Poems in my head while hiking with my sister

After a week of rain, the skies miraculously cleared and my sister (up visiting from Philly) and I headed out to tackle Alyeska Mountain, which has become a yearly tradition.

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Alyeska Mountain, viewed from the parking lot

I was reeling from a bad cold and too much cold medicine, which gave the day a wonderful blur, as if I were walking through one of my own poems. I was thinking of poems on the drive, too. As my sister talked and I answered, I wrote slices of poems inside my head, little fragments here, a sentence or two there (oh, the taste of a poem on my tongue!).

We stopped at the zoo on the way for a short visit and it always leaves me a bit sad, viewing animals inside enclosures. I feel embarrassed for them, and for us, too, as a species, that we stare unabashedly at other creatures as they go about their lives stuck inside small spaces. Though I suppose, in a sense, we all live our lives inside small spaces.

musk oxen G

The mood at Alyeska Mountain was quite different. It was sunny yet cool at the bottom of the peak, so we tied long-sleeved technical shirts around our waists and took off. Usually I run mountains, so it was nice to slow down and hike, to take it easy and savor the shouts of color, the song of water rushing the creek.

Plus, I was with my sister, and the views were so very lovely, and I felt happier than I had for a long time.

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As we hiked up the mountain and the trees gave way to open alpine areas, and rocks, I thought of a line from a poem I had just submitted: “In the green wet
world of rain.” I repeated it over and over until my tongue felt rich and heavy and my head ready to burst, from so much green.

And I thought, as we maneuvered through the switchbacks and the air became cooler and moist, that writing poetry is much like hiking or running up a mountain. You have to embrace your own disbelief, and wonder. You have to believe that your body and hands and mind will carry you up to where you need to be.

What I love most about the mountains is that they are so wild and untamed, and running or hiking through them, I long to be the same.

A few years ago I won a contest through “A Room of Her Own” for this writing prompt:

Evenings, I run mountain trails. When I get home, I don’t shower. I write in sweaty, mud-splattered clothes. I write the way I run: Fierce, like a wolf. With fangs. With the taste of blood in my mouth.

Excuse me–is there any other way?

I’ve always wondered how people who live in large cities write with fierceness, how they find inspiration when surrounded by so much concrete and noise. Is the very noise invigorating? Does it cause one’s blood to churn and press restlessly against one’s veins? Are the very mountains I depend upon an illusion? Would I write the same if I lived in New York City or Chicago?

If you live in the city, drop me a line and let me know where you find fierceness, okay?

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4 thoughts on “Poems in my head while hiking with my sister

  1. Finding fierceness is easy… After 48 years living in Philly with cheese steaks and Jersey tomatoes almost whenever I wanted now living in a remote cabin in the Northern Alaskan wilderness for almost 20 years one gets a bit cranky when reading what is going on in the lower 48.

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  2. Oh, I wish you hadn’t of mentioned Jersey tomatoes, Pete. I long (long!) for the taste of a “real” tomato; Alaska grocery-store tomatoes totally suck, as I’m sure you know. It’s the small things we miss, no? Thanks for writing. Hope you’re hunkered down all cozy and dreaming of cheese steaks. Cheers and have a great week.

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    1. Hi, Bob. No, Candace doesn’t have a Website or Facebook page. She’s kind of anti-social media, which I totally understand. She works for a major pharmaceutical company back East and travels a lot, usually to Europe. I’ll see if I can scrounge up a photo of us both and send. Hope you’re having a great day. Big, big hugs.

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