Thruhiker: Day 2

March 21 (7:10 – 9:15 / 12:30 – 16:50)
County Parkside – Cripple Creek / Cripple Creek to Dawson County Park (18 mi)
Total C2C miles: 20.5
Weather: Frost in morning, warming during day, sunny, cold at night – no wind

I wake early and pack my tent. I just want to hit the trail. Surprisingly, I’m not sore. I’m not tired.

I slept so well last night–not a single worry, just a straight-through sleep. And, maybe it’s the bright morning sun, but I’m not worried when I pack camp, either.

I’m not sore. I can’t believe it. I hiked over 12 miles yesterday, and I’m not sore. I thought for sure I’d need to take it easy today, make it to Cripple Creek to buy the supplies it looks like I’ll need, since I’m too early in the season to count on the trail-angel barbecues, and then maybe not make it much farther.

But the way I feel, I’m thinking I can make a good day.

My plan is to get to Cripple Creek for breakfast, stock up, and be back on the trail by noon. I think I can put in a full afternoon.

It’s so beautiful.

It frosted last night, and the branches of the willows have been dipped in white. They’re lace.

I was so snug in my tent, I didn’t even notice.

But during the morning, it’s still cold. I can see my breath. The tip of my nose hurts, and the trail crunches under my feet.

But before I even put the first mile behind me, I’m warm inside. The contrast between the coldness in the tip of my nose and my earlobes and the warmth inside, in my lungs and the space around my heart, is delicious.

I feel like I could walk like this forever. Even my pack feels a bit less awkward, like I’m getting used to the length of stride I need to take with it, like I know how much to pitch my body forward to carry it.

I think how funny it is that when we experience something pleasant how we want it to last forever. Like I really want this morning, this trail, to last forever.

But no sooner do I think that, than I start thinking about breakfast, like, where will I have it? What will I order?

I want coffee. I want pancakes. Or maybe waffles.

And I start to feel in a hurry to get to Cripple Creek.

The trail sort of disappears, and all I’m thinking about is destination. Destination, and a pot of coffee. And syrup, to pour on the waffles.

Then I notice that all the time I’ve been thinking this, the landscape has changed. The trail must have gained elevation, for I’ve left the willows behind, and now I’m entering into pine meadows, dotted with maples.

I can’t figure out why the maples have autumn colored- leaves. Then I realize it’s new growth and catkins. I hope the frost didn’t snip the buds.

The trail continues along the river until it veers northwest along a tributary, Cripple Creek, and soon, I’m in the town named after the creek.

I feel almost shocked to see people. I hear them before I see them, and I realize that, even though it’s been only a day since I’ve spoken to anyone, I’ve sort of forgotten how to process spoken language. The voices sound like water, like wind, like birdsong, and it takes a shift in perspective for me to realize that they are speaking words that carry meaning, and that I might be expected to reply.

They seem excited to see me–the first thruhiker of the season! I guess it’s a big deal down here that the trail runs through the town. Everyone who hikes the trail brings in revenue, so hikers are welcome. And thruhikers are celebrities.

They want to take selfies with me–the first hiker of the season.

I meet a young scout. He asks me my trailname.

“I don’t have one yet,” I tell him. You can’t give yourself a trailname. It has to be given to you by other hikers, and I haven’t hiked enough to have earned one.

“Can I give you one?” he asks me.

I guess it’s OK. I mean, this kid isn’t another thruhiker, but he’s a scout. He tells me his scout project this year is hiking all of the trail that goes through Cripple Creek. It’s about five miles–but for a little kid, that’s a lot.

“Sure,” I tell him. “Give me my trailname.”

“Firsty,” he says, “since you’re the first.”

In town, I stop by Whole Foods. I get breakfast at the breakfast bar: tofu scramble, steel-cut oats with honey, berries, and walnuts, seven-grain toast, and coffee with refills. I eat while my phone recharges. Then I wander through the store, picking up things, and putting them back on the shelf. I can’t decide what to buy.

