I’ll get up and go the final distance.” My muscles relax and my breathing slows as I sit, snack on a trail bar, and immerse my spirit in this place.

I breathe in the scents. I drink the tall trees or scrub brush. I reach deep into the earth as my body connects through stump or rock.

And God shows up.

The cooling breeze carries with it words. I become dizzy as the words swirl around my head.  Tears or sobs, a smirk of contentment, or a huge grin emerge as the words demand to be written down. Pulling out my ragged journal, I write as fast as I possibly can.

That.

That is the moment I realize that this rock is my destination for today.  This is the moment and the place for which my soul aches.

When all the words have run dry, I load up my pack and return to the trailhead, content and satisfied.

 

Crystalline Baptism

Crystalline Baptism
Icy Tamanawas. Photo by Tim Graves (Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Icy Tamanawas. Photo by Tim Graves (Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Walking beside the azure water,
the glacial melt bubbles & foams,
and icicles cling to logs.

Winter hangs in the morning air,
cowering beneath the fir-ry needles,
and hard-cold boulders.

Undeterred, mustard light oozes,
through the bare branched tree-kin,
spicing the frosted trail with its spring warmth.

This is the way.
This is the incline.
This is the switchback and bridge,
to the holy baptistry.

The sacred waters of the grotto,
lure me forward with a roar and glimpse.

Standing, I open the doors of the alcove.
Standing, I gasp at the crystalline love,
blanketing each boulder, cluster of moss, and tree.

Standing, I kneel before the divine,
as mist settles upon my skin washing away trail dust.

Breathing, the mist flows through my lungs, into my bloodstream, baptizing heart and soul.

 

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Emerging from the Grey

Emerging from the Grey
Amid the Gloom. Photo by Tim Graves
Amid the Gloom. Photo by Tim Graves

It was the kind of autumn afternoon when foolish hope was the only reason you expect the sun to break through the clouds. The mass of fluff hung grey and low. With each step the clouds moved that much more within my reach.

Soon I wandered through a forest of tall trees draped in lichen and dark, grey fog. As the mist touched my cheek, I breathed in and breathed out feelings of contentment for no particular reason.

Clinging Sunshine Photo by Tim Graves
Clinging Sunshine Photo by Tim Graves

“No,” I said to myself, “there will be no sightings of Mt. Hood today.” I breathed in the moist and cool air content with being outdoors. “The yellow fall leaves clinging to forest floor will be my sunshine,” I smiled to no one in particular.

Traversing a rocky and brush-infested segment of my path, my eyes watched each footfall. Emerging into a clearing, I lifted my eyes. Abruptly welcomed by Mt. Hood and a sunbeam dancing above the trees and clouds I exclaimed, “Whoa!” to the divine one in particular.

The Before & After

The Before & After
Gorton Creek Bridge, near Hood River, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons copyright (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
The morning sun emerges behind the Gorton Creek Bridge, near Hood River, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves.

After the dry summer,
before the frigid winds of winter.

Before the mountaintop snows,
host skis and snowboards.

Before the spring sunshine transforms meter and yard of white fluff,
to icy, exuberant, baptismal waters.

In that moment after and before,
I find my rest beside the gentle flow,
as it gurgles and bubbles around exposed rock and creek bed.

In that moment,
the divine voice softly whispers,
“I am still creating!”