Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Urgent Spring

Back here our hopes and dreams run thin
Usually the greenup is in full swing
But this year's grasses are growing dim
And an urgency has gripped the land

There is but little water
Waiting to be set free from high mountain meadow
No swollen streams testing their banks
No golden dew of the honey drip

This is not the spring
Of the braided-haired river dancer awakening
Jumping to action from her long winter's slumber
As the fiddles harmonize with vigor

This is the down and dirty
Close to the herbs and earth
Deep forest woodworker's shop ramble
Where the dobro wheels with the harp and stomp

We revel in these times
Enjoying while we can
For all too soon summer will be upon us again
And the spanish guitar will sweep solemn tunes into the heat
Pooring forth from the hacienda veranda

The winter rains have missed us again
As the cowboys have missed them as well
Upon barely there hills their cattle roams
To get what they can before it's gone

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Girdwood Gold Rush

Thirteen years ago this week
I was able to join friends both old and new
For a moment in time
That will forever play across our minds
A taste of a small Alaskan gold rush

'Cept this time it was not for the precious of metals
But for the purchasing of land
And the hopes of our mid-twenties fantasies
Of owning property on one of the
Richest claims on God's green earth

This was their reality however
I was just visiting at the time
A little get away destination
I have not soon forgot

But this was bigger than
Tyrolean dreams and alpental wishes
This was Alaska at its finest
Homesteads in a vast sea of mountains
Forge set jewels in a ring of fire

And we were not wealthily bestowed with money
We were just seeking simple pleasures
For I was amongst a group of folks
Who simply knew the ways

Snow, ridge lines, slopes
Paths to take and chutes to run
They knew the ways to the mountain tops
And the means to get down

Folks who mined the mountainsides
Not only for crystals from the heavens
But for the pockets of air between them
Foraging fluffy powdery pillows to float upon

Quiet 'cept the rushing of wind in the ears
Enveloping clouds of swishes and schusses
Sparkling light blue and white in the sun
All with the feeling of flight over the earth

Their quarry of turns blazed upon the map
A new breed of mountain men and women
Not really nomadic in their search
For the freedoms of the Rocky Mountains

But more a fresh set of sourdoughs
Who have weathered the many odd winters
Who have found their golden valleys
And who now stake their claims
Along the banks of Crow Creek

So with grubstakes granted and prices set
At thirty-thousand dollars a third-acre plot
We proceeded with parcel split maps
And just as soon as bearings were taken and walked out
Their hopes and faiths were laid out upon the rock
And we relished every moment of it

We celebrated prospectings and prospects
With hiking a couple of the bordering peaks
And with our tools in hand
We dug our way up and down glacier carved bowls

We raised our glasses and toasted
To the pure silvery crystals upon the slopes
With our chalices overflowing
Spilling ice cold diamonds onto the bar room floors

Cups of wine in the night
And glasses of beer by the floating bonfires
Happy and content as the new fallen snow
As the auroras shined red overhead
Reflecting wholeheartedly our passion and excitement
At future homesteads in the mountain halls

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Standing At The Base Of Glaciers

Standing at the base of glaciers
The low down deep rumble
Of ageless ice grinding with rock
Can be felt more than heard
As the mountain's utterances for mercy
Ring throughout the land

Most of these old frozen ice flows are gone to us
But the ones that remain
Remind us of how our way on this Earth
Is but a glint of light in time's immortality
A flicker of twinkle from starlight in the cosmos
A burst of life in night sky

Old, ancient runes of the North
Life giving fountains of sparkling waters
Sculptured masterworks of marble and jade
Shining crystals of the mountain halls

Carving the great mountain valleys of Valhalla
Ice blue and brilliant white radiance
The ones that shine in our lifetimes
Are rare gems that light the way in darkness

Retreating to their final rest
They soon know peace from their earthly existence
The constant struggle of their lives upon the mountain
Forever grinding against Earth's will

Yes they are alive and thrive as beings
Giants that come out of the North
With Viking Valkyries for their mothers
Emanating resilience from their breastplates
Riding their waves of frigid air and ice
Born of the snows blown upon the mountain

They build strength over time's enduring ways
And if given the chance
Like youths in the villages
They are soon shown the hunt

And like those youths
They and their ancestors will be forced out
But their villages will remain
To remind us of the ways of old

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Salcha Fish Stories

Stopped dead in my tracks
The stiff summer breeze whirls through the willows
Fluttering tiny ripples upon this motionless water
As I gaze upon the quicksand lying in wait

The clouds gathering gently overhead
Whisper words of warning on the wind
And mix them within the swift flowing Salcha
To narrow and deepen the waters unforded

The summer swollen river courses and pulls
Teeming with salmon of darkening red
Uttering no safe passage from here
And none from this still backwater slough now before me

In this moment I tune in
To the melody of life's rhythms as I stare
At the light orange-brown silt
Resting softly at the bottom

Sediment suspended just heavy enough
To lay at the bottom of the water
But easily stirred to life
By the slightest breath of current

As I have never before happened upon
This type of sideways slackwater
There is no need to test its measure
For I can envision the first step

