As my daughter Heidi Vetter, above with her pack mule BJ, set off into the Sierra Mountains at the end of June, 2002, for a three-month sojourn, I tried to follow her with maps, itineraries, and my heart. I tried to send off my thoughts and prayers to her with tanka poems each day.
In 1998, a lemon-sized tumor was discovered in the heart of Heidi, my oldest child, then forty-two years old. After recovering from open-heart surgery and finding out the tumor was benign, Heidi had a new will to not only live, but to live her life as she wanted it to be. Year by year she began to plan for and train herself to make a three-month journey through the Sierra Mountains which she loved more than anything in her life.
She, and her husband Ray, and a son and daughter - Shaun and Ashley, already lived in Oakhurst, California - high in rock and oak country and just below the pine level. In 1989, Heidi, who was a photographer, had started a mini-lab Heidi's One-Hour Photo Service here to support her habit.
Tomorrow, Heidi and a thirty-five year old mule named BJ, accompanied by Ashley for one night will leave her place at Fish Camp to begin a three-month sojourn in the High Sierras.
I called the store and talked to Ray about getting a copy of her itinerary which he faxed because I couldn't open the file she had sent by email. Suddenly seeing those pieces of papers with dates and destinations made her going very real for me.
to live a dream
leaving everyone else
behind in the future
After the drumming session, I got the idea that I wanted to go to Oakhurst to join in Heidi's departure - to give her a blessing, just to see her once more. I knew the nine auto hours would put me behind her starting off, but I also knew that Ray and Shaun were meeting her on Saturday at Long Meadow. There Ashley would be traded for Shaun. The trip had been ballyhooed so much in the local papers, it had been decided that having a twenty-two year old male with her for the hike through the accessible areas would be a good idea.
Thus, I felt we could drive over two mountain ranges and valleys to be at Long Meadow by Saturday afternoon.
I called the store to ask Ray where Long Meadow was and when they planned to meet up with Heidi. But Jackie, Shaun's fiancée answered the phone. As I talked to her I found out they were having a heat wave and that the temperatures were to go over a hundred by afternoon. Right then I knew there was no way I take part in the meeting on Saturday. Heidi had said that she would not be at the store on Friday but would be preparing to leave so I was surprised when Jackie said she was there and did I want to talk to her? I waited and waited for her to come to the phone, knowing she was extremely busy. Her sunny hello with a hint of anxiety made me tell her quickly what I had hoped to do and she instantly agreed that this was no place for me. I told her I wanted to come to give her and BJ a blessing. I asked if she knew anyone else who could do it? Her voice cracked with the idea of having one more thing to do and tears began to seep in.
I tried to tell her not to worry and that I would just send my blessing but by now my words were all coming out sideways. We simply said, at once, "I love you" and hung up. We both have spent so much time weeping over partings and I knew she was standing in the store with others all around.
I went out to the studio, to my comfort zone, and began trimming the latest pot as my thoughts turned around thinking about my child-woman.
the pros say
its bad to re-wet
mine is forced to accept
these dampened fears
Even before the sun set I had begun the ceremony to send Blessings to Heidi and BJ for their trip and to Ray, Shaun and Ashley for their waiting and their backup help. The sky was alive with banners of gold, red and purple and complete divinity. I've done various ceremonies for different objectives but I was a bit taken back by my impeccability and desire to add just one more feature to the process.
After the prayers had flown and the room was filled with incense and the ringing over tones of the drums I wanted to let it all go by turning my attention to something else. I picked up a ball of clay scrapes and began fashioning a small teapot. As my hands worked I turned on the radio and got the news. I thought about Heidi and Ashley getting into their sleeping bags as the light left the forest. What were they hearing? What animals spoke? What did the wind say to each of them? All I had for new of their world was a circle of stones on my desk.
green in a plastic box
I ask a rock
how it goes with females
deep in the mountain woods
I've tried to clean house this Saturday morning, but even I must admit I have only hit the high spots. My thoughts and probably several sections of my soul were skimming over the mountains to Long Meadow. I have the feeling Ray's sunny nature and good patience may wear thin with all the calls I want to make to him to know as often as possible how Heidi is. They have agreed to rendezvous at various points on the trip so Heidi can trade out her exposed film and pick up more food and already I am anxious to know how she is after each section.
She has gone backpacking in the Sierras every summer so she knows her way around and she knows that she needs to take and what to do. She is a very cautious person - always eager to do what is right and what is best. I saw this for myself when we were in Hawai'i together. The remembrance of watching this strong feature manifest in my child gives me confidence in her ability to take care of herself. Still. I wonder how soon I can call to talk to Ashley and found out how the night went.
is too short to hold
of leaving a family
longing for their faces
I was eager to talk to Ashley, to see how she saw her mother in the beginning of the trip, so I began calling as soon as I thought they would be up. No answer. So Ray and Shaun were off having breakfast at a friend's house. Still no answer. So they were having lunch at a friend's house. Still no answer. I told myself it was too early in her trip for me to drive myself nuts, so I took a nap. Still no answer. Finally with a call at dinner time I was able to hear Ashley's voice.
From her I learned that they had not started out on Friday as I had understood Heidi to be planning. They left on Saturday afternoon and only hiked four miles to Long Meadow. The reason no one answered the phone was that Ray and Shaun spent the Oakhurst hot day up on the much cooler mountains at her camp. Thus Ashley had just gotten home. She is, and has been since a baby, a level in her life. Nothing swings her one way or the other. She is the calmest person I know. And she still was. Her sixteen year old nonchalance was the best news of the day.
high in the mountains
suspended over the valley
smoothing the paths
toe to heel, toe to heel
It is such a good thought that Shaun is with Heidi as they head out to the first place where neither one has ever gone before. Only BJ is old enough, at 35, and experienced enough, as a life-long pack animal, that maybe he has been here before.
what can happen
on the roof of the world
as she goes to sleep
on the shores of Lost Lake
Ray called and gave me more exact locations so I can now follow Heidi's path on the map. Most of the places marked on her itinerary are not on even our biggest map. But he was able to help me find the major points so I can let my heart tag along with her. He said that yesterday they crossed Grizzly Pass and today (Tuesday) Diane, friend, had some concern that the pair find their way over it because the trail has not been maintained for many years. So Diane rode her horse out to a point south of the pass to make sure they had gotten across. This kind of news comforts me greatly! and I have deep gratitude for Diane being able to do something I wish I could do.
is safely passed
without a trail
her back carries forward
a hard, rough day
I know that today the whole family is meeting Heidi and Shaun at Clover Meadow. Though Ray invited us to join them, there was not the urgency to be there that I had had a week ago before her leaving. In addition to the heat was now my fear of holiday crowds on the roads.
When Ray had told me of their plans I had been very surprised, at first that Heidi had, instead of striking out across the mountains, stayed rather close to trailheads that allowed all of these meetings. Then I realized that many people who heard of her planned trip were surprised that she would "leave the family" for so long as three months. This need to be 'good', to be right, to be above a fault, which both of us share, was shaping her trip as surely as the mountains would rise up under her feet.
she who loves the solitude
of high mountains
gives her day to the family
the good child she still is
I think John Muir is spinning in his grave. Everett Ruess is surely still behind a rock and chuckling as he shakes his head. In my e-mail this morning I found this: "Mom, I am at my first rendezvous with Ray and the kids. Everything is going fine and I am over my start out jitters. It was great traveling with Shaun. I meet Ray again on the 10th. Hope you had a great 4th. don't worry, love you, heidi"
I was very touched that she took the time from a busy family day to peck out a message for me. And that someone took their computer out in the wilderness to her! The modern world. We can never shake its dust off of our feet.
a coolness blowing inland
meets hers mid-air
the tie that binds
Today, as I follow Heidi's path across the map, I see she crosses the San Joaquin River to enter the Ansel Adams Wilderness. How young our country is to be giving large patches of landscape the name of someone who has lived in my lifetime. I even know people who knew Ansel Adams well - Mary and Jim Alinders worked for him and were friends with him in his last years. And yet great mountains and deep valleys bear the name (and refuse to name the bears) from this photographer. Will Heidi's camera know the connections through which it is being carried? Are there spirits in these lands that have been colored by a human existence? Only she can find out for me and she goes there alone. I have to trust what she has learned in her lifetime, what she has learned beyond my small influence, and trust that if she is not adequately prepared, she will get a second chance.
somewhere on earth
blazing gold and quenching purple
dust is the secret
like men and women shadows walk
the sun went down and no one watched
When Shaun returned from his days of hiking with Heidi I was eager for his report on his impressions of the trip. Filtered through his interests I found out he was able to try out the many new features on his GPS (Global Positioning System) device he had gotten for his birthday. With this marvel of technology he was able to know, not only where he was at any moment but also to measure the time spent walking and the amount of time spent resting. He was most impressed with the way the figures fluctuated.
The first day he was out they walked three hours and rested for 2 1/4.
The second day they walked four hours and rested for 1 1/2.
The third day they walked five hours and rested for fifteen minutes.
Beyond the understandable progression, was the information that on the third day they had planned to camp at Grizzly Creek, but when they got there, they found it had already dried up. Having almost no water in their canteens, and none at all for BJ, they decided to go on to the small lake in Jackass Meadow hoping it was not also dried up. It wasn't. It was wet enough to support an amazing colony of mosquitoes!
and free to roam
with the GPS device
a mother's heart
I wonder if other people feel, as I do, a greater closeness to their children than to their grandchildren. I have heard that often parents prefer the grandchildren to the kids and can often form satisfying relationships with the younger generation which no longer seem possible with the products of their own loins. As grandchildren have come, year by year into my life, I have kept waiting for one that would be so special that he or she could replace or surpass the place in my heart of my children. Six babies to adults have had a chance, and still I can only say that my own children, if represented by sticks stuck in beach sand, would all stand closer to the driftwood piece that I am than any of their children which they love so completely.
Thus, tomorrow Ashley flies to Australia. I send her my prayers and wishes for a great trip, but the tug and pull of longing for her is mild compared to my feelings for her mother on her trip. With Heidi there is a strain on my ribs as my heart plunges ahead on her path across my maps.
