Rugged Woman Meets Ragged Mountain

January is brilliant.  To hike in January, even more so:  it is divine.

The sun gods smile down on the snowscape that surrounds me while the snow keenly winks back with a blue glint in its eye.  Vistas open as I round bends on the rolling trail and follow snowshoe tracks and paw prints.  On the way up, I walk carefully, choosing my steps with caution as the week’s thaw and freeze has left an icy path in its wake.  A lean and deft trail runner, Alaskan malamute leading the way, appears suddenly and breezes past as fluidly as a taut sailor keeling along wind and water.  I gather his grace in deep draughts.

My lungs expand and empty, expand and empty, expand and empty into the hush of the forest.  A surefooted rhythm emerges.

Snow owls are rumored, but not seen.  Only the creaks of tree limbs call across the mountain, as if aching for their missing leaves, save for the oaks and beeches – their dried and tawny remnants from last year won’t molt until spring buds release them.  It is myth that winter is barren and colorless, for as the angle of afternoon rays travels with haste across the brumal sky, silvery grays and mushroomy browns creep into craw and crevasse until the white all but disappears.

I climb a nearly two-story boulder, then chuckle at the metaphor.  In woods there are no edifices of note, nests and dams aside.  I glance down.  Lichen curls like paint chips on the oversized rock, or, I guess – it curls like lichen.  How long until I can truly see this wonderland?  How long until the mountaintop stops laughing at me?

I pick my way on slippery rocks across a half-frozen stream, watching the pellucid waters swirl under shallow sheets that soon crack and fall into a tumbling current.  On the far side, I crouch to peer at myriad architectures of ice and earth and wonder what universes are captured in these tiny crystal castles.  Who reigns in these miniature kingdoms?

Like meditating, January quiets the mind.  Thoughts slow.  The cold focuses attention, the eyes narrow in scope and see with eagle-eye precision.  A world, otherwise masked by the flurry and flutter of fertility, is revealed.

Now, I am aware of nose hairs and that soft spot in my right ankle.

I begin to remember…exactly why I came here.

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The House Of Light

Funny thing is, though I live so close to the sea, I’m tucked far enough inland, in a rural, farmland community, that I sometimes forget the nautical beauty nearby.  One of the prettiest places to walk, which I do like a mail carrier:  through rain, sleet & snow – is out on the St. George peninsula.  Tenant’s Harbor, Port Clyde, and Spruce Head are all lovely places to wander around, gazing out at the water and watching lobster boats heading in and out of the local harbors.  I’ve had a sumptuous lobster roll at Cod End Market and a Food Network-recommended burger at the Owl’s Head General Store and Post Office.  Balanced precariously between out-of-towner and resident, I relish the insider’s window of the local community and look forward to days when I’m greeted as warmly as either proprietress does at both eateries.

The highlight comes as I walk off lunch at Owl’s Head State Park.  Sometimes I head straight for the lighthouse, with a view over Penobscot Bay that hasn’t ceased to induce long moments of meditation verging on bliss.  Other times, a short jaunt through the spruce woods leads down to a small beach, with picnic tables on the low cliffs that look over it.  In warmer weather, I find this a perfect place to write.  However, I somehow find myself more often here during inclement weather, which I strangely prefer.  It’s a misty, forlorn promontory that evokes romantic notions of a literary-led Maine life.  It is here that a sense of place most reverberates.

I often catch myself realizing that I actually live here now, like it’s some sort of surprise, and when it does wash over me, it seems so natural, so right.  With regards to geography, I’ve never felt so at home, at peace.  I wonder how that will evolve in the new year?  And what little corner of the mid-coast will seduce me next…

Liverpool Dreams

Central Park Lake San RemoThe air feels chilly, but only because my jacket is light.  “It’s not such a gloomy day,” I declare to no one in particular.  I was happy for the rain, content with its embracing cloak of anonymity, so I started my day in the park and now I’m ending it there, as well. Most people are seeking refuge elsewhere, so Central Park feels all mine while I take shelter in the dawning signs of spring, in the blooming of the daffodils and crocuses.

Meandering more slowly than usual, I stop often and admire the pockets of yellow and purple blossoms that brighten the overcast landscape.  I feel submerged, breathing in the unfolding green, as if my past sadnesses are being cleansed by cool streams of raindrops and verdancy.  There is no real destination, save for heading north towards Harlem and home. I surrender to random pathways, letting them lead me around muddy puddles and under overhanging trees. I walk for more than an hour, emptying my mind of the workday, until the grey sky darkens even more and evening approaches.  I turn up the lane by Strawberry Fields and head towards the exit.

Around the bend by the famous mosaic a handsome, evocative man sits on the unusually empty benches. We smile at each other, hesitate, and then smile again.  Without stopping, I emerge from the canopied walkway, near the Dakota, and then fully sense this stranger behind me.  As I turn, our eyes meet.  For a moment, we both fumble for a starting point.  He comments on the drizzly day and subtly refers to the famous man who used to live near here by nodding in the corner building’s direction.

“I lived in Liverpool almost twenty years ago,” he says, telltale accent as evidence.

“Oh?”  I say, nervously.  “I’ve never been to England, but I’ve always wanted to visit.”

“I miss it sometimes, but haven’t been back in years,” he replies.

Lulled by his voice, my mind slips into a daydream…

In harmony together we would amble under the trellis and curve down along the footpath.  We would stroll, without really talking too much.  Absent would be the rush to tell our stories and satiate our early curiosity with a barrage of questions.  Instead there would be inhalation and calm as we would walk slowly, allowing the ease of spontaneity’s spark.  A relationship of movement right from the start.  Suddenly I feel I could fall right into him, immerse myself in his body, as if he were a pool of water.  I begin to notice details:  his very white, very straight teeth, thick, black-rimmed glasses that don’t obscure eyes so dark they’re endless.  His well-worn cap suits his confident stance.  This is a man with whom to walk through life.

I am awakened from my reverie by that voice.

“Would you like to stroll for a bit?”  he asks, gesturing towards the trellis.

It could be such a romantic story:  meeting by our imagination, by the sheer full moon I know is behind the clouds.  But despite the richness of the daydream, it is not to be.  I am still not yet ready.  Between the tree leaves, the darkness of night is settling in.  With my lips pressed together, I tilt my head for a moment, and silently decline.

“Until next time, then?” he says, smiling softly.

“Yes,” I reply, with a soft residue of regret.  Damp, I turn away, and step down into the crosswalk.

(~circa 2008~)

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