At last I settle on dry mixes of hummus, bean dip, falafel. Wraps. Nori packs. And I can’t resist strawberries. Everything is light and will fit in my pack. I also buy a lunch for the trail, with enough for supper: dolmas, couscous salad, more falafels.

As I’m checking out, I get this sudden inspiration to pick up a deck of cards and a pocket-size sketch pad, so I’ll have something to do at camp before bed. I love solitaire, and I get this pleasant vision of me sitting on my sleeping bag, with a spread of cards before me. Shuffle, shuffle, flip. But they don’t have any at the store, so I walk through town to find a place that might have these. Finally, I see a toy store, and they have tiny decks of cards, with pictures of mice on the back. The face cards are little mice, too. They’re adorable, especially the Jack of Clubs, my favorite card. They have a tiny sketchpad and this really cool black pen and a 3B pencil.

I feel pretty happy as I head back to the trail.

I’m still full from my huge breakfast, so I hike for a few hours before I stop for lunch. The trail follows the river west, and I get the feeling of how everything flows to the sea, though it will be a good week of walking before I finally get there.

It’s so peaceful, and I’m glad that I’m Firsty the first, for there’s no one else on the trail, and I hear the water and the birds. I track the shifts in light, and that’s how I measure my day.

I get in the zone and forget to take pictures. I just walk. The trail feels good, my legs feel good, I’m even starting to feel comfortable with my pack.

As I reach Dawson County Park, where I’ve planned to camp tonight, I smell something amazing. Pretzels, coffee, and vanilla cupcakes!

There’s a vendor booth set up there, and Eric, this nice guy who gives hiker-discounts, is working it.

I have leftovers for supper, so I think about skipping buying anything. But at last, I settle for a cupcake, for desert.

I ask him if he’ll be there in the morning, and he will. So I have breakfast covered for tomorrow. Cushy trail life! What’s even better is that there’s a restroom–with actual plumbing, hot water, and a shower.

After I finish my cupcake, I head to a quiet section of the park. Sunset pours this lavender color over the sky, and I feel blessed. I am free. Everywhere I turn, I am cared for. I thought life on the trail would be hardship, and I’m sure I will have plenty of tough times, but for right now, I am walking down Easy Street, and loving it.

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GloPoWriMo – Song 15

To Pledge a Promise, on my Word

I made a fast promise
to the sisters of the Wyrd–
to destroy each twisted vine,
on that they had my word.
Burn tendril, cut the root,
corrupt, decayed, and weird.

I made a hard promise:
Fingers of the worm cult,
I’d hack from each cleft hand,
every last devotee culled,
then to destroy each anchor,
to this fate I’d been called.

I pledged a solemn promise
to Dragonborn from Akavir.
Never to let war rage,
never attack afar.
Not for Dominion, Pact,
Nor Cov’nant, ack! I vow.

I swore an oath and promise,
my hand on golden ball,
that I would forgo rest,
end war’s relentless bawl,
not once stop in weariness
till we’ve slayed dread Molag Bal.

Daily Prompt: “write a poem that incorporates homophones, homographs, and homonyms, or otherwise makes productive use of English’s ridiculously complex spelling rules and opportunities for mis-hearings and mis-readings,” from Na/GloPoWriMo.

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NaPoWriMo 2019

Summer House: Purpose

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Purpose

In  my grandmother’s kitchen,
everything had a purpose.
Everything had a place.

Two steps, turn.
There’s the fridge.

Two steps, turn,
to the stove.

The sink,
the dish rack,
the cotton towels
with each check
in place.

But inside,
in the noisy
jumbled darkness
of the ever chattering mind
the clutter rushed
with every shattering
flash of light:

A nightgown soaked
red with blood.

A child’s name
never spoken.

An empty carton
of cigarettes
a shot glass,
a gin bottle,
broken on the tiles.

No purpose.
No place.

My grandmother
never showed
these dark corners
to me, except
when it was
nearly too late.