Kahil Gibran called them
from mothers' bodies
which have torn tender flesh
Already, according to the paper itinerary, Heidi is headed today for a spot of civilization - the campground at Red's Meadow on the east side of the Sierras. I wonder how she feels to swing from places long used by mankind and areas where the foot prints of others easily blow away - even her own.
where is the home
where roses dare not go
joy without stems
bare rocks bloom with sun
in heights the mountains take us
LA-la-la keeps running in my mind. Surely because Ray is leaving Los Angeles where he saw Ashley off to Australia and Heidi is headed for the Mammouth Lakes trailhead where she will meet him. Mammouth Lakes is the LA of the eastern Sierras with dozens of campgrounds spiraling outward from what is called a 'recreational center.' I was thinking of how much work, and expense people will go to for solitude. All the testing and purchasing of camping equipment, which Heidi had done for so many years is a tiny example of this. The planning as result of studying and dreaming to coordinate a family, and then the sheer work of moving so many things from one place to another simply boggles my homebound mind. I am always surprised by the timetable of trips. How many hours of just being there it takes to get to the spot where something marvelous happens - usually in a matter of seconds.
Sometimes I think of trips to be the act of ringing a bell. There is the long walk to the place where the bell is which is called preparation. The reaching out for the bell rope is leaving home as the hand extends from the human side. Grasping the rope is that first step where nothing happens yet everything will begin. The actual trip is clanging of the bell - when the senses are scrambled, distorted, overwhelmed. Reasoning and habit are broken like peace and stillness as the sound of pulsating metal enters the brain. Ringed by the vibrations set in motion, greater than any expectation, with no exit, the being can only proceed by plan. Only upon returning home does the monstrous banging end and the soul returns to the mind, welcomed as a prodigal child. Then the mind takes a trip over the rugged hills of memory, stopping by the small streams of pleasure for a sip of joy in the perfect silence of solitude.
the sun a period
on the sign to nature's inns
how soft a prison
since air has no residence
yet gives a word to every thought
It is only four miles, as the crow flies, to tonight's campsite. And yet I see on the map that she must go across the tiny symbol ) ( of Mammouth Pass. So how many more miles will the calves of her legs pump upward and downward before she reaches Arrowhead Lake? What will our eyes see as she brings me with her into the high lakes country?
ten thousand feet
filled with footprints
given to the sky
Accidentally, but is anything truly accidental, after seeing that Heidi crossed the Mammouth Pass, I found in the book by John Muir, MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE SIERRA what he had written after making the same trip. Without his grave permission, this is borrowed from pages 217 & 218:
"Near the summit at the head of the pass I found a species of dwarf willow lying perfectly flat on the ground, making a nice, soft, silky gray carpet, not a single stem or branch more than three inches high; but the catkins, which are now nearly ripe, [John Muir's trip here was in the second week of August, 1869] stand erect and make a close, nearly regular gray growth, being larger than all the rest of the plants. Some of these interesting dwarfs have only one catkin - willow bushes reduced to their lowest terms. I found patches of dwarf vaccinium [cranberries] also forming smooth carpets, closely pressed to the ground or against the sides of stones, and covered with round pink flowers in lavish abundance as if they had fallen from the sky like hail."
jutting mountains' granite
little yet enough
faith is larger than the peaks
a heart is flower of the mind
An e-mail arrived from Heidi. During her resupply stop at Mammouth she took time to write on Shaun's laptop which he sent on to me:
"Mom, Things are going well, although you probably know that I have given up on the mule. I was spending more time managing him than I was shooting. Ray is picking up some maps tomorrow for you so you can follow the trip. Please don't worry. Everything is as it should be: many different thoughts and emotions. I appreciate you writing during this time and look forward to your thoughts. Out for anther 11 days. I love you, heidi"
So BJ has been jettisoned as excess baggage in the pasture of his owner, John Summers. My Little Red Hen Daughter who would rather do any job herself than cope with the help is herself again. I am confident that she can carry the pack she needs as she has practiced enough carrying enormous loads, because I am sure she paces herself. Now that she is in the high country she will go from one high meadow to the next, from one lake to another and tonight it is by Purple Lake where she will see mountains in her mirror.
Again a passage from John Muir's book when he was in similar territory just north of where Heidi is tonight: "Here we [at this point Muir was with the shepherds tending the flock driven to the high meadows] are camped for the night near a small lake lying on the top of the divide in a clump of the two-leaved pine. We are now about nine thousand feet above the sea. Small lakes abound in all sorts of situations, - on ridges, along mountain sides, and in piles of moraine boulders, most of them are mere pools. Only in those canyons of the larger streams at the foot of declivities, where the down thrust of the glaciers was heaviest, do we find lakes of considerable size and depth. How grateful a task it would be to trace them all and study them! How pure their waters are, clear as crystal in polished stone basins. None of them, so far as I have seen have fishes, I suppose on account of falls making them inaccessible."
a daisy vanished
on a day at summer's full
under a butterfly
a smile shaped like the children
who bid a guest, "Good Night"
Virginia Lake is / was only 2 1/2 miles from last night. But from the way the tiny blue lines on the map shoot to the left and right, the path between the lakes looks sharp and high. I suspect Heidi had better information on this and that is why she planned to accomplish only half of her normal daily trek. I wonder if she misses the mule - or anything.
diamonds become legend
a finished feeling
if heaven has different signs
forget the lady with the amulet
Until I get the new maps from Ray, Heidi's next three stops are off my map - places so tiny they are only named on the huge USGS maps she uses. I know this is meaningless, but I feel such a sense of loss when I cannot pin point on a piece of paper my imagination of where she is! It is as if she has, in a moment of exhilaration, raised up her arms as her feet release their contact with the earth.
dew from pine needles
advance is life's condition
sliding toward earth
through what transports of patience
will make me a picture of the sun?
A gray, foggy summer morning made us wonder if Heidi ever has fog in the mountains and how cold it gets at night where she is. I cannot believe how it bothers me that I cannot see a spot on the paper of a map to pin down my thoughts for her. Perhaps it is best if I just let then drift off into the atmosphere where she is closer to me,
beauty crowds me
but the road to paradise
mountains grow unnoticed
rise and pass to the south
The US Department of Agriculture (!) sent me three maps, of the John Muir Wilderness Area. Though they each were as big a table cloth, I soon had them spread over every surface of my room. All my other work was shoved aside and forgotten as I was able to mark on the paper the places spelled out in Heidi's itinerary. I hadn't had this much fun since getting my first connect-the-dots coloring book. The joy of saying over and over to myself, "Olive Lake, Olive Lake, hmmmm, Olive Lake! There it is!" was capped by discovery of another point on her journey. I barely looked at the shape of the blue drops of water on the map as my mind went racing off looking for the next one.
When Werner heard all the paper rattling, he came downstairs to see what was going on. For a while tried to watch because he too, wanted to see where she was and where she was going. Soon, though, he laughed and said just trying to follow her on a map made him tired and hungry.
Right after dinner, I spread out my delight as maps again and resumed letting my fingers do the walking up and down the ridges, past glaciers, valleys lined with rivers. At some point, I stepped back from my pleasure and asked myself why this was giving me such pleasure.
I had not minded walls
no ladder needs the bird
to know from a summer's day
how to stand on top of things
I called Ray to see how Heidi was doing and to thank him for seeing that I got the maps. He said he will be seeing her tonight and would give her my messages. "At Lake Edison?" I asked since I had so proudly found her path to that trailhead. "Oh, no, at Mammouth."
Without the services of BJ, the mule, she has changed her itinerary! Instead of roaming around as much as she had planned, she is making camps and staying in one place three-four days, or as long as her interest in the place holds. If I had been planning such a trip this is exactly what I would have done. I should have been pleased to find out that she was now going to follow what I considered a much more reasonable plan. It is one thing to hike over areas - making a new camp each night, but when one wants to photograph and to work, staying in a place long enough for the soul to catch up and feel at home seemed so much more sensible.
Okay, then why, when I went back to my florescent-marked maps, was I having such a feeling of let-down? Dang, all my gilt-edged pleasure of tracking her path had tarnished and flown away. No more itineraries - just the will of her whim.
of the delightful power
folded and creased
to have a grown daughter
under my finger again
I have had to let her go, again.
In my daily prayers for Heidi, is a part for the animals, in which I ask that they allow her safe passage through their territory, that they accept her peace and give her the gift of their knowledge. Then why was I surprised when she wrote in her week-end email:
"No really wild animals, just a garter snake, a grouse and her three babies, a pika (like a small prairie dog) and her five babies, a duck and her seven babies, and a deer."
no matter how high
are already with us
My relief at knowing Heidi was safe from any wild animals was destroyed in my own backyard. As Werner and I walked around behind the garage, the dog that belongs to the contractor building the house on the next acre, began to bark viciously. I looked up and saw the man was standing across the meadow, heard him calling his dog, and waved my thanks to him. By the time we walked around the woodpile I was several yards out in front of Werner. Suddenly, out of the tall meadow grass, there was this black and tan German shepherd-like dog just feet from me, snarling and crouching to leap on me. I screamed and covered my head and neck with my arms and hands. I thought I was going to faint and knew that if I was on the ground the dog could attack me more easily, so I fell against the woodpile.
What I couldn't see, because I had my eyes shut with fear, was that Werner saw what was happening and wisely grabbed up a piece of wood to hit the dog. Evidently this made the dog run off as all I saw as I heard the barking recede, was the wood sailing through the air in pursuit of the cringing beast. As soon as the dog realized the wood chunk was missing him, he circled back to come at me again. My screaming became even more frantic.
In the background of the dog's snarling and barking, I could hear the man yelling, "Don't worry, he won't hurt you." instead of calling his dog home. My panic became complete and I blanked out. The next thing I remembered was Werner leading me back into our garage - shaken but not bitten.
sounds of our fears
when we least expect
an answer to prayer
I have gotten behind in recording my days. The thing with the dog really unhinged me. As child I was mauled by a neighbor's Great Dane, and though I rarely think of the incident, except when I feel the scars on my scalp, my past suddenly became all too to me out there beside the woodpile. I try to put the incident away by thinking of Heidi spending three days in the Pioneer Basin. She is in a sacred and beautiful spot and I am glad to be able to think of her in one place day after day. This is a totally unreasonable pleasure, because she is always somewhere, and always on the map that is draped over my piles of books and crocheting. Where is my sense of adventure? Why doesn't the thrill of new names of lakes brighten my day?
