Striding the Bones of the Coastal Range
By James Joyce
Hiking of solitary again, gaited steady.
Striding the bones of the coastal range.
Granite flesh unstable, piles wind-riven ocean skin magmatic, that
Wrinkling; obscures foundation osseus age below.
So clean Our Mother's bones.
Isolate the sky retreated the world,
Reared towering Guardian Over All: The Pico Diablo Mountain.
Was legend bear still roamed there, crag remote to dominate. Eagle,
Condor sails the fog-borne tastes and smells the sea-band life. . .
Airs breathed light and sheened a fog bourne drift of silver.
Brushing antlered pine and feathered hemlock, fibered cypress shag;
Deciphering cryptic sawyeries, trunks jig-mosaiced the sycamore planes:
Jump free the missiled propellors my head: squadrons downtwirl the wind.
Sprawls reach majestic live-oak's bough,
Druid kingship the meadow;
Mistletoe bearded and green gray spanish mossed,
Boles knotted mottled lichen.
At their feet discovering sometimes a golden strawlike flower--
I never knew its name but the smell was walnut honey.
Summertimes tranquil the fog to scatter,
Rendering them gold-leafed gentry the landed hills
And deeper gilded gulleys. . .
Dipped there grace of eucalyptus, daughtered tall of foreign sunlights
Borne australasian shores. . . prolific enough her sistered genus, forest
Complete the bush of its own.
Compatible titans equal their stands, side by side the milk-seed cotton;
Mosslike perpetual, tamarisk shed; white roble oak and pepper tree,
China bells pinked undulate.
Light absents the densest pine. Visit but mournful soughing winds the
Sentinel mystery darkling stands defining the edges of summer. And hope.
Melancholics, they do not venture sunlit meadow except crept formation
Several, security patrolled. . .
And none but Mistletoe and Cypress do presage events more dire.
But holy the wood of redwood dendra. Perhaps their age. . . .Of them all
Bienvenue accordant most the sun,
Footed the fronded fern, wreathed tall embracing light soft filtered,
Stately the greenwood.
Copses holy appointment high meadow divinely adorning! Centuries regal
The presence ordained: new coronate fresh.
Clearheart girth abode alluring. . .
Slow accretion year by year advancing mass, tree-home penultimate dream
In child-heart bower.
Benevolence giant! Sequoia presence.
I thought perhaps some glimpse to steal of spirit tutelar within--
Imagined hamadryad, sylvan nymph; intelligence not faun.
Took more than thought. I stared and stared
Till vexed the glaring nothing! I revealed.
Others had described it, persuaded one the charm. . .
Why then not I? Imagination? Oh I see.
Foolish to be angry. . . just love the tree, instead.
Came then softly the miraculous:
Was loving me the tree and was its spirit! Found!
Wandering daisy-chained and buttercup meadows, dandelion and shuttle
Cocked, hedged wild the grape and rose rife meadow titmouse;
Golden poppy paper chasings scattered unexpected; harebell fairy helmet
Capped blue as artichoke's wild thistle; and lupine, campanula speared.
Foxglove belling 'ware! umbellate hemlock poison!
Tipped red parasite indian paint-brush lady,
The open face of yellow primrose calendula, dry. . .myself a butterfly
In boots that foxtail grasses creep perverse the socks
Reverse to lock
Determined as the salmon upstream bounding!
Strives whither or what the foxtail?
Beaver munched and terrapin,
Where cress and purslane lay the creek bed;
Made way mindful hare and rabbit! Spoor departed bunny lop!
To cover alike of quail and ring-tail pheasant showy:
Spotted bay laurel and brittle sinewed, the rud madroñe,
From muskrat and fox, thwarted entangling spines.
Breezes capricious, quail alarming may scarcely contain their silence. . .
Little cries and poignant beeping running. . .instantaneous pounced!
Coteried dove mourns early evening, alone to be heard over silence;
Birdsong of others' strangely quiet. . .
Wicker to rise. . .the fantail light. Fanning the wind-beating hover.
Crescent to rise. . .the moon and silver horned.
West the sun betwixt east gathered moon-white-tail antelope gazelle;
Touching faun grace newly living! the little elfin hoofs.
Shanked reed-slender. Glass-blown airy. Informed by the wind.
Advancing his lookout warning, twittered them scolding eternally dear--
Squirrel red-tailed and nervoused twitching.
But entangled web spangled, her butterfly wing no avail--
Extricates my hand little psyche butterfly, free.
Her death flight otherwise!
Thrice circles round my head before lighting back her world.
Opossum might lumber here.
Dappled glade occasional sloat discerned. Sly!
As to sloths! Overhead boughs clasped upside down:
Hiding? Silly things!
Long in the claw, but hairless; long in the ear,
Deaf, dumb, and blind for all purpose.
Brain wave too slow to eat!
How should poor creatures survive?
Watcher high above, the brood wren. . .
Nesting the eggs awaiting the throats young birds to sing. . .
Known always the sound they will be. Wings impatient to fly.
Cliff-martin arias. Exaltation! choired cascadings descendings sacred;
Canticled crystal, waterdrops diamond,
Trails scattered the rising wing.
Hovers the sparrow, darts at the hawk
Of fierce with her terror in deadly engagement. . .