In one rushed
confession, the words
tumbled out.

It’s okay, Grandma. 
Shhh. Shush.

My kitchen has no
center of order.
The spices spill
over the counter–
sage and cinnamon
mingling in scent.

The fridge stands too far
the dishes piled on the table.
The empty paper bags
nestled in the corner
with the spider web
and dust’s dandelion fluffs.

But inside,
in the quiet
perfect darkness
of the everstill night,
there is no purpose.
There is no place.

No walls,
nor borders,
no barriers,
no duty.

Only the quickening
pulse of life
that surpasses
any sense
the mind
might impose
in chaos
or order

Only the felt sense
of now.
Of presence.

I am the grandchild
of a woman with outer order,
only my peace lies
inside.

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Lighthouse: Everyday Seeds

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I walked a lot in the following days. I had so much to process. Slowly, as I settled into myself, the details of what Xirra and Teko shared with me began to fit into place.

One of my biggest obstacles in comprehending Teko’s explanations of the genetic similarities and differences rested in our varying morphology. Sept had two hearts, for example. How did that work? Teko showed me the genetic marker for it. Cues from the environment switched it on or off. In this environment, it was switched off, so our child would have one heart, one liver, one pancreas, two lungs, like me. That was why they used surrogates from the planets where they wanted their offspring to live, so that the genes would respond in the way best suited for life on that planet.

Our child would have one heart. It made me happy.

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I’d asked about telepathy–was there a genetic marker for that? Xirra explained it was an ability, and while everyone had some capacity for it, talent varied individually.

“Like with math skills,” Teko said. “Plus there’s the cultural aspect. When you belong to a culture that avows something isn’t possible, you’re less likely to develop the ability to do it.”

I hoped our child would have Sept’s proclivity for telepathy.  I sure wasn’t any good at it, though I was beginning to notice synchronicity. For example, one day, as I approached home after a long walk with Mojo, I thought of Morning Joe, whom I hadn’t seen for a few weeks.

When I got back, there he was, in our living room!

“Morning Joe!” I said. “How are you?”

“I am well, Mallory Sevens. Thank you very much.” He spoke formally, with a slight whistle, but he impressed me with how far his language skills had advanced.

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He asked what I’d been doing. Maybe it was a mistake, but I told him about my visit with Xirra and Teko.

He looked sad.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Morning,” I said. “I guess maybe it brings up bad memories to hear about this?”

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“It is OK, Mallory Sevens,” he replied. “I feel like this. I look at it. It looks not-happy. I say, OK. This is how I feel. Then, it becomes me. It is OK. I am all things.”

We talked about the ship. I tried to explain how it felt to be inside the living space craft, and he smiled.

“I remember ship!” he said. “Ship that brought me! This was good ship with feeling of happy!”

While Sept prepared a late lunch, Morning Joe told me about his journey here. They’d traveled through many galaxies, finally reaching the Milky Way. “Stars are friends,” he said. And, after my experience, I knew what he meant.

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We sat down to eat.

“I want to help,” said Morning Joe.

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We weren’t sure what he meant.

“With others, like me. I want to help with Project Home,” he continued.

“Do you mean with the Refugee Project?” Sept asked. “With the program that brought you here?”

“Brought me here,” said Morning Joe. “Bring other peoples here. That is to help.”

“You know, Ritu was mentioning a community gardening program to me the other day,” I told Sept. “It’s not directly with the refugees, but it’s kind of tangentially connected.”

“Like gardens,” Morning Joe said.

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The Peace Garden program involved Ritu’s collective and a few other community organizations, including schools and senior centers, to grow organic produce and provide green-space buffers throughout the region. Native plant landscapes surrounded the gardens, to attract and provide habitat for pollinators. Ritu planned for students, seniors, and extra-T refugees to work together.

“That’s a good plan,” Sept said.

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After the meal, we walked Morning Joe out.

“I am good in garden,” he said. “We feed peoples, OK? We make friends. We have happy-to-be-here. It’s good.”