I simply hope her umbilical cord, yet connected to me, has not transmitted my own fears into the beauty of where she is.
how far to heaven
so I can buy a smile today
I do know
without this there is nothing
oh future! a secreted peace
Today, according to the itinerary, Heidi leaves Pioneer Basin to spend the night at Trail Lake, a stop along her way back to the trail head. I wonder how it is for her to spend three days in one place, to make her home there, and then to pack up and walk away from it. And how it is to return to a place where she left her sleep five days ago. How is it to feel at home on glacier-scoured granite and then, like the wind, to come and go?
longing is a seed
a house without a door
and goes across the mountains
a cloud withdrew from the sky
On the evening California news it was reported that there was a fire "threatening groves of sequoias, which had burned 65,000 acres." Without looking at the map I thought that Heidi was very far away from the fire, and dismissed the event from my mind.
it is no surprise
the way a fire brings noise
to be alive
is the power summer has
as some go to church Sundays
When Ray got back from his supply run to Heidi, he called to tell me everything was fine. As I asked him about the sequoia fire he tells me that already last Saturday night, a week ago, he had gone outdoors, and noticed that the moon was a strange color. He called Heidi to see if she too thought it unusual. They decided that there was a forest fire someplace. The next day, on the mountain local news they were reporting it.
judgment is just
one remembered and I forgot
to keep my pledge
in the distance between us
the earth and the light balloon
The fire is being reported as only 30% confined and is still moving northward. Ray had said that he thought it was about 20 miles south of where Heidi is. Somehow, in my mother mind, I could not picture 80,000 burned acres as compared to twenty miles. How fast was the fire moving and how many acres / miles could it travel in a night? When the news report on Monday evening mentioned Rattlesnake Creek I knew I had seen that just half a page away from where I was tracking her.
It is amazing how a fear, even an unnecessary one, can create it own reality. At the intellectual level I knew Heidi was far from the fire, that she was safe where she was, that she had plenty of time to walk out of an danger, that the park service would be there to get people out of the path of the fire no matter where it went. BUT, my mother heart kept putting that fire closer and closer to my child. I would tell myself I was the one scaring myself and I could force the fright of unasked ideas away. And then like a tinder-dry pine tree, the fear would flash into flame.
Finally, I got on the web and found the site where they report on fires (http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/sequoia/incident/FireMap.htm) and there was a map, almost unreadable, where the fire was and how it grown. Most of the evening I tried to coordinate points on that map with the one I had marked out Heidi's itinerary. I could find Rattlesnake Creek but none of the other points. Perhaps I was looking at the wrong rattlesnake? No, there was the Kern River. How could this be? Where was everybody? I wanted to ask the darkness.
Only later, on another smaller map, with the towns of Johnsondale and Ponderosa marked on it, I was I able to see exactly where the fire was, and to go to bed with a quiet mind - for now.
I stayed late
comforted by cat and maps
the hour of itself
steps lightly on this narrow spot
that's saved from accident of loss
I wonder what one hears when spending a night on Chickenfoot Lake. Footsteps in the dark? A rustling of feathers? Or crowing at dawn? Would I give up my warm walls in a fog-drenched night for a granite shelf under the stars? Everything I have missed in life is being swept into the being of my daughter.
there is no silence
in the earth that is so silent
we never know
we go when we are going
thus I saw the wind within her
After complaining about the name of yesterday's campsite, today I find only praise on my map. Thinking Heidi is at the Gem Lakes, just a mile from the Mt. Dana glacier I find her in the glittering of the most marvelous high country and sit here smiling at the contour lines of a place I will never go. I find myself sending her messages with the falling of the night, to plan a side trip to the glacier tomorrow. I can only hope her love of snow will guide her to make this trip for me.
winters trapped in blue
let us hike
to a heaven more remote
a tempest mashed by air
Long Lake is certainly correctly named if Heidi's itinerary is accurate. According to my computations, she has gone several miles north, and up and down a couple of thousand feet in elevation to backtrack to a lake she has visited already once on this trip. Could it be the night of her clear skies pulls her, like the tide woman she is, to places that court the light reflected by the dry lakes of the moon? My foggy heaven gives me no clue of the size or path of the moon. Only a dripping roof, bereft of dews, marks my calendar.
by such an offering
the world is made richer
the moon arrives
on a paper path over water
words only women hear
Ray said that as he watched Heidi trudging up the high mountain toward Pine Lake, her pack looks so large and she was so small that it seemed to absorb her with the distance. This left me thinking of her pack and its journey with her. How it has become a part of her back and yet, when the clouds become palaces of darkness, she crawls inside the tent of her pack to listen to rain falling on her outer ear. The sheer fabric sheltering her is as intricate as a dream-catcher hung with mystery. Yet she lays down and gives up her consciousness to it as if making a deposit in an insured bank. What all does she roll up in the morning? Perhaps the flowery lichens of night rocks fold themselves into envelopes to carry a life lived in one night. How can they avoid crying out with the splendor of the beauty? Perhaps that is what gives Heidi's skin the glow that Ray saw as an incredible tan.
a flute of light
in realms of pure elation
the pearly ache
changed how one saw
the lake invent the mirror
I keep staring at a spot of blue on the map that is so small it is nameless. It is centrally located between Pine Lake and tomorrow night's rest at Moon Lake. But is this truly the Elba Lake named on the itinerary? I am surprised now, that I fuss when she when she stays at a place that I cannot confirm with a name. Perhaps, I tell myself, she is in haiku territory - there between the pine and the moon.
lakes strung in a rosary
repeat the sunrise
as highest praise
As we sat at breakfast, there was an unusual passage of whales. Normally we see these migrating groups in late December as they head south. But this morning there were at least six different groups - all heading north. The one bunch, closest to shore, would surface with their heads so we could see they were humpbacks, but farther out to see, the huge clouds of the spouts made us wonder if there were also blue whales among them. As we stared at the calm, blue waters we talked of the time in March when Heidi had been here and we sat and watched group after group slowly swim by as if we were viewing a parade. I wondered what blue she was seeing this morning and if, just maybe there was a big white cloud rising off a nearby peak that reminded her of our thoughts for her.
with the thrift of herds
of spouting whales
in mountain clouds
a night sky
lit only by planets
have forgotten the name
of Moon Lake
Why do I feel that Heidi, too, was awake before dawn, standing behind the tripod, waiting for the first pink and blue to leak across the waters before her? Even if Moon Lake was not the best pre-dawn shot, maybe she was up just because she wanted to get an early start on her day. Or because it was too exciting to sleep any longer. The plan for a long hike two thousand feet down the lake trail would seem enough for me. I would hate to leave the scarred beauty of the granite spaces, but she has planned to take us on down to enter French Canyon. There we will walk through forests, along a mountain stream, rubbing shoulders with deep beauty. Only at a wide place, where another stream, the Piute River conjoins, is there a meadow - wide and flat enough for a campsite.
Today, on paper, Heidi walks the valley of the Piute Canyon at 10,800 feet. Her shoes against the feet of the high mountain that carries her, unprotestingly, through the day. To her left, is the even higher glacier divide, and my comfort thinking of the fire still burning to the south of her. These fields of ice, as giant milestones, will follow her as the sun slips past her bringing her to Lower Golden Trout Lake. There she will spend, no be the receiver of the night in an amphitheater of the many Matthes Glaciers. In the morning her path will follow the progress a once there glacier carved in the granite just as dreams have passed through her mind.
designed by organ grinders
becomes a field of wonder
a great soaring song of yes
One day's hike farther east to Muriel Lake and Heidi will be in the Goethe Cirque under the bowl of the Goethe Glacier. I wonder if sleeping there causes dreams of her days living with us in Hamburg, Germany and her efforts to read his "Faustus." I am sure she is a lot happier out in the mountains than she was studying German. Though we had a lot of good laughs at the time. It is miraculous that a glacier, given a name, can hold in its rivers of ice, memories half-a-world away.
a home where you are
without a timepiece
joy without stem or core
where an apple is carried in
Since Heidi is following the Piute River through the Piute Canyon to her camping place on Piute Lake tonight, we get a little lesson, thanks to the Internet, on the Piute (or Paiute) Indians. The Piute are of two distinct American Indian groups that speak languages of the Numic (formerly called Plateau Shoshonean) group of the Uto-Aztecan family. The group that speaks Ute occupied southeastern California, and were known as the Chemehuevi. The Northern Paiute (called Paviotso in Nevada) are related to the Mono Indians of California who have been known derogatorily as Diggers for their methods of gathering food.
After 1840, with the rush of European prospectors and farmers despoiling of their already meagre supply of food plants, the Northern Paiute acquired guns and horses and fought at intervals with the whites until 1874, when the last Paiute lands were appropriated by the U.S. government. This must have been when parts of the Sierra Mountains were given their name as monuments to a lost tribe which my daughter now walks.
The Paiute were traditionally food collectors who subsisted primarily on seed, pine nuts, and small game, although many Southern Paiute planted small gardens. They lived in temporary brush shelters, wore little or no clothing except rabbit-skin blankets, and made a variety of baskets for gathering and cooking food. There were no formal bands or territorial organizations, except in the more fertile areas such as the Owens River valley in California. Little of the old customs survive, except for shamanism.
But out of this history arose a man who had an incredible influence on the religious life (and the death of the Indians at the Battle of Wounded Knee). "Known as the messiah to his followers, Wovoka was the Paiute mystic whose religious pronouncements spread the Ghost Dance among many tribes across the American West.
Wovoka was born in Western Nevada, in what is now Esmeralda County, in about 1856. Little is known about his early life, but at about age fourteen his father died, leaving Wovoka to be raised by the family of David Wilson, a nearby white rancher. Wovoka soon took the name Jack Wilson, by which he was broadly known among both neighboring whites and Indians, and worked on Wilson's ranch well into adulthood. He learned to speak English and apparently had a fair amount of contact with Christianity.
At around age thirty, Wovoka began to weave together various cultural strains into the Ghost Dance religion. Around 1870, a northern Paiute named Tavibo had prophesied that while all whites would be swallowed up by the earth, all dead Indians would emerge to enjoy a world free of their conquerors. He urged his followers to dance in circles, already a tradition in the Great Basin area, while singing religious songs. TŠvibo's movement spread to parts of Nevada, California and Oregon. Whether or not Tavibo was Wovoka's father, as many at the time assumed, in the late 1880's Wovoka began to make similar prophecies.
His pronouncements heralded the dawning of a new age, in which whites would vanish, leaving Indians to live in a land of material abundance, spiritual renewal and immortal life. Like many millenarian visions, Wovoka's prophecies stressed the link between righteous behavior and imminent salvation. Salvation was not to be passively awaited but welcomed by a regime of ritual dancing and upright moral conduct.
Despite the later association of the Ghost Dance with the Wounded Knee Massacre and unrest on the Lakota reservations, Wovoka charged his followers to "not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight. Do right always - Do not refuse to work for the whites and do not make any trouble with them."
While the Ghost Dance is sometimes seen today as an expression of Indian militancy and the desire to preserve traditional ways, Wovoka's pronouncements ironically bore the heavy mark of popular Christianity.
His invocation of a "Supreme Being," immortality, pacifism and explicit mentions of Jesus (often referred to with such phrases as "the messiah who came once to live on earth with the white man but was killed by them") all speak of an infusion of Christian beliefs into Paiute mysticism.