Small blue eggs. Calm the hawk, intently
Unburdened questions of unequal-matched.
Life lived one! all existence. . . .Small blue eggs. . . .
Consenting pause and silence: twohoots then the owl.
Cries the first nighthawk. Bats skirling radar new twilight.
A fir tree ribbons and cradles the moon. Crowned and shining.
Soft in the pause she lights tree mother. Down and aglow.
Slowly aloft on feathering finger, voyager canopied moonlight.
Up. And away. . . .
Great deer form, giant posed unearthly
Where gray fog laps the trees. . .
Sails slow the moss frond into the no-see. . . .
You are here with me, My Mother.
Departure the wood.
Drifts breath damp life; odor shifting vaporous.
The loam underfoot cooled shamrock.
Bethinking bobcats were hunted here. Their bounty.
I never saw one.
Fetor, however ubiquitous skunk! Never the bounty them!
Late dusk arriving the cabin. Good the day!
Pass through the gate to the highway, remains only the field to cross.
And last and luminous presence: propinquity to ponder. . .
Bedraggled Lily of the Roadside:
Trumpeter Datura Derelitta.
Think on it. Her blossom is so very pure. . .
Rank the stalk; and prickle leaf already claw gone thistle. Thorn-apple
Spikings come no surprise. Lethal. Fell. Is witch-wood entered here!
Choose carefully your gait.
Circumnavigate My Pretty Little Pretty! Derey me! Dearie Lictious!
One knows the cackle. Nightmare Crone.
It was another perfect day, perhaps 70 degrees at peak where I live though a few degrees cooler in the mountains above Frederick, and since George W. Bush was out of the country and there was no chance Camp David would be in use, we went to Catoctin Mountain National Park. The lower part of the hills are still mostly green with some orange and red, then there's a band of reddish orange, and near the top of the mountain it's almost all shades of yellow and brown -- it's like winding through the progress of autumn in one place. From the top of Catoctin Mountains one can see the Blue Ridge, though it's more of a golden ridge now. We had a picnic and hiked two different trails, though we made many detours because there is a lot of rock rising out of the ground on the mountain, which was part of the original ancient Appalachian chain dating from the Precambrian era -- erupted, then covered by sea-bottom sediment, then altered into metabasalt and eroded, so that intrusive granite basement rock more than a billion years old underlies the visible Catoctin Greenstone. Naturally our kids had to climb on as many of these rock formations as possible.
Then, because we were only about ten miles away, we decided to do something I say I want to do every time we drive past this area on the way to my in-laws' and went to the Grotto of Lourdes, a national shrine adjacent to Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg. This area is incredibly beautiful and the grotto, church and sculptures are built to fit into the hilly wooded landscape, which was dedicated two decades after the visions at Lourdes but had been a sacred space since the early 1700s when a group of Catholics left the area of St. Mary's City after conflict with the Puritans and settled in the area. Mother Elizabeth Seton, the first American-born saint, lived in the area for a time and her son is buried in the cemetery on the mountainside. There are reproductions of many well-known works of art set among the flowers and trees of the outdoor shrine, which also has a fountain fed by a spring.
News bullet today indicated that Threshold is moving to Tuesday nights opposite Commander in Chief -- it figures there are two women I really like on TV and they're going to be in the same time slot! Tonight we watched the live West Wing debate which was entertaining but bore almost no resemblance to a real presidential debate; I understand the decision to play it as an actual debate rather than the staged monstrosities we actually get between candidates, for both dramatic and ideological reasons, but at times it got didactic and at other times it just felt a little absurd which I guess is inevitable in a live recreation of a political event. (We were wondering whether anyone would turn it on, see the NBC News Live logo in the corner and think they'd stumbled upon a real political event...between two Democrats, because there aren't any Republicans of national prominence as moderate as Vinick, to my great regret!) Santos said some stuff I wholeheartedly agreed with and cheered, but for the first time maybe ever watching The West Wing I felt like I was being lectured, which might be an inevitable drawback of the debate format.
Since the kids were still awake, we put Rome off till the late Wednesday broadcast and watched the History Channel special on the Crusades, The Crescent and the Cross, which was quite interesting and kept our older son engrossed even though it covered information I know he'd heard in other documentaries we watched with him. Where do they find all these good looking professors to interview? *g* They covered the Jewish massacres by the Catholics and various other topics not always dealt with -- the impulse in so many discussions still seems to be to find ways to justify European excesses or portray the Christians and Muslims as equally culpable in all the atrocities that went on. It was interesting hearing about Marian pacifism and Urban II the same day.
And then, nervously, we watched the end of the Redskins-Eagles game. And Washington won!
The fall color was amazing -- more green at the foot of the mountain and more varied as we ascended, but there were plenty of leaves that hadn't even made up their minds whether to let the chlorophyll or xanthophyll dominate.
There are many sudden drop-offs in the wooded hillside...
...with bedrock emerging all around the trails (those are my kids at the top).
The woods near the summit are very yellow at this time of year.
I read The Historian the whole way there and back even though I really wanted to look out the window, too; it's one of those books that is absolutely compulsive. Dracula and Eastern European history and Western European cities and university professors and a mystery and a romance...I am enjoying this as much as the original, and that is really saying something! And now I must go to bed, as I have another Ridiculously Early Morning tomorrow!