The day has an edge like a ruler and is as inviting
As an open clearing in the woods.
I have resolved to walk among these shy hills New Year’s Day;
I seek resolution in the roads that push and pull me .
There is order and beauty in everything -
Even in the litter that lines the roads –
Orphaned cigarette packs, flattened juice boxes
Beer pack rings, all the dullness of road salt.
I follow the Sacred Silence into the New Year.
Winter’s voice is a series of wind chimes
When I am greeted by disembodied voices
Carried on the wind like insects –
“It’s so nice out!”
and without seeing anyone
I make human contact.
A pair of ponies and chestnut brown mare
Turn their heads and want to know what I am about.
How do I answer them?
Still, I follow the rock path,
Upward, like Ezekiel in his chariot of fire,
Into the hills.
Into the Sacred Silence of the New Year.
The jays have marked their territory
With darting, nervous eyes –
They flit just above the brown grasses
feathered by the Wind.
Ashen cedar bat boxes line the barbed wire
That protects a local reclamation project –
These are the legacy of an ex-brother-in-law
Who loved the environment of earth
But could not reclaim the environment of his own heart
And soon, left his wife and the area.
But I am not here to judge today.
Today, I march upward over lazy, slothful oaks;
I count rings in trunks that seem like open faces
and try to relive the life of a Tree.
Can anyone do that?
Speckled green and white lichen
decorate mortally wounded trees,
Resting with ears pressed against the soft
Brown autumn carpet.
I see bare blueberry bushes,
Denuded and frozen in hardened sunlight
Purple in the quiet and stillness,
They suggest a New Years Eve Celebration –
When the ball has dropped
And the champagne is popped
And confetti flies –
Limbs flagrant and spontaneous,
Locked into positions,
Waiting for me to pass by and take notice.
The thickness of wrinkled tree bark,
Bent and splintered, twisted and gray
Is like some Civil War battlefield,
Evoking ghosts of something wild,
Some bravado of nature at her very worst;
“Something courageous has happened here,” I think.
There, up ahead, an Irish Setter the size of a small bear
chases a tennis ball tumbles
down the path to greet me –
the dog’s owners descend
As I ascend, and we meet
To discuss the plight of wounded deer in the woods
And trapped, injured animals
And writing and poetry –
They tell me to be on the look out for an owl
With a heart shaped face –
So I watch
My breathing stills
So that I may see such a creature –
My heart is lifted
When we part,
And a newer, larger nearly yellow dog approaches -
I am his brother.
I do not stare at him directly,
For I do not want to challenge him –
This land is his and I am the stranger;
I intrude with every breath.
Still, I look for the owl
With the heart shaped face,
But do not see her.
There is now a boastful wind among the Pines
That stand so erect,
With no idea of correction;
The dull waving of evergreen
Announces the wind like royalty.
For the wind, too, is my brother
And I do not want to look into its eyes either;
I stand by broken pine and the wood
The wind coaxes sad songs
From the pine:
“I am broken and used”.
And the sad melody moves me
With the compassion of a mystic.
Crows as dark as pitch
Wrap cold air around themselves
And slide down among the shadows,
Expanding the distance of the demur rolling hills.
Apple trees with rickety twisted arms
Sneer and make fun of me
As if holding their hands to their ears
And taunting me the way children do.
Full of meandering spirit,
Are stopped dead
On their backs, flat and serpentine
Willy-nilly, like kids playing freeze tag –
Like Lot’s wife, turned to salt –
These are turned to Ice
With a single glare of Winter’s stare.
Suddenly, there is the embrace of stillness.
The flaxen grasses unfold before Mt. Tom’s head held upright
Aloof and does not care a whit what goes on below.
I pass the tired Oldsmobile hubcap
And wonder if it will be missed –
Does anyone know it sits here at all?
Even the trash seems so sad now.
The downhill road now spills me out
Like a giant black tongue
Back down to where I started.
As I pass an angry red “POSTED” sign
“Keep out!” “You don’t belong” “No Hunting”
I hunt only Beauty.
Surely I do not need my hunter’s orange cap for this.
But I hunt beauty in reverse. I let Beauty stalk me quietly,
I let her kill me
And make me into a holiday dinner –
A feast for everyone,
The way I am changed when I walk among these hills
The bragging wind shrieks around a telephone wire –
And asks me what is it I seek in all this emptiness
And I respond,
“Yes! That is it! That is it!”
I have made a New Year’s Resolution
That I should walk these shy hills
On the first day of each New Year.
I have not asked you to walk with me,
But perhaps you will.
For though we are men,
Today we are gods.
There is much yet to suffer,
I will be courageous;
There is much yet to build,
I will be industrious;
There is much to forgive,
I will be gracious;
For it would be a shameful thing to pass another year
Without making something new for my children.
It would be shameful to die
Without leaving something behind.