The Ghost Dance spread throughout much of the West, especially among the more recently defeated Indians of the Great Plains. Local bands would adopt the core of the message to their own circumstances, writing their their own songs and dancing their own dances. In 1889 the Lakota sent a delegation to visit Wovoka. This group brought the Ghost Dance back to their reservations, where believers made sacred shirts -- said to be bullet-proof -- especially for the Dance. The slaughter of Big Foot's band at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890 was cruel proof that whites were not about to simply vanish, that the millennium was not at hand. Wovoka quickly lost his notoriety and lived as Jack Wilson until sometime in 1932."
The above is quoted from the web site: http://www.crystalinks.com/paiute.html
as if sad
mountains stand in haze
darker than a starless night
presses us into a narrow valley
The campsite at North Lake is at the end of the trailhead of Bishop Park. Here Ray will meet her to bring in new film, another box of her food supplies, and fresh laundry. Before she made the trip she had prepared boxes of the dried foods she wanted to eat for the coming week along with packs of film labeled for each stretch of the walk. This woman is organized! Still, in her last email she wrote of how hard it is to pace her use of film. The food she has figured out, but she never knows when something spectacular will eat up all the film before the week is out and the next once-in-a-lifetime photo op comes up.
is the invention of the past
of the sweet turn to leave
the homestead of each night
Resupplied and going over familiar ground, Heidi returns to Muriel Lake on the trail back into the high country. For two days she will hike to get back to Hutchinson Meadow. Now she will see Piute Canyon in reverse as she walks up to familiar places that have turned around.
there is a zone
whose coldest years stand
flood in stone
glaciers' tongues blue
bruised by a water sound
Hutchinson Meadow. How homelike it must feel to return to a no longer strange place one week later. Has the view changed? Has the woman changed? We think of mountains as being eternal and yet the movement of the light, the wind, the seasons touches them with a myriad of changes. No matter how much older we grow, there is still the child in us, the person we have been all the days of our lives. And yet our lives are so very fragile. How little it takes, only the stoppage of a breath and all that gathering is gone.
is a kind of sculpture
adds to the dimension
the passage of distance
The last night on the Piute Canyon, under Pavilion Dome. So many miles in so few days. The goal has quickly pulled Heidi across a lake-less roof of the Sierra. I feel her journal will be very slim as all her energy has surely gone into carrying her heavy pack so many miles. Perhaps the river has sung to her, given her company and the two have traveled together.
a woman distilled
form of a stony way
of the passing day
Today Heidi joins the John Muir Trail, probably the closest thing to Interstate 5 she has seen in weeks. A well-traveled mountain path that should bring many new people into her horizon. For the next five days she will be in Evolution Meadow. Wanting to know about the area, I looked it up on the web and found several sites with photos! What a thrill for me to see where she is. The best side show is at http://www.qnet.com/~sierramel/slidemain.htm
but the photos are also great at: http://home.earthlink.net/~xiangzi/gallery/evol.html
and even more at:http://c3po.lpl.arizona.edu/~jbarnes/homepage/tech/evolutionvalley/day4.html
all things plastic
with snobbish abhorrence
colors dyeing a photo seem
close to a dear face
The other day, when I found those websites with photos from Evolution Valley, I printed out a couple of my favorites - pictures that showed me my imagination of what it must look like where Heidi is. I have been amazed how those smears of colored dye have soaked into me. Then today, I accidentally picked up John Muir's book, MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE SIERRA, and on page 235 read:
"Probably more free sunshine falls on this majestic range than on any other in the world I've ever seen or head of. It has the brightest weather, brightest glacier-polished rocks, the greatest abundance of irised spray from its glorious waterfalls, the brightest forest of silver firs and silver pines, more starshine, moonshine, and perhaps more crystal-shine than any other mountain chain, and its countless mirror lakes, having more light poured into them, glow and spangle most. And how glorious the shining after the short summer showers and after frosty nights when the morning sunbeams are pouring through the crystals on the grass and pine needles, and how ineffably spiritually fine is the morning-glow on the mountain tops and the alpenglow of evening. Well may the Sierra be named, not the Snowy Range, but the Range of Light."
with chasubles of snow
a church of light
scoured by glaciers
a pure heart in sunshine
With the beginning of school, Shaun took care of many little jobs he has let the summer hide from him. So today a package goes off with photos for me, I got to talk to him as long as I wanted, and he sent along his mom's email from the last resupply. In her message was this paragraph:
"Wrote a poem the other day that ended with the line I am no longer a visitor here, it was an epiphany for me about the trip. Feeling good, shooting is going better, however it is clear to me this trip is no longer about the photography."
I feel the open spaces of the alpine landscape has revealed a part of my daughter that is entirely new to me. I think that when I see her again, I will find a totally new person, only wrapped in familiar paper. Am so eager to meet her!
rivers of film
pressed to the sky
in alpine lakes
the unholdable images
still the shutter releases
Among the few paragraphs in Heidi's email was this:
"I have spent the last several weeks above treeline, much enjoying the feeling of the alpine landscape. One thing that truly amazes me is the constant evolvement of the mountains. I can hear large pieces of stone falling, tumbling down the mountainside, but I am never fast enough to see where the rock crumbled. It is an eerie feeling to experience movement of something that looks so rock solid and stable."
a day's passage
the wizardry of stones
makes a path
below the peaks and spires
an evolving alphabet of feet
Today Heidi leaves Evolution Basin for Dusty Basin. I suppose the name says it all and it is not picturesque. In one of her emails, Heidi wrote:
"Sometimes when I look out over the mountain ranges and see how far I have traveled I can't quite believe it. I have seen some wonderful lakes and some that were not so photogenic."
The mother in me wants to tell her that anywhere there is a glint of light, there is a photograph is one only knows how to view it. But fortunately she is far enough away not to hear me, and old enough not to listen to me, and wise enough to know this for herself.
a mother's love
the gift-wrapped poison
of flooded trees
the secret wreckage
that leaves no wake
The package from Shaun arrives bringing the disc with Jackie's photos. It is so good to see the reality of a time two months ago that I am able to stop the hours and reel back the days to the times in dazzling color, smiles and sunshine. And yet tonight, when I think of Heidi sleeping at Saddlerock Lake, I see her in the black and white of a waning moon.
a pearly ache
hard as granite rocks
scoured by the glaciers
of unexpressed love
While cleaning house I was thinking of Heidi, of her having no house to clean these weeks. At first the idea of being free of dusty houses and cruddy sinks sounded pretty desirable until I remembered how dirty one gets camping. Added to that is the even more difficult task of getting things clean with cold water, probably no soap if one is politically correct and always more blowing dirt. Every available water source in nature is ringed with mud or worse and even something once clean only needs to touch the soot on the bottom of a pan or bottom of a boot and it is back to square one.
Ray told me about helping her take her tent to the creek to wash it and how much of the dirt ended up on him and his clean shirt. I had such sympathy for these men married to my daughter and me.
a hill replenished
by the meeting of family
snow melted in the hands
of a pretty girl in summer
It is funny, but when I know Ray is meeting Heidi it is very hard for me to write on that day. It seems as if she is with him she does not need my stream of thoughts and chunks of my companionship. I talked to Ashley last night and she said Ray was leaving at 500 to go to Big Pine Creek to meet her. Because he won't get back until Monday morning and Ashley cannot start missing school this early in the year, both she and Shaun are staying home.
According to my map and the name of the trailhead - Glacier Lodge - the biggest glacier of the Sierras should be a feather in their caps.
time burned off
the glare of the glacier
yet the raw power
bestowed by the moon
Got a call from Ray that Heidi will be spending the night at First Lake. There are puddles of lakes at the foot of the Palisades Glacier - so many that they have simply named them first, second, third; up to the Seventh Lake. He said that from highway 395 you can see the glacier as you drive south. I do not think the rest of the family realizes how I itch to see a glacier. How many Dramamine would it take for me to get there? I plan, I scheme, and I give up. But I am so thankful that Heidi is seeing it for me.
the broken open monuments
at the source
a necklace of rocky water
crystal and turquoise
Tonight Heidi is supposed to be at Black Lake and then tomorrow she goes off my radar screen. Ray says she will spend the week at the several lakes at the foot of the Palisades Glacier with no destination except her own sweet will. Her freedom means I will have the equal freedom of placing her wherever I want and enjoying her view no matter what is above her brown brow. Besides I will be off on my own journey. Am going to San Francisco to meet Hatsue Kawamura while she and Hiro make a pause in their flight from Tokyo to Detroit. We will do one more proofing of A STRING OF FLOWERS, UNTIED. . . tomorrow and then I will hurry home on Thursday to get to the proofing of WRITING AND ENJOYING HAIKU A Hands-On Guide. Only in my moments of hating traffic and cars and highways will I think of Heidi in the cool winds from the glacier.
a grotesque braille
in wild rivers
with the mineral patience
of one in a seat belt
I am home again, and now I think of Heidi as also being home again even though she is living in a tent and carrying her cupboard on her back. As I resettle into my former life, I am already thinking of how it will be for her to be back with her family, back in the familiar house, doing all the things she has nearly forgotten to do. Coming back home always feels to be like the yarn basket in disarray. It takes me hours to unravel I have forgotten, ignored and wiped from the slate of my consciousness. Thread by thread I resume weaving the old patterns of my days. But seeing a map lying on the table, the new place mats, and the tea canister from Japan I know nothing is the same as it was a few days ago.
with the memory of smoke
the ocean air
of the gull-colored village
sacred with my history
Since having to give the four legs and strong back of BJ the mule, Heidi makes another change in her itinerary. When she gets her resupply this weekend, instead of walking in and out of a trailhead, she will get into the RV for a ride south to Independence where she will go back in at the Onion Valley Trailhead. This will put her at the Kearsarge Lakes below the Kearsarge Pinnacles. New country, new sights and today I am seeing none of them. Just our own sunny, warm September Labor Day holiday spreads out before me. All the lakes Heidi will be seeing today are combined into my one ocean.
celebrating the elixirs
water goes in circles
around each of us
Last night Ray called to report in on the visit with Heidi so I have a long story today.
He and the kids had seen her off at the trailhead at Onion Valley Monday morning and made the seven-hour drive back home when they got a call about her. She had only gone about a mile and a half up the trail when she was met by a ranger checking passes. For the past couple of days she had seen the smoke plume from the Hickok Fire ( a new one burning south of Big Pine - where she had come out) and had checked on it and seen that it was in the Basin Lakes area - far north of where she was planning on going. So she knew that there was no danger from fire for her during this week's trek. But still, here was a ranger patrolling her path.
