Free Writing in the Mountains
It is dark where I am sitting, down on these cool, wet rocks at the bottom of the falls. Everything close around me has drifted here in death, bits of branches, yellow leaves caught in little eddies, a fairy circle, a wizard's kettle stirred by Puck's finger, light tumbling to the tops of these dark mountain pools, then running round by currents like a flurry of koi in a hotel lobby in Beijing.
Halfway round the world from here, humans have reduced progress to concrete and hell smog. I wanted to breathe dignity in those masses, crawling like ants. They have forgotten who they are, and though Americans are proud and fat, it still hurts me to see anonymity more. I think that no one could love a large government who had studied what trust in man has done to those great, old cities. For Babel has always been Babel, and Babel is Babel even still.
And yet the Eden-starved soul still carves out divots of grandeur for fish to flicker and dive. We are not fully lost to the crowdings of our highways, to our production, to our cognition, as long as wild beauty speaks to what is yet ruled by the instinct. I have hope for the line of man, for when we stumble upon October kneeling down before the roar of coming winter, we gasp, for it is a holy thing to see a saint die in ecstasy.
May God give me this death, too -- what the birch trees know as they reach for the sun and catch a vision of the heavens opened, and then burst out laughing while men in dark masks work to cut off their heads. The trees laugh in the face of twenty years or sixty hacked off and thrown into the trunk of the swing low, sweet Chariot, or the Subaru, or eighty years pressed flat by nursing home pneumonia --- swing low, sweet Chariot, coming forth to carry me from what has never been my home to what will be familiar forever at first sight.
The treetops open into a blue sky overhead. Leaves are lemon, lime, and mustard ochre, with shadows in burnt sienna. The trunks run straight here, type-A students in perfect posture, long and lean. And yet, everything the sun touches in the heights looks like a child drew it with a crayon. Bright, primary colors, moving with a wind I cannot feel down here in the cool forest floor, folded between two forty-foot rock walls.
Tracing the water up, I see a spray at the top. Pretty little balls of liquid light, popping and levitating, then off to the right, long, thin, white tendrils of water, soft and gentle like the hair of a poor, pretty little blonde girl.
Down still more, the water crashes upon a plateau. At the resistance, the spray has spread over rocks where moss grows. Dead things are stuck here. It is a purgatory. A desperate middle ground. A broken stick caught halfway down, beaten every second, and yet the ends are jammed between two rocks. The only way it can finish its journey is to break, and something about that catches in my throat, because I have been there, too.
Leaves are caught in webs the spiders have thrown across the rock expanses, waiting to fall. They turn like dancers on a toe. Rhododendrons are trying to grow in cracks on the stone face, and I grieve for them, too, because I have also tried to take up residence in places where the earth was too thin, and I know how long it takes to admit that it will never work. The parable which tells us about good soil is true, but it's hard to know what that means when you are only a seed with no eyes, and with no legs to choose your landing place. People talk about election and free will with such confidence, but here these little glories grow, and I feel pity no matter what is true in the transcendent realms.
And like those leaves, I have hung between heaven and earth, dizzying myself in what would hold me. Remind me that I have died. Remind me that I have been made new. And yet, these awful webs.
The weight of the water collects to a magnificent crash at the bottom, beating away at the rocks. How many thousands of years has this been here? Stone worn away by softness, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That I want to do, I do not do. That I do not want to do, I do. And the force of gravity wears me down. It wears me down until I know I have to have some help.
It is cold today, cold that smells of pine and deciduous leaves decomposing. Branches reach out to make intermediate ceilings. A courtesy, an offer to hide me from the heavens.
A fallen trunk is coming to graham cracker crumbles amid all colors of rocks. Water black stones, rose pink, speckled, veined, covered in green growth, rubbed with rust, and all manner of things come together like an altar unhewn, like a hymn that has listened to the seasons, with the theme of the last stanza beginning the theme of the next.
Creation resounds. Praise him praise him, all ye blue little ferns, your eyelashes batting like a child coming out of an afternoon dream. Praise him, praise him all ye crayfish thrusting backwards into retreat, for this mountain holds the presence of the Almighty. Praise him, praise him all you terminal patients of this long, human disease, though the cold months are coming, and these are our last days.
The over-confident walk about the halls of earth in their open-backed hospital gowns, both cheeks showing, dragging their IV's, mocking John Darby, and I don't know what's coming for sure, but good simple souls tend to know when a thing is dying because they listen to their bones, and they read the Farmer's Almanac.
Praise him, praise him, you glory-flecked with age spots. Praise him, praise him, you with your rotten quadriceps tendon, busted it wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, you did. Praise him, praise him, every October soul. Winter comes. And spring soon after.