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“He’s settling in,” Sept said when we walked back inside. “I think Ritu will be happy for his help.”

I agreed. Morning Joe would make a good gardener of peace.

Santi was settling in well, too.

Sebastion, in a burst of new energy, now that we’d been helping out for a few weeks, decided he wanted to open a school for the kids in the community. The public schools had closed down when the regular folks left, after the insurance companies pulled coverage. But there were still a few families with kids: The Delgados, Seb’s family, and now ours, plus a few others. One of our neighbors offered up his big house overlooking the cove for the school to meet in, and Sebastion began to plan how he could put to use his early childhood education degree. He wanted to incorporate the best practices from Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, and Reggio Emilia. He was especially excited about Reggio Emilia, since it came about in the aftermath of World War II as a means of seeding peace.

To prepare for the start of this new school, I took Santi shopping. She chose whimsical clothes–silly hats and pastel sweaters and skirts with lots of flowers.

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“You look like a rainbow!” I told her.

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We watched a lot of children’s TV together. She liked the singing and dancing, and it seemed to help her pick up words and phrases.

“Lessall gotoozee BunnyVarm!” she sang softly.

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I sang it with her when we danced.

“Let’s all go to the Bunny Farm!”

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“Kumdon toozee BunnyVarm. Zozo FunJump!”

“Bunny Farm! All the free bunnies, welcome home!”

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“Mojo is free, yes no?” Santi asked. “He is not the free bunny, but he is free bosko, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “He’s free. He can come and go as he pleases. It was his choice to stay with us.”

“Same-same,” she said.

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Maybe all my pregnancy hormones planted hope in me. I began to feel that we were creating something wonderful, sustainable, a community based on peace.

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I began to believe that what we were creating might even protect us from the AAC and their campaign to put their members in office. I had the notion that nothing was stronger than our good feelings, not even hate.

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Author’s Note: The Bunny Farm TV show and song come from SummerFalls’ Devine Legacy, which I enjoyed very much! Lots of good memories from that story and those times!

Lighthouse: Too Early Spring

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I had some trouble finding my way in the back country, in spite of my self-professed talent with topographical maps.

I had to follow deer trails up there, generally not a problem, but I hadn’t counted on them criss-crossing quite so much.

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When the ranger had stopped by the night before, he’d warned me about this.

“I can take you up there myself,” he said, “but not until Saturday. Can’t leave my post before then.”

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His connection with Ritu and the refugee program was personal, not professional, and he didn’t want to risk alerting anyone to the transfers that had been happening across federal property.

“I’m not sure I should wait that long,” I said. We’d heard reports of AAC riots planned for the weekend, so we wanted to be home well before then.

“All right,” he said. “Just use common sense, then. Don’t get hurt. Don’t get injured.”

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I gained confidence when I spotted Finger Rock. Below it was a crevice through the granite, and if I could climb through it, I’d come out in the high meadow where Ritu’s friend lived, just beyond the national park border.

This was the first winterless year we had. It was February, and already, what little snow had fallen in late December and early January had melted from all but the highest peaks. Bird song broadcast an early breeding season, and wildflowers bloomed two months too early.

In spite of my better wisdom, I got caught up in the excitement of early spring—-the sun, the songs, the blooms, the whispers of warmth, it was hard not to feel alive and vibrant, though I knew that this disruption of normal patterns signaled nothing good to come, even for those very chickadees and warblers now celebrating spring.

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The significance hit me when I arrived in the high country to see the shrubs already in leaf.

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A tidy cabin with a well-cared-for alpine garden stood at the far end of the meadow, across from the sign marking the park border.

This was where Ritu’s friend lived. This was where I’d meet the refugee.

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There was no one home.

Tired from the trek, I lay down in the meadow, near the cabin. I’d hear them when they came back.

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A peregrine flew overhead. It was early for them to be in their high country range.