He demanded to look at her pass. He asked her where she had come from. She showed him her Park Service approved itinerary. Somehow the man could not figure out how she had gotten from Big Pine to Onion Valley without passing through the fire. She explained that her supply team (the family) had brought her out and back in here. He refused to accept that she was okayed for this trip. She told him again and again of the ranger who had approved her plans in Clover Meadow Station. Finally she added that even that that ranger's supervisor had okayed the plan. The ranger got on his phone, made a few calls and found out that everything Heidi was saying was correct.
As Heidi started to load up to continue on her way, he added, "Do you have a bear container?" Every one packing in the back country is required to carry a special pot designed to keep the bear paws off the food. Of course, my super cautious and law-abiding Heidi had her brand-new bear container with her and she said so proudly - hoping to end the ordeal on a positive note.
"I need to see your bear container." he told her flatly. This meant opening her just -oaded pack and digging it out of all the new groceries. As Ray was telling me the story I remembered how Heidi trembled on the verge of tears in the Kona Airport when the Hawai'ian agricultural agent made her dig her apple-shaped candles out of her luggage. Where other people would laugh off the incident and feel that they had made a fool of the inspector, Heidi and I share a genetic streak of a need to be, do and act correct at all times, and when an authority figure suspects us of even the most mildly thought-to-be criminal behavior, nothing upsets and devastates either of us more than this suspicion.
When Heidi was finally able to extract the bear container, the ranger adds another demand. She has to empty it so he can read the serial number on it. So she hastily takes out all the food packets she had so carefully put into it just so he could read the numbers inside.
It seems that over the summer, these National Park Service certified bear containers proved to be not totally bear-proof. Thus, the company had to make modifications on the design. Naturally being gone all summer Heidi had not gotten a notification that her container needed to be sent back to the factory.
The ranger almost gleefully tells Heidi she will have to go back to civilization to get a properly modified bear container. "I have no car at the trailhead. I was dropped off and am out here alone." I am sure the quavering in her voice was the idea of being forced to spend the next nine days waiting at the trailhead with the whole Sierra spread out before her and she could not get into it. I am hoping it was the glistening of tears in her eyes that made him say, "Well, you can go in but you must overnight at the designated places and use the Park Service containers." If a ranger told Heidi to use these she would, in her need to do the right thing, stay in places she did not want to be, just to obey. But it was better than being stuck in the trailhead, so she agreed. As Ray said to me, "If a ranger I had told me that I would have waved him a finger and camped where I d@mned well wanted to be." But we both knew Heidi would not - could not. And she was now very upset. She packed up her things in a disorderly haste and got as far from the ranger as quickly as she could.
Now plodding alone with the constant replay in her head of the upsetting incident, she blindly forced herself to hurry up the path, knowing that she had an extra five miles to the campsite she had to be in instead of the one for which she was headed. As she trudged along she head a voice call out, "Heidi! Heidi, is that you?"
From among the boulders appeared a guy Heidi knew. She had visited him because he is known as a "light-packer" expert. This means someone who goes out into the back country carrying as little as humanly possible. He was with three other people who were going out at Onion Valley. Heidi could not hold back her feelings about too-fresh occurrence with the ranger. She could not have talked to a better person at that moment. This guy refuses, he is very much the rebel, to even carry the bear container! and proud of it. Ten minutes of talking to him soon had Heidi laughing and feeling good again. She was able to do him a favor with her warning. The other three hikers, with containers, continued down the trail, while the guy took off across country toward the trailhead.
When Ray heard of Heidi's trouble with the bear container he looked the company up on the internet and found out that the problem with the device came because some "idiots" had used it to cook in. Thus they had destroyed the epoxy seal that kept the bear's nose out of the thing. Instead of saying that any container not set over a fire would work find, the company was forced by the park service to pay each customer to send the box to them, make a modification, change the serial numbers and pay the freight back. So in reality Heidi's bear box was fine and usable. Ray called and left a message on her phone for her. Hopefully, by this morning she has checked it and found out she is safe, the bears are safe and the only hazards are overzealous rangers.
the sun exhausted
by the smoky forest fire
beads on a damaged rosary
of a jester with a burning faith
A fairly common device for Japanese poetry is for persons who are widely separated to find a togetherness in seeing the same moon at the same time. This morning I experienced this poetical technique. I was lying awake in the yet-dark dawn when I saw the slenderest sliver of a moon, a silver bowl of night rising with the brightness of a small planet at its edge. As the two wanders of the galaxy rose out of the points of pine, I had the feeling that Heidi in her thin tent could not avoid also being awakened by their incredible beauty.
with the unadorned
holding both of us
Today Heidi should reach Rae Lakes to reconnect with a part of her childhood as she used to hike back here when she was in her teens. Just this thought has connected me to scenes on which I have not thought for years. Camping - backpacking with her father. In fact it was on a backpack trip to Rae Lakes when I made the final decision to divorce him.
The trip had taken weeks to organize and we had spent money I did not think we had in order to equip ourselves and the three kids. As the piles of stuff I thought we would never use again accumulated across the living room and through the dining room I told myself that the trip was for the kids and their experiences and therefore worth whatever their dad was investing in it. And I admit that I was eager to get out of the heat of the San Joaquin Valley and into the mountains for a cool two weeks.
Also our marital situation had become even more rocky in the past year and the trip was presented to me as a way of pulling us back together by having some quality time together - so there was no way I could be against all the work and expense. For days my kitchen smelled of dried blood as tray after tray of jerky went into the pile of envelopes of dehydrated food scattered into future day's meals. We were definitely needing some fresh clean air.
Finally we were driving past our old campgrounds at Cedar Grove in the Kings Canyon Park where we had gone most of our summers since living in California. Camping was not new to us. Bob saw it as the cheapest way to spend a vacation and I saw it as a chance to live outdoors - something I had always wanted to do. So at least that worked for us. But this was the first time, now that the kids were 13, 12 and 10, that we were attempting to backpack into the wilderness for the first time. We got to Zumwalt Meadows where we parked the van and began to try to divide up the piles of packed up stuff for each child. I offered to walk over to the ranger station to check on things ahead of us and to report in on our plans, but Bob poo-poohed my suggestion saying I was being silly. Still, I strongly felt someone should know we were heading out and told him that either he went over to make the report or I would. Right there we had a full-blown fight on our hands. And the kids stood around watching us with despair plain on their faces. Two weeks of this? How would it go?
As usual, I gave up and got on with the harnessing the kids in their loaded backpacks. As we walked away from the van we would have had to pass by the ranger station which Bob was very determined not to visit, so instead of immediately getting on the path, he struck out across country so we could pick up the trail beyond the sight of the station. Our way was uphill and we were all concentrated on just moving forward, keeping the pack centered on our backs, readjusting straps as we tried to get comfortable with the unaccustomed loads. The kids kept requesting rest stops and I kept making small noises asking where he thought the trail was and shouldn't we on it by now? As we climbed the trees were left behind and we were walking through head-high manzanita bushes. I wanted a trail so I could occasionally see my feet and maybe a couple of kids instead of just moving bushes. I began to be afraid that we would lose a kid in the overgrowth.
Bob hushed all my comments with his expert knowledge of the land (he had never been here before) and he was sure we were going in the right direction. At the next rest I asked if he had the compass. It seemed time for us to be using it. He said something about it was deep in his pack and he did not want to take the time to dig it out. We could see that the mountain before us was before us, so we continued climbing it. His idea was that when we got to the top of the mountain we could see where we were and where the trail, which ran along Bubba Creek would be. The longer we walked, the higher and less direction the sun had and the hotter we got, the more scared the kids became because, they even more than I, realized how lost we were. First one and then the other would start to silently cry. We told each other we simply did not have enough energy to waste on crying and beside tears would cost us too much water. Several times I suggested that we turn back but this was a patriarchal family and I had no vote. We climbed. At times the bushes we were forcing ourselves through were so high we could not see the top to which we were headed. With Bob was in the lead the rest of us just followed with our heads bowed and our backs curved.
As we got more and more tired we did get nearer the top and the bushes suddenly got shorter and shorter until we came out on a place where there was only granite rocks and a few straggly trees. At the first place we could sit down the kids and I sank to the ground. We could see that the top was still a bit farther ahead, but the kids were red-faced and panting and I, too had had enough. Bob wanted to continue on to the top to see where we were but I was afraid to have him go off and leave me out here with the kids. What if he got lost from us? How would I find my way back alone? What if something happened to me. A rattlesnake, a fall and the kids would on their own. No! I felt we had to stay together. Still he insisted that he could take a short hike without his pack and scout out the area while we rested. Again we were arguing and the kids were huddled together crying just under our angry determined voices.
Finally I simply became furious. Something motherish broke lose in me and I got very quiet and deadly serious. "Okay, you have gotten us into this mess, but this is the end of your leadership. We are sticking together and I am taking charge of the kids and myself. You are no longer in charge. I forbid you to walk away from us now." I was ready to bodily assault him to keep him from leaving and he felt my determination. Suddenly it was agreed that we had gone far enough today. We had enough water for the night and here was where we were pitching our camp.
As I picked where to put our things, Bob began to walk around saying that 'over there' was a much better place; or maybe over there? I simply ignored him and got the kids started with unpacking the tent and cooking gear where I wanted it to be. I was not moving an inch. Bambi came and leaned against me, crying and saying how she scared she was. I hugged her close and without realizing what I was committing myself to, I promised her that if we got out of this I would divorce her dad and take care of her. But first we had to get back to civilization. The kids readily understood that we had work to do and they poured some of their fears into making a camp.
When we got out the food Bob came back quickly enough and he seemed to have understood something out there on the mountain top. There were no more arguments. We were solidly committed to getting our family taken care of and back, or saved, or whatever it took.
the mask returned
me to myself
white faces around
the campfire's glow
I just realized that the end of yesterday's report needed a conclusion, so here is the rest of the story.
As I made dinner that first night out, I remember thinking that the situation was dire enough that I would change the planned menu. Bob loved to make lists and each day's food allotment had been written down like a law. In my new power I decided that we would splurge and have the chocolate pudding as reward. Whatever it cost it was worth it and I delighted in the small freedom of deciding what to serve for dinner. Everyone was on their best behavior and we even joked and sang as we sat around the glow of our tiny campfire. After the kids were in their sleeping bags and surely into an exhausted sleep, Bob and I continued our ancient arguments in low voices. As I sat huddled in the cold mountain air I was shivering. And then with fear when the hooting of an owl joined in with a different, more threatening opinion.
