July 20, 2016

In The Cascades


In The Cascades

Above the trail to the summit
Clouds climb the mountains --
Hands through water, fingers of rain,
Smoke in dreams, as steps accumulate,
Placing first one foot, then the other,
Pacing out the rip-rap of the years.

Below the snow ghosts swirl behind
Drifts of leaf-shimmer, billowed veils
Of wind whose whispers echo back
Across the distant silence singing
To the tempo of the breath:
"Once only, once only, only once."

Above the stream in the ravine.
Watched by sentinels of stone, of fir,
Of trees so tall their tops dissolve
Into the breath of the mountains.
Ebony glints of ravens' wings
Banking into green on darker green.

Below it's all been settled long ago.
Only on foot, step by step,
Can you climb up, beyond,
And out of time -- except for the weight
You carry on your back; gossamer
Thread spinning down into the Labyrinth.

At the crest, looking back, looking below,
Herds of mule deer graze beneath pylons
Where a survey crew measures the steel river,
For a grid of concrete and copper cables
Connecting the Matrix coiled on the coast.
Above, the mountains' shoulders shatter the rain.

Posted by Vanderleun at July 20, 2016 10:25 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Gorgeous shot, Gerard--and beautiful poetry to match. Yeah, the rain really sucks around here--but you're beginning to see why people get addicted to this place, as I have become. There's no more beautiful and spectacular geography in the continental U.S., in my opinion, where water and mountains touch, where the horizontal and vertical are in such perfect harmony. Get out and enjoy it as much as you can--it will renew you.

Posted by: Dr Bob at March 17, 2006 11:40 PM

Oh that makes me hideously homesick (or rather, more hideously homesick than I was before I saw it). Where exactly is that picture taken? *sigh* It is so beautiful.

Posted by: Cathy at March 18, 2006 11:00 AM

Oh gee, you too, falling into that smug Seattle/"God's Country" crap.

Posted by: Raw Data at March 18, 2006 6:00 PM

Well, when you think about it, everywhere is God's country, isn't it.

That said, I wouldn't want to have to weed it.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at March 18, 2006 9:23 PM

Tha's exactly my point. The world is a beautiful place and only narrow smug ignorant Puget Sounders would somehow think that we are the only gorgeous place in the world -- or that even the sage-brush "wastes" of our own State are not beautiful. Every time I hear one of our yocals effuse about our beauty I want to ask if they have ever really seen Kansas. But I know that they are too blinded by lack of travel to understand.

Posted by: Raw Data at March 19, 2006 8:45 AM

It is awesome up there, though. And I live in the state that contains Yosemite and Big Sur.

Think of it as being different flavors of awesome. There's a lot of beauty in this country, and in the rest of the world.

Posted by: Little Miss Attila at December 2, 2010 6:17 PM

The extent of my travels on Burke-Gillman trail runs from 117th down to Montlake Blvd NE. And I'm very sorry about this. I made some good work out of it considering I was only in the neighborhood for eight months, but I lived in the area for four years and should have done more with BG. After '88 I migrated over to the Eastside, and while the Eastside has stuff, it doesn't compare. BG has a whole lot of pretty girls on it too, considering it's in Seattle. Pleasingly chubby-goth-chick deficient. They're not into jogging.

Now I have Jedediah Smith trail and I've completely made it my bitch over and over again. Mostly because I feel bad about BG.

Check out Egg Lake in those Cascades, 48.899ºN 121.485ºW.

Posted by: Morgan K Freeberg at December 2, 2010 6:29 PM

Pacing out the rip-rap of the years.

The only other place I've seen that term was in a diagram of a Civil War fort. It referred to large jagged rocks piled along the base of the walls.

Posted by: rickl at December 2, 2010 6:48 PM

Homesick. My favorite memory is when my father, at his widower's wit's end with his rowdy brats, took us for a long drive one night in September, and somewhere in the Snoqualmie Pass, he pulled over at a scenic overlook while we slept in the back. He went out and sat on the stone wall while the 3rd movement of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 was playing on the tape deck. That was the point I woke up and watched the mountains and the moon, and listened. You should try it some time. Go up into the mountains and play the 3rd movement of that symphony. It's sheer awe.

Posted by: Jewel at December 2, 2010 7:33 PM

The Cascades (and the Olympics) are places well out of most peoples' understanding. I have tried to approach an understanding of them (I climbed Rainier five times to the summit, and many more on her shoulders).

Thanks for bringing the poem. A very appropriate way to share the awesomeness of these high places.

Posted by: KCK at December 2, 2010 8:07 PM

During one of our "hot spells" this Summer, I escaped to Sunrise point at Mt. Rainier to, well, watch the sunrise.

Seeing the sky gently lighten and shoo away the stars and then reveal the mountain in all her glory is an experience I recommend to all.

On the drive back I saw a half-grown black bear walking down the road. I got out the camera and took some video (no, I didn't get out of the car to get a closer picture). Less than two hours later, I was home posting the video to YouTube.

I love the huge Back yard that is Puget Sound.

Posted by: Mumblix Grumph at December 2, 2010 9:30 PM

"rip-rap" reference.

I was pointing to the Gary Snyder poem of some vintage:

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
straying planets,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
Dragging saddles --
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.

Posted by: vanderleun at December 2, 2010 9:40 PM

Gerard, ***almost*** as good as your poem about your father when he passed. God bless him. Enjoyed reading. chuck

Posted by: dhmosquito at December 3, 2010 7:28 PM

Gerard, you area national treasure. Please persever.
And rain DOES NOT suck; it is the frequency of rain that sucks.

Posted by: Seattle Spud at December 11, 2010 7:03 AM

"Riprap" (often spelled with hyphen or space) is a civil engineering term. Riprap is very commonly used at the foot of slopes to stabilize or reinforce them, especially against erosion by streams or waves.

The image in Snyder's poem is that of stabilization. But in your poem the image I get of of unstable, loose rocks, a sort of giant scree.

Posted by: bob sykes at June 3, 2012 4:15 AM

Typically such free verse doesn't do much for me.
Reading it aloud, and, having spent years in the Northwest, I've got to admit that this works.
In particular, the jarring return to civilization at the end.
Nicely played, sir.

Posted by: smitty at June 3, 2012 5:38 AM

I have driven about 30,000 miles in road trips in this country and I can say that the western WA landscape is unique. What they call mountains back east are little round foothills. Etc. OTOH I loved it all except the UP of MI. "When there's too much of nothing, it just makes a fella mean."

Posted by: pbird at July 21, 2016 12:12 PM