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I heard a child’s laughter. When I looked, there stood a little girl, who looked like a fairy dressed for a camping trip. She must be the daughter of Ritu’s friend, I figured. She ran off through the meadow and behind the trees before I could ask her where her mother was.

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I walked until I came to a circle of boulders enclosing a mountain herb garden. Tending the wild mustard was an older woman, dressed in well-patched clothes. This was Rachel.

Sometimes you can tell when you first see someone that they will become your friend. That’s how I felt with Rachel.

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I didn’t even have to explain myself. She knew who I was and why I’d come. Ritu had left word once Sept and I made our plans.

“They usually don’t stay,” she said, “when they’re arrive here. This is a good landing place, you see. No one to notice the distant lights, no one to see them being dropped off, except maybe the back country ranger, but then, he’s one of us, isn’t he?”

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Rachel had helped about half a dozen refugees by that point. Usually, she kept them for a few days, long enough to acclimatize to the atmosphere, to help them adjust their disguises, to brush up on their language skills, and to review a few safety points and cultural conventions. Then, she walked them back to the park to where the ranger met them, and he arranged their transport back to one of Ritu’s pick-ups.

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“But this one’s different,” she said. “This one needs a special touch.”

The little fairy girl joined us. I decided she must be Rachel’s granddaughter or great niece, not child, after all.

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Rachel turned to her and began speaking Vingihoplo. I caught the word gotukoda, home, and sanghi, safe.

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“This is Santi,” Rachel said, and I understood then why this refugee could not travel alone.

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Sintuliyu dastaliyu!” Santi said, using the traditional rebel greeting: peaceful day.

Sintu!” I said back.

The concept of sintu doesn’t directly translate to what we think of as “peace.” If peace were active–the making of peace, the partaking of peace, peace as the condition for life and energy and harmony, then it would come closer. I thought of the old hippie Super 8 films I’d seen shot at peace rallies, with “Peace,” as a greeting, shouted like a call to action. That was closer to what sintu expressed.

Santi raced off again.

“She’s happy here,” Rachel said, “but she knows she can’t stay.”

We walked slowly back to Rachel’s cabin.

“What do you know of the girl?” she asked.

I admitted I knew nothing, only that she needed safe escort to a sanctuary. We didn’t know then where she was headed, only that we’d bring her to our home, and from there, Ritu and Xirra could arrange for her to get to where she’d be staying.

“Do you know why she’s here?” Rachel asked. “Why she had to leave?”

I repeated that I knew nothing about her.

“She was a minstrel–in the medieval sense, not the Vaudeville sense–a court musician. She’s a clone of a type of extra-terrestrial that’s almost preternaturally talented at music, and she was created to provide a form of living entertainment for the elite.”

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“Was she treated alright?” I asked.

“Oh, yes!” said Rachel. “Like one would treat a high-tech stereo. A valuable piece of property.”

“She had no freedom, then?” I asked.

“She was bizoo,” said Rachel. “You know what that means to the Mainstreamers, don’t you?”

I know now. Most of my life has been spent in the cause of bringing freedom to bizoobi, and I’ve heard more stories than I’ve let myself remember. But at the time, though Sept had told me what fate would have awaited him if Situ hadn’t taken action, I hadn’t yet integrated what I’d heard with my construct of reality.

“She was found to be dangerous,” Rachel said, “subversive. So she was scheduled to be decommissioned–slaughtered, with others no longer fit to serve.”

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“What is subversive about that little girl?” I asked.

“Her music.”

Santi had begun to play on a small white violin. The beauty of the violin is that it’s not inherently diatonic–it’s not bound to fixed tones or scales. Santi played music like I’d never heard before, dancing in between tones, sliding up and down pitch. The music followed its own sense and pattern, and as I listened it unwound feelings and emotions within me.

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“But it’s beautiful!” I said.

“Exactly,” said Rachel.

“It’s soulful.”

“Precisely,” Rachel replied. “And you know what Mainstreamers believe about bizoobi.”