We decided that water was our greatest priority and that on the downside of this mountain there had to be Bubba Creek and the trail. We told ourselves that we were only freaked by this misstep, and not in any real danger. We knew we were smart enough to get tomorrow so we laid down on the granite mattress to sleep.
The next morning the world with light on it looked even more hopeful. We were eager to get closer to a river because our supply of water was nearly gone. I was surprised how quickly things got packed away and how soon we were on our way. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we headed downhill, knowing that the water was going the same way we were.
By mid-morning we did reach reach the river and it was a beauty. Sparkling water gushed and rushed over granite boulders as big as a house. I hadn't expected Bubba Creek to be such a big river. In most places it was 15 - 20 yards across and was deep and fast. We expected to find a trail on our side so we were not worried about having to cross it. First, though I demanded that we take a rest and have a snack. We found a place where the water spread out over a huge rock before plunging down a waterfall. Here I felt the place was smooth enough that I could see that there were no snakes and in the quiet backwater we could soak our feet. All of us already had blisters from the new, never-yet-broken-in hiking boots.
Surprisingly, without debate, Bob and I agreed to turn right and follow the river which had to lead into the trail. We loaded up and with great hope of soon being right, we started off. It was not easy to walk along the river without a trail. We had to scoot down the huge rocks and clamber over piles of boulders. In any of the relative flat places there were trees and even bushes to scrap through. We walked until the sun was high. Finally, even Bob had to admit that this was not a trail and this was not getting us any closer to the trail. Then he got the idea that maybe the trail lay to the left of where we had come to the river. Resigned, but not with the panic of yesterday, we retraced our steps. If the trail was not here it had to be there. We were sure.
Still, when we got back to the place we had rested earlier, there were edges of fear that what we were attempting was illogical. We thought of trying to cross the river, but it was so wide and deep we were more scared of it than of our being lost. Still, not knowing what else better to do, we pressed onward up the river. There were times that the fall of the river was so precipitous that we had to climb back up the mountain a ways in order to get around the jumble of rocks. We went on. At times it seemed we were on a faint path, but we missed seeing the forest service's brown and orange signposts that would reassure us we were on a regular way to the John Muir Trail. Again we were climbing a mountain and something in me kept saying we should be going downhill. Still we went on, consoled by the river's presence.
Late in the afternoon we walked into a tiny paradise. Here was rough picnic table made of a split tree. All around were saplings tied to trees to support tents as if a larger group had often camped here. A large stone ringed campfire place told us though, no one had been here since last summer. The ashes had all been washed away in the spring snow-melt. A lovely place, we thought, but we needed yet to find the trail. The kids and I really hated to leave the lovely place, but Bob was back in command and very sure that this camp meant the trail was just ahead.
Within about fifteen minutes he changed his mind. We came to a place where the mountain seemed to break off and let half of its side slip down. The water was roaring over the edge of a cliff a hundred feet over our heads. The river had worn a crack only for itself between the jagged walls. There was no way to go farther up the river. The falls was so beautiful we stood there staring at it in awe, barely aware of what its presence meant to us. Whatever trail we were on ended here.
Either from the coolness of the falls or coming evening we quickly decided to go back to the pretty place to spend the night. At least here we had enough water to wash yesterday's macaroni and cheese off the dishes before we got dinner. Just having the convenience of a flat table with sawed off rounds of trees as stools, a fence with a privy behind it, and the rope for hanging our food out of the way of bears made us feel at home. The sound of the river, the peacefulness of the mountains, the good air - I was no longer unhappy. We made ourselves at home and decided to enjoy what we had while we had it.
The next day, though Bob began with his arguments that I stay here with the kids while he scouted the river looking for the trail. I felt a little safer here than the night before on the mountain and felt that someone in the forest service must know about this place. If Bob got out they would know where to look for us. We didn't have many choices and the kids were very tired, so I let him take off.
As soon as he was around the bend and out of sight my worries started up. What if one of the kids fell into the river? One of us got bit by a rattlesnake? Got bite by a spider in the rickety-made privy? Got food poisoning from our overheated jerky? What if Bob fell in the river? Or fell into the rocks and couldn't go on? No one would know we were back here? Then what? A perfectly beautiful day in a marvelous place was perfectly horrible. The kids surely hated my keeping them together, close to me and having me constantly checking on them with my supervisor manner. How glad I was to see Bob return in the afternoon, even though his news was not good. He found no trail going as far as he could.
I think we did not tell the kids this bit of news. By now they felt comfortable in the place and were happy to be spread out by their various interests. Sometime that evening, sobered by our situation, Bob and I put aside our fighting and became united in our goal of saving the family.
Into our truce came the next day. Both Bob and I were feeling very ragged and low but we tried to hide this from the kids by declaring a holiday. We decided to spend the whole just enjoying the place, and resting up for the next push to get out. With Bob there the kids were more relaxed and the child in him gave them better company than my attitudes of the day before. There were long moments of a peaceful enjoyment of this beautiful place. I sometimes wondered what the high bars tied up in the trees were for but I could find no use for them by campers. Still, this place was so obviously made for some special reason. By evening we felt as snug as if we were in our own living room. It is amazing how easily kids adapt to whatever situation their parents put them in.
I was awake before dawn the next morning. Because Bob and I had agreed to again try walking out by following the river downhill, because we knew that eventually it had to bring us to where other people were, I was eager to get started. There was breakfast to cook, tents to take down, bags to fold up, clothes to repack so much to do. However, Bob was in his "oh let's go slow with this." He was the last one out the tent, coming out only when he smelled the coffee. Then at breakfast he decided that he wanted to walk back up the falls before we left the area - anything he could do as resistance to my nervous need to get going. He took Hans with him back to the falls, on the excuse that maybe they could fish there, leaving the girls and me in the camp.
Resigned that maybe today was not the day we would get out, I crawled out on a rock in the sun by the river. As I was braiding my hair I heard a male voice say, "What are you doing here?" As I turned around, thankful that I had not yet taken off my clothes for a swim as I had been planning, there stood two park rangers.
"We are lost." I answered truthfully.
"You are surely far enough off the trail." one informed me.
"Maybe that is why we can't find it. This is Bubba Creek isn't it?"
"No, you are on the fork of the Kings River. This is not part of the trail. Where were you going and what are you doing here?" His eyes were rapidly surveying our campsite looking for the male portion of the party. When he saw none both rangers got very pushy about informing me how foolhardy it was of me to take my children so far off the trail and to be staying here alone. I got a lecture on how our party had not registered at the station for the hike and how much money we could be charged for our disobedience. As the men became more and more menacing, I told Heidi and Bambi to go get their dad. He was the one who should be getting this lecture - not me.
When he showed up, a bear of a man with a black bushy beard, the rangers forgot about their lectures and began telling him how to get us out. It turned out that if we had continued downhill long enough we would have come to the junction of Bubba Creek and the river we were on would have led us back to the ranger station. Suddenly it all sounded so simple.
With Bob now eager to pack up we accomplished the job in record time. I barely had time to realize that those strange contraptions in the trees was where the men hung their killed deer to bleed. We had stayed in a hunters' camp.
Knowing where we were headed meant that there were less stops to debate whether we should go on or not. We just hiked as fast as we could. Bob was very determined to get back to wherever the trail was as soon as possible that he wouldn't stop to let the kids rest. It got hot and they were still very heavily loaded. Finally, I got the idea of demanding that we pause long enough to let me photograph the flowers. For that he would stop. I used the device mercilessly. Whenever a kid made a tired sound, or stumbled or even paused for breath, I would decide the nearest flower needed photographing. Even if I had already a shot of the species, this one was so special I needed a new photo.
When Heidi and I were in Hawai'i last year she said that she remembered this part of that trip - how all the rest stops were caused by flowers. And yesterday some man sent me an email saying how much one of my haiku had touched him. The haiku?
Which was not written until 1984 or 1985, under an entirely different situation.
a great sorrow needs
to be fed
even the flowery lichens
on the moon's dark side
With a new day's energy, I feel I can continue yesterday's saga.
The way back to the trail along the river was a long, hard hike. Only because the rangers had told us that this was the way out and that they had come in over it, gave us the courage to continue. Then being on the trail was such a comfort that our hearts no longer lagged in unknowing and disbelief, but our legs and backs were crying out for rest we did not take. With the last bit of our energy we got to our parked van along with the last of the light of the day. I asked Bob to set up the tent while I dug out enough ready calories for dinner, but he refused. As the exhausted family sat on the dusty ground drinking water and chewing jerky he and I argued about the need for the tent for the night. Seeing the huge scratches the park service's not really bear-proof garbage cans told me there would be visitors in the night and I wanted at least a bit of stretched canvas between any bear and my kids. Again he refused, so I rearranged and reloaded the van to make beds for the kids and myself inside. We were terribly crowded but at least I felt safer here where we all quickly fell asleep.
Crash! Bang! and the sound of van's back doors being yanked open. Into the darkness, and on top of our tangled bodies came Bob's big bod with all the fear of a bear behind him. Added to the pain and in-the-middle -of-the-night fright was my fury with him. In my fear and ragged nerves, I began to pound on him and told him that he could not lie here taking up most of the space as he intended. He was so shaken, and glad to be inside, that he accepted sitting up, as I had to do, the rest of the short, cramped night. Much later I learned that primitive mankind also slept in our same position - sitting with knees drawn up as pillow for our heads and aching necks.
The next day I could not believe I was hearing correctly when Bob began to talk about his plans for us to start the trip anew and how we could still get to Rae Lakes and have a few days there. As loudly as he made plans I whispered my "No, no, no way, no." Finally he tried to talk the kids into going with him and leaving me here at the trailhead if I was going to be so stubborn. I refused to let him take the kids alone with him. Hans really wanted to go because his dad offered him fishing promises. Heidi just wanted peace and Bambi wanted to go home. Bob and I fought and the kids would wander away to get away from us and then come right back since they needed to keep updated on how the battle was going. Finally, we agreed that he could hike back to the lakes himself but that I would take all the kids and go home for the rest of our vacation.
I helped him put together the things he would need for nine days and could not help smiling when I saw he needed more things (mostly food) than he could easily carry. But he was determined and I was looking forward to being back home with the kids so we ignored the fact that his pack was overloaded.
Before starting out, though, this time he walked to the ranger station to file his trip. The kids and I debated whether to quickly throw the rest of the things in the car and head for home or should we stay awhile and enjoy the place. We were all still tired so we laid out sleeping bags in the shade of the tall pines for a nap.
