© 2016 . All rights reserved.

On Climbing Up and Down a Mountain

Well, here I am on top of the mountain. Ready to walk down the mountain. And then I will walk back up again. You might think of it as easy first and hard second or you might think of it as one united thing. I saw a garter snake very thin from winter hibernation, pencil thin, I almost didn’t recognize it and thought it was a ribbon snake. I guess that means that the copperheads are awake too. Good thing is like the garter snake the copperheads will probably be sleepy, cold, and sluggish. But figuring too that the mating season is soon upon us, male copperheads with love in their long loins can get pretty ornery. And they are ornery to begin with, far ornerier than a rattlesnake. The whole forest floor is covered with last year’s leaves all beautiful with the hues of copperheads. Soon to begin. Just a little bit of laziness yet.




I’m in the woods. It isn’t a matter of life and death, but I have to pick which way to go, what to do. I’ve been working on a line of a poem as I go, a poem I wrote long ago, the first line going into the second and then the third: “Animals are afraid of the same things we are, but we are afraid of more than them.” Lately I’ve been thinking that I should change it to “Animals are afraid of the same things we are, but we are afraid of more than they.” They is correct when it follows than because than here is a conjunction and it needs the subject they. I could even write “than they are” if I wanted to but it just doesn’t sound right for the poem though it’s easy enough to change the meter. Than them, that than is a preposition, and it takes the pronoun them as its object. Than as preposition seems to shrink human fear here into just the fear of animals when I actually mean the opposite: we are afraid of much more than they are. I guess I am being colloquial when I say “than them” instead of “than they”. But honestly I like the sound of that closed “em” that stops the thought there. The diphthong “ey” goes on a little bit and though correct as correct can be, give me “than them”. It’s what I wrote first anyway. At least that is what I think at this point on the path. I know some people think that writing poetry is romantic, smelling flowers, attending orgies of all sorts, and peeling a grape. But it’s not like that. It isn’t so much inside you like an inspiration, but outside you like a piece of furniture you’re trying to make and it has to last and be comfortable too besides sublime and beautiful. Anyone not a poet would think it’s repetitious, tedious and not worth it at all; he or she (they) would probably go screaming out of the room. Or out of the woods.




Well, I found what I was looking for, a spring my brother introduced me to one summer about 13 years ago. I thought I knew the mountain pretty well but I had never seen the spring. My brother like a young man in a fairy tale found it while he was hunting. Who built such a beautiful site in the middle of the woods? It makes me believe in magic; the forest is full of peeking elves. What is sacred is partly made by humans. It must’ve been a lot of loving work. Back at the end of the 19th-century into the beginning of the 20th, there was a park about a mile from here called Penryn Park. There were trains back then through the mountain and they would take you there. A lake with boats, the baseball diamond where my grandmother met my grandfather, carousel, and many picnic tables for church socials and Fourth of July fireworks. I remember as a child the sound of trains through the mountain. But that was very long ago. The sound you hear today are cars. As I walk out of this part of the mountain, I hear them now; I am writing as I walk or actually talking into this iPhone with a little bit of editing later on. I like to think back then in Penryn Park it was mostly silence or the sound of trains or the John Philip Sousa orchestras or oom pah bands, and there was a path that young lovers would walk and come to the spring for a drink. And a kiss. It is spring and my mind is full of love no matter what the world says. Here is the spring for you. I didn’t want to let you know at the beginning because I wasn’t sure if I would find it. And now the billionaire who has bought up half the mountain and put up signs not to walk on it, he owns the spring. When I come here sometimes, trespassing where I freely walked in youth, I think I might trip a wire and suddenly be surrounded by Dobermans and paramilitary security guards with ski masks on their faces and Uzis in their hands ready to fire. So far that hasn’t happened and I am here to tell the tale. The frog said to say hello.




Leave a Reply