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“That they have no soul,” I answered.

“Exactly,” said Rachel. “And so how could music like that come from a being without a soul?”

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Author’s note: Who is this child and what tribe does she come from? You’ll have to keep reading to find out more, but to catch all the harmonies, you might want to also be sure that you’re reading SuperKyle’s We Belong to the Song. Many thanks to Kyle for the Sim that Santi comes from and for the ideas that she embodies.

Septemus 26

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Dear Sept,

We’ve been expanding our circle of friends. Your friend Lucas’s big brother, Wolfgang, has started hanging out at our place. He seems troubled. I don’t mind giving him advice when he comes asking about school and college applications and financial aid forms. I know plenty about those. He’s just so angry. I’m not sure how to help with that. My poppie always said, “Don’t judge an angry man. This isn’t an easy world, and you never know what road they’ve been down.” So, I try compassion.

But this angry young man has brought something into our lives that threatens to squeeze out any compassion I can feel. He’s showing you a harsh reality of life on this earth. It’s the way it is, but I was hoping to keep that harshness from you for as long as I could.

He broke your dollhouse.

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“That was clumsy of him,” you said. “He should look where he was going.”

I should have kept my mouth shut. I would have, if I’d known how much it would upset you. But I didn’t know. Back in my youth, I learned about the cruelty of others before I learned to walk. But this is something new to you.

So when I said without thinking, “It wasn’t an accident,” I let the full force of that cruelty come rushing into your world. It shattered it.

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You were still sad when you came home from school the next day.

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“Look,” I said. “I fixed the dollhouse. Didn’t you notice? It’s not broken anymore.”

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“I’m not sad over the dollhouse,” you said. “I know you fixed it. It’s OK. I know that. Thankyouvermuch. I’m sad that someone could break it on purpose. It’s somebody’s home! It’s our dolls’ home! How could they break someone’s home?”

I tried to explain the feelings that could make someone do something like that.

“Suppose you felt really bad inside,” I said. “Like everyone was against you. You didn’t have a chance. Life was unfair. You weren’t sure what you were going to do. All the pressure’s piling on. And inside, you just feel bad. Jumbled, mad, angry, scared, alone.”

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You looked at me.

“So then, with all those emotions scrambling your mind and body, you need some kind of release. Maybe if you break something, you’ll feel better, you think. So you crash the nearest crushable thing.”

You wailed. “It’s so mean! It only wrecks things and makes people feel bad and then the mad person still has all that madness only now they feel bad for wrecking everything for everyone else! Oooh! It sucks!”

I hadn’t heard you wail like that since you were a little one grieving for your bizaabgotojo.

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“And it’s not even an accident,” you said, once you could talk again. “It was on purpose. How can people be mean? It doesn’t make sense!”

“Everybody has meanness in them,” I said. You looked at me with disbelief. “It’s part of being a person. Maybe you don’t, because maybe beings are wired differently where you come from, but here, on this planet, it’s part of being a person. Blame it on evolution. But goodness–being kind and gentle and understanding–that’s part of us, too. If we always go getting all upset at every instance of meanness, then it doesn’t give much of a chance for the goodness to grow. I think we should be patient with Wolfgang. At least then, we’ll have good feelings inside of us.”

You took a big breath. You sighed it out. You closed your eyes, and I saw that blue rose inside myself that I see when you’re shooting your love to me.

I heard the word sintuliyu. You’re a peace-bringer, Sept.

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You know, I’ve been wondering a lot what brought you all here. I mean not in the realm of cause-effect: I know on that level it was an “accident”–the ship you were on crashed, and now you and your siblings are here. But I’m not so sure about accidents. On the level I’m thinking of, the cosmic level, everything happens for a reason. There are no accidents. So on that level, what brought you here?

We know that when there’s a space, it’s filled. We have a big gap here–a big yawning maw–for peace. You’re the peace-bringer, kid. And I think that’s what brought you here.

Your pops, drinking in your peace, every day.

–Seb

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