Just as we were blissfully falling asleep, we were awakened by someone slamming the van doors. Bob had came back. As he slung his backpack in the van he said, "Come on. We are leaving! Right now." I could not figure out why he had changed his mind and why he was so furious. A little scared of him, we all jumped up and shoved things here and there in haste while Bob sat in the driver's seat waiting on us. The kids were scared quiet the whole way home. I was dying to know what had happened but knew better than to ask him with the six little ears in the back seat.
Later, much later, he admitted that the rangers refused him permission to pack out into the back country because of his disobedience for their rules earlier. I guess they gave him the lecture he didn't get the day before.
I wonder how much of all of this Heidi is still carrying around today in her own backpack. I do know that the next summer, after the divorce, Bob did take the kids again on this failed trip and Heidi still has a black and white photo of herself standing at the sign marker on Glen Pass. Somehow Rae Lakes took on an additional importance to her when she began dating Ray Vetter and the two of them made several trips over the years to this place where I have never been.
the cove of imagination
all facts are chiseled hard
and still salt in a wound
During all of Heidi's journey I have felt fairly close to her, even though my getting to where she is would be impossible. I have felt that Ray's resupply trips has kept me informed enough of her well-being that I have rarely worried about her. And never have I felt the over-powering need to get in touch with her. Well, now I have reached that point.
The Kodansha editor needs her okay on changes in the cover illustration. As usual with publishers, they have material for months and then when they are ready to move on something, everyone else is expected to jump and take care of whatever immediately. Establishing contact with Heidi has been one of my priorities the past several days. I do not like it when something lies around undone because something else stops me from getting it done. If I let a task lay, that is one thing, because I know at any moment I can take it up and do it. But when I cannot reach Heidi for a reply something large and scratchy stays in my way. Like a stone in my shoe, this is not life-threatening, but how it pecks holes in my peace.
chocolate is a brown
lost in the part of something
so vast it has my name
I am rereading Roxana Robinson's biography of Georgia O'Keeffe and was struck by the paragraph on page 28 that reads "The instinctive need to transform experience into image is a mysterious phenomenon. . . " Robinson continues by quoting from Gaston Bachelard's book, The Poetics of Space "Forces are manifested in poems" - and paintings - "that do not pass through the circuits of knowledge." Robinson answers the quote with her idea that "These forces, vital and inexplicable, pass through the circuits of the soul. They are responsible for the sense of joyful recognition, interior resonance and blissful confirmation that attend the sight of certain paintings." And I would add "Or poems."
As I write this up, it get rather convoluted. As I read it yesterday, the paragraph in the book seemed such a clear, vital and actual description of the process of what I do. Now I am wondering, if my feeling this morning is the same as the excitement of wanting to take a photo of a certain scene, and then getting home and finding out the photo shows nothing of the previous inspiration.
the church suspended
the stray emotions in
the aroma of a wrist
I am sitting here with a stack of 10 books waiting to be reviewed for LYNX. I type a sentence or two and BAM! my mind goes blank as if a door has been closed. Usually I am excited about doing the reviews, and I am always touched and pleased by the books of others. But how any synonyms do I know, or are stored in my computer for good, fine, and excellent? It seems that now, even before noon, I have used up my day's allotment of words. Perhaps if I promise to remain mute the rest of the day I will be given the hands-full that I need to get this job done. Maybe I can borrow a bunch against tomorrow's ration? Who would I ask? Who is in charge of doling out the alphabets of words? How to get them to drip off my fingers onto the keyboard as they usually do?
I have emptied the cat's box twice, plucked the errant hairs from my chin, changed the roll of toilet paper, stared holes in the window glass, admired cypress shadows on the new redwood fence, yawned several times, done my carpel tunnel exercises, answered all my email, washed the dishes, and refused to check out the auctions on ebay (am I still ahead on that dolly mold for $5.00?).
I wonder what Heidi does when she wants to do nothing else. Sing a song to the nearest mountain? Dance until the trees are all jealous and shaking in the wind? To take a a walk would be a busman's holiday for her. With a resupply day still ahead of her, there is surely no chocolate left or anything else for quick and nibbly snack. I doubt either us have ever been driven to cook from boredom. Hunger - few times. Boredom - never. Beside either of us could exist fine for days on salami and peanut butter.
A nap! Heidi would take a nap. I think I'll join her with one via long distance. It is a beautiful September day. Maybe even the last good one of the year. But perfect for a little doze in the sun before winter begins.
I got a call from Ray that he had meet Heidi, that she was fine and that she had changed her itinerary. He had picked her up at Onion Valley Trailhead, the southern most point of her travels. Instead of going back in there and walking north through Taboose Pass to that trailhead, she decided to hop a ride with Ray back up to the northernmost put-in place - Mammouth Lakes. There, even he accompanied her the short way to get to see the Devil's Post Pile - a place where the lava, instead of curling and waving as the Hawai'ian lava does, splits into square-cornered logs.
BTW have you seen the recent photos of the Pu'u O'o (Big Pimple) flow on the Big Island? The other day a stream of lava was running across a black sand beach into the roaring surf. Check it out at the http//hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/update/main.html. My favorite photos are from the 3rd of September.
So back to the lava in California. Here the lava was prevented from spreading out so it flowed into a deep depression in the earth. The trapped weight and heat of the mass caused it to crystallize into a honeycomb pattern of hexagrams - some cells were over two feet across and many extended the depth of the lava. As the lava weathered, and probably was raised up due to plate action, the vertical cracks widened and split off the long rods of basalt that look like posts made for a Devil's fence. Ray's comment as he arrived on the scene "The photos of this place are better!" But he added that the longer he looked, the more interesting it all became.
Then Heidi headed north, alone and eager to be going. She has had several weeks in previous Augusts in the Thousand Lakes region, but this time she was headed to new territory in The Minarets which is farther into the back country and to the west of where she has been.
Ray mentioned that at the ranger station her pack weighed in at 56 lbs, which is almost half of her own body weight. With her new strength she has taken along a new lens and more filters as the season deepens into autumn.
a sense of time
deeper into the mountains
to the surface of things
fresh from creation
I am pretending this is NOT Friday, the thirteenth, but Monday, September 18th, 1933. And we are not reading Heidi's not-yet written journal or even my thoughts of this day but those of a young man named Everett Ruess. In the early thirties, this strangely talented boy, unable to function well in civilization, followed his inclination to be to lonely places, to places where the earth was lightly touched by humanity. With either two mules or a horse and pack mule, he camped alone each summer in a different section of the Southwestern United States. In 1933, he left from Hollywood, his home, to be driven by his older brother Waldo to Visalia and Three Rivers where he entered the Sequoia Park at the end of May.
Often following either the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest trail, as Heidi has done in a less direct route, Ruess rode across the high country up to the Mammouth Lakes area and then turned west and exited through the Yosemite Valley. The day before yesterday Heidi crossed the path he had taken on September 18th, 1933. From his journal we can read
"I rode around the lake [Lake Mary] and at the Wildfrie P.O., sent home a fine view of the back range [a postcard of Mt. Whitney]. Passing two other lakes [Horseshoe Lake and McCloud Lake], I struck up trail, climbing thru pumice gravel. Then there was a long descent thru a dense, gloomy forest of firs, into Red's Meadow campground. I camped a little beyond and went to see the Devil's Post Pile.* Then I went thru the camp to see who was interesting. [Though Ruess craved traveling alone, he was also greatly interested in interacting with others and was very bold about striking up new acquaintances with strangers.] After wasting some time with a wheezy old senescent, I stopped in a camp of disappointed hunters. They were an interesting crowd. After supper they decided they'd like me to pack them back into Fish Creek or Deer Creek [areas in the wilderness to the south]. First it was two, then three, then all six decided to go with me.
Cecil, Ray, Walt and I drove down to Mammouth to buy provisions. After debauching on candy and cigarettes, we drove back in the dark. The lights went out when were going down a dangerous grade, but we came in safely. I saw the earthquake fault on Minaret Ridge. Sunset had been superlative, with a green sky behind the spires and minarets, and the rays of the sunken sun spreading fan-wise behind the pinnacles. We had plenty of coffee, and Walt, Cecil and I stayed up quite late, talking. They seem quite alert and intelligent."
*Devil's Postpile Monument ranks among the world's finest examples of columnar-jointed basalt. The 800-acre monument also includes the 101-foot-high Rainbow falls.
Borrowed from Wilderness Journals of Everett Ruess, edited by W.L. Rusho. Gibbs Smith Publisher, Layton, Utah 1998. Page,186.
[bracket information is mine]
stealing the shadows
their gloom grows into
a sainthood of stars
Since these daily musings are being posted on the Tanka Group List (it keeps me less likely to fall behind in reporting in) and because there are others who are evidently reading the journal, the straight line between Heidi and I reaches out to another point to form a triangle. I was touched to get the following tanka from a member of the list group. Doris Kasson wrote:
pinnacles and shadows
for me this lonely climb
Her verse got me to thinking that between a mother and her adult daughter, it is indeed a "lonely climb" - trying to keep up physically, emotionally and spiritually as the child continues to grow up and away. I am always surprised how much I want to hold on to, to keep my hand on and keep the connection with my children when I know my own desire to get away from my parents. Yet this is not the only example of the two sides of the one coin of parental love.
The love flowing from me to my kids is totally unconditional, has no requests, no boundaries, no conditions. Yet when I think of the identical connection, flowing in the opposite direction from me to my mother (who has left this plane), it has almost all the opposite attributes. Perhaps this is not true for others. Perhaps their associations with their mothers was the quality of the flow I feel with my children.
I only have my experiences of wanting to be more like my children and never do I want to be the woman my mother was. (But the chances of me sharing some characteristics is depressingly possible.) My children can say or do rather outrageous things, but nothing they have ever done could budge my feelings of love for them. My mother could do the smallest act, perhaps even with her good intentions, and it would send me off howling and screaming (or at least muttering and sighing) how impossible she was.
Heidi and I have talked about these reverse flows and she admits that for her too, her love for her children is much more accepting, unqualified, and less prone to bringing pain than the love she has for me. I know that I can say something to Heidi, something I find a truth, and one that anyone could accept without an feeling at all, and yet, the way the words go into her heart, is as if they had barbed points.