So now the dilemma is shown in the light
As the salmon will not take a bite
But the grayling are voracious
In the long afternoon sun of the North

The grayling that have bitten me
Snared me in their nets of fate
Offered up their lives in sacrifice
To the campfire coals and cast iron

But the salmon paid us no mind
As they came in three's and four's
Constant as the river's current
And passed us by for calmer waters

And here I now stand
With borrowed fishing pole in hand
Matched with the trusty red and gold spinner
That just the day before landed
My greatest fish story of all

The day's work had just ended
Brush in the understory cleared away
And hose line ran around
These backwoods riverfront homesteads

Crew chief Nate and I took to the bank
He had brought his rig for just such an occasion
But had no luck in his landing
So he gave up and turned to me

"You wanna try a little further downstream?
Supposed to be a good hole around here somewhere"
"You bet" I said
As I grabbed the rig and went

Found the hole where the river bent away
Nice little fallen tree and root ball
Cast the spinner into the good flowing current
As the late afternoon northern sun shone down

Let the spinner drift
Over the hole just up from the tree
BAM! Had one!
Just that quick

And another
And another
And another
And another

Five casts, five fish
Hole played out in ten minutes
All good and fair Arctic Graylings
Never had seen a finer set

Nate cleaned 'em up all proper and trim
Fried 'em up right with cornmeal and spice
Back at the camp around the fire and all
You shoulda' seen me glowing by the coals
As we echoed the wolves upon the ridge line

So now my catch of the day
Had stoked the flames within us all
And a fishin' derby was in order
In tomorrow's long afternoon light

Well that day had come
It was time to out fish 'em all again
So upstream I wandered in search of another
Away from camp and the rest of the bunch

And now I stare at this quicksand
Stemming out from the swift flowing Salcha
And realize my path is blocked
My day in the sun is done

So back to the camp I went
But my record had held for the remaining days
Until the huey's came in with the rains
As the summer's fires washed out

But here now and again
I think back to that quicksand
Under the still waters so calm and inviting
And I remember the salmon
That refused to take the bait

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Swampside in the Boreal

There are times in this life
When the way is shrouded in mist
And the torrential downpour rains upon you
As you stumble upon loose stones
Grasping to get a hold
Of shallow protruding roots in the scrabble

And there are other times
When the path before you is good and clear
Well worn into the earth and rock
Easy to be found among the trees
Around the hillsides slanting lazily below
And laid out with purpose and meaning

These trails tell ancient stories
Your story of how you came to be
Here and now in this exact moment
Shown the way by guiding lights unseen
And unknown in the depths of time and space

If you listen to the words
Gurgling under flowing waters
Flown swiftly in the breezes
And echoing through the canyon halls
They will tell you constantly of way points
Not of our destination or journey's end
But perhaps of distant views along the way

Or a trail side rest among the boreal swamp
In the long lazy afternoon of the North
In a marshy valley at the base of a small ridge
Just south of the Salcha River

Where one day in the warm summer of '97
One hundred years after thousands ran north
To the riches of the Klondike goldfields
Searching their paths not yet laid upon the maps
It was my turn to man the pump

One small two-inch pump
Humming with the power of seven trotting horses
Rolling and clanging their bits and tack
Perched on the edge of black waters

Churning water a mile and a half away
To the rest of the crew on the line
Working much harder than me at the moment
For we all looked forward to the manning of the pump

A break in the action
Of blazing trails in the cottonwoods
Felling and swamping through the spruce
Of soaking hotspots with the hose line ran
And grubbing scratches in the sphagnum

Good clean work
Yes you get a little soot upon your skin
And your boots cover with dirt and ash
And the mosquitoes buzz your ears and face

But the constant inhale of the lighted forest incense
Is calming to the mind
As the sweat on your back cools as you go
And you find the trail or make one

Good clean work
All day work of long shifts in the forest
Where at the end of the day
The body and mind accept rest easily around the cook fires

Alone for my three hour turn
Laying propped in luxurious sphagnum
Listening only for a change in the drone
Telling me to tune the throttle ever so slightly

To keep the water flowing
Out of the dark black depths of the murk
Where surprisingly in this clearing
The mosquitoes have abandoned for elsewhere

Resting on the two foot thick peat moss
A carpet of miniature rainforest up close
I peer into the black waters
Seeing only about seven feet down
Not knowing how far the bottom

The swamplands of the boreal
Seem as emerald islands floating in the night sky
Soft clouds of pillowy green
Perched precariously and unsurely aloft in ink

I ease back into my rest
As pairs of dragonflies continually buzz in
Hover a few seconds to check out what's happening
Then continue their airborne mating elsewhere

Resting here with the soft breezes
The constant scent of woodsmoke and burning peat
I drift off to a light sleep
As the engine hums its lullaby

Even with this loud, obnoxious clanking thing
Buzzing in my ear next to me
Demanding adjustment at unwanted times
And noisily sucking from the peaceful swamp

It has its own way
Of quieting the space
As you tune into its drone
And drift away to rest your bones

This enjoyable swamp had called to me
Whispered its direction in my ear
Sent me north on a careless whim
To rest lazily by its side
For a few moments in the warm breeze