In the Hawai'ian journal, I wrote that Heidi bought a vest at the Salvation Army Store I doubted she would ever wear. I was not being critical; in fact I was touched that she was buying something with the hope of lifting our moods that morning and thought of her as making a sacrifice in that direction. The next time I saw her, she was wearing the vest! Not only did it look great on her, it had become one of her favorites and she made sure that I knew I had been wrong. I smile as I write this. How much of our lives do we spend in actions just to prove our parents were wrong about us? I still am doing this and my parents have been 'gone' for years.
their water was diamond-backed
the wisdom they had could hurt
thus the tourniquets I have made
Going farther north, and deeper into autumn, Heidi is flirting with an early snowfall to overtake her. It is so cold this morning at our place with the fog blowing from the north and rain clouds scudding up from the south, I feel she may be getting her wish tomorrow. She loves the snow and is, I think, totally prepared to deal with it. Yet, and yet, as a mom, I would rather she had only sunshine in her days. As photographer, though, I know there is nothing like strange weather for great photographs. And where she is, on the roof the mountains, there is the weather. May Heidi be safe. She can get scared and exhilarated, but keep her safe.
with complete indifference
exposes the sheet of film
listens to a mother's prayer
I wonder if Heidi, in the calm serenity of the glacier-scoured, tree-less landscape, ever feels harried? Does she ever feel she should be doing six things at once? And everything needs to be redone twice? Are there Mondays on top of the mountain? Does it rain work? Regrets? The need to be at least three people?
makes her dangerous
the day shaken like debris
from the rug with cat vomit
While cutting up vegetables for a salad, I began to wonder if Heidi is beginning to desire fresh food. Is she getting tired of hot water with food in it? Or maybe what she misses most are ice cubes? As a child she loved to eat ice - even without the colors and flavors of Popsicles. Maybe she has enough snow in her view that all my thoughts and fantasies are miles off from her reality. That does not bother me. I send my thoughts to her the same way I pray. It is not important to me that there is an "anyone" listening or paying attention to me, but I do my prayers because of the influence they have on me. I am fairly sure that they mean more to me than they could to any "higher authority," who surely has better and more important things to do than listen to me. How good it is to stop whatever I think I have to do, just to make everything cease while I bend my mind to something bigger than all of this.
a service with hope
a soul's distant connection
between heaven and earth
Tonight the month of the long moons makes itself felt as the pearly light rises over the neighbor's pine trees. It is incredibly warm, as our Septembers can be, so that our walk took longer than ever as we strolled in the richness of air that stayed long enough to carry scents. Usually the breezes off the ocean whisk away any atmosphere - grasshopper breath, pine farts of pitch, and the cries of deer before we really get acquainted with them. Tonight the stillness seems as if the whole earth is holding its breath, waiting on the moon to complete its fullness before our waiting eyes. The magic of summer has finally worked its way to the west coast - to us. Even the sun admitted that autumn is here. When it sank into the sea it was haloed with the twinkling of the green flashes. Not just one, but one after another glowed and turned to night blue.
speaking to the moon
we hush as
one wave at a time curls
white upon the shore
For some reason there was no sleep in my bed after 2:00 am. Once while tossing and turning I got a glimpse of a strong light shining in the room. Unable to ignore its invitation, I got to the surprising sight of the moon setting into the sea directly in front of the house. I had to get up to experience its magic with my awe. The night was warm as our Septembers should be, so it was a joy to sit on the porch watching the golden path across the water shrink as the curvature of the earth pulled the light back into the moon making it even more golden until it slid into the blackness of the water. As always when I experience something wonderful like this, there is no room for looking at myself or my feelings, so what I get are haiku instead of tanka:
wobbling in my hand
the cat growls
at the close moon
the path shortens
approaching the sea
the golden moon
answers in the golden moon’s
the moon sets into
as one bathing
in the dark sea
a red moon
talk of war
the diminishing moon
flames on the sea
the burning waters
of the setting moon
above the sea foam
the golden moon
from the dark sea
the moon sets
into the darkness
a car passes
releasing into the sky
of the slender moon
scanning the porch
the watch cat looks for
the already-set moon
Instead of my words, I'd like to quote Pat Conroy:
are only notes
written to your deepest self
as you fought to articulate
the splendor and magic
and ineluctable sense of loss
you feel in the swift
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SHAUN! I was thinking that Shaun was only four days old when we came from Germany to see him twenty-one years ago. How quickly time passes and how much we have all grown and experienced in this short time. And someday Heidi will look back and remember his twenty-first birthday and how her world was on that day.
begins in the temple
of the womb
the planet a boy entered
in the elixirs of beginnings
Today the photographer buddies, Jerry and Phil, join Heidi for the final week of this trip. I wonder if she feels as if she suddenly has company in her living room of glacier-scoured granite and infinite skies. After months of marching to her own drummer, now she will bend to a three-part harmony. She will do it with the good grace of her practiced quietness, I think. Her silences have surely grown over the summer, and perhaps now, are even more elaborate temples of her being. I see her non-speaking mansions filled with the furniture of puffy cumulus clouds, the music of rock-rimmed brooks, and scented with sunshine.
in a marriage without
prayer was a single hobby
a wilder secular biography
Tonight Ray called to let me know where Heidi was. He had picked her up on Friday at June Lake, half way in between the Mammouth Lakes area and Mono Lake and then Saturday they drove down to Glacier Lodge by Big Pine. There they were joined by Shaun and Jackie and Ashley where they celebrated his birthday by going geocashing. When I heard this, I was suddenly very jealous that I was not there. Geocashing! Now that is something I wish to do. This is the American (now international) and therefore high-tech form of the English letter boxing fad. The idea is that one puts together a special weather-proof box with information and trinkets in it which one hides in the landscape. Persons are given clues where to find it and when they do, they add their name and date to the little passport booklet, take a trinket and leave one. In letter boxing rubber stamps were used as proof one had found the hidden box. One also stamped one's own booklet, making a solid proof again of where one had been. Geocashing is now done using a web site that lists the boxes, when they were visited and by whom. The whole log of the box is available to everyone, which for this homebody, is totally cool (now in grandson-speak). To find the places where the boxes are, one uses a GPS (global positional system) device. By following coordinates given by satellites one can usually, according to Shaun who has found several, get to about 20 feet from the box. Then one must use intuition to figure out where the box is hidden. If you are interested, you can check out geocashing.com or groundspeak.com
searching the landscape
for the mother
guided by artificial stars
the souls of the occult
I was thinking of how wise Heidi had planned her trip - that she had companions with her in the beginning and now at the end she also was accompanied by others. This allows her to reacquaint herself with a small select bit of society before dropping back into the normal world of Oakhurst. Still, this week cannot be easy. When camping there is less private space. One cannot "go home" or get away from others easily. When together in a strange place, there is a greater need to stay together and to work together. To set three very different people, with three strong ideas of how to live, on the bare palm of granite must be very hard in all senses of the word.
a sound that makes memory
striking the enter key
I wonder where I will be taken
in the ridges of someone's brain
Our bright September weather has disappeared into gray skies leaving only a cold north wind. Today it feels as if winter already has plans for us and I wonder what it will bring. Surely changes and I think of the changes in Heidi's life as she finds out she has lived her dream. Now what? What next? We need those dreams and fulfilling one means a new one has to be conceived and believed in enough to do. Where to from here? I am having to make major adjustments in my goals and my expectations of myself. Yet when I think of her doing this, it all seems so natural and so much a just going ahead. How do you go ahead when you have already been there?
a face on a veil
in the tincture of alabaster
of shimmering ignition
for the spark of memory
Yesterday's coldness has gotten only colder and darker. If this kind of weather is following Heidi, she much surely be feeling at a physical level, the ending of her trip. I wonder if such feelings brings to her, as it would to me, a flurry of desperation. To drive myself even harder, longer - intent on obtaining one more photo, one more marvelous heart-lifting experience would probably threaten my existence at this stage of the trip.
as one longs for applause
another second of looking
at the unclimbed mountain
Heidi's last full day in the mountains. I am hoping she will be able to stay within her day, to enjoy it to its very end as a sacred time with meaning and pleasure. I know I could not do this. I would be already planning my time ahead back home, what needed to be done first, what had to be taken care of - a million details would cover up the highest mountain. My sadness would be deeper than any of the lakes, and I would sigh often. I would lie on bare rock and kick my heels against the granite in a tantrum. I trust my child is wiser.
I was thinking this morning how each day comes to us like a piece of paper. Perhaps with a sketchy design of morning, noon and night, like those purple alcohol smelling sheets we were given in grade school. On each day's parameters of daily habit we color in what we wish to see, wish to have. As in a painting, the first designs and colors will begin to dictate what is needed for the overall composition. If we begin in the morning corner with the muted shades of our foggy sunrise, other parts will demand the clarity of noon or the splash of surprise and delight. Some days my colors are muddied by depression, grief or unexpressed anger. Others are glowing swirls of high joy, and unconstrained delight with sparkles of love.
I am eager to see Heidi and the mountains she brings to our low lands with her.
a rosary slipping between
a soft adagio of suffering
ceremony of the divine
Heidi comes home today! and though I will not be there to see her and greet her and see her brown and shining face, I cannot sleep this morning. I feel something important is happening to a part of me that has extended itself far beyond my sight. This feeling of completion that I have had all week now rises to the top of a pyramid of vague awareness. Today the pinnacle will become so thin that the uppermost peak is absorbed into the very air that surrounds it in the same way mountains join the sky.
As this aspect of my life that I have carried and nourished these three months finishes itself off, I find myself returning to where I am. A part of me that has journeyed with Heidi comes home to me and I welcome its arrival. This means that my appreciation for where I am and what I am able to do and enjoy has returned with the enlargement and changes of a child who has been off to summer camp.
We went down to the Gualala River and drove back to the iron bridge. Just beyond the bridge on can walk to a magical place. A circle of redwoods surround a fifty-foot center empty of any growing thing - not a fern, not even the most persistent weed dares to raise itself up here. The soft earth is carpeted with the feathery dust of summer held in place with several inches of the dried needle leaves of the redwoods. Standing in the very center of this grove, one knows that once a very mighty redwood stood right here with its roots deeper in the earth than human feet can go. It took at least three generations of sprouts growing to maturity for a ring of this unusual size to develop. The surrounding pillars are not single trees - those were cut in the 1870s. Around each of these still-giant stumps are the massive new growth trees that stand head and shoulders above all the trees on the mountain side. The same principle that caused the circle of trees that stand today surrounding the cut-down member of their family continues in this diminished way. That the center they surround is level means that the oldest grandparent has been completely re-absorbed into its care for its children and its children's children.
When we stopped to stand side-by-side in awe at the edge of the holy circle, a strong breeze rustled the trees behind us. Together we turned to look. Out of a slant of light from the noon sun came a shower of golden leaves that drifted gently down around us, catching the autumn glow to spangle the air. Cleansed, blessed and accepted, we entered the oldest temple.
haunted with light
on a leaf-brandied river
into the future
love traveled among us
in spots of the sunblind
Text and poems Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2002.
Photos Copyright © Jackie Springs and Ashley Vetter 2002.
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