Walking the Ridge at Dusk
Barely two hundred yards from our back gate,
maybe a hundred from the footbridge across the creek,
the land begins to rise.
Not much further on, the trail forks.
To the right, a lumber road climbs
slowly, steadily with few bends
to Mt. Orient,
hardly a mountain really
but a good reliable destination
to hike to with friends
above the treetops.
But to the left
after a brief, steep scramble
another path meanders
along a narrow ridge of land
winding among the trees
(as my fingers long to wander
over your face).
I imagine it as my own personal path,
one that much fewer choose than the other one.
I love best to walk this way at dusk,
just as the day's light is failing.
The dogs run recklessly through the trees
as if to say "at last you've let us out
for one great burst of energy
before we become quiet
and peaceful through the evening
Sun's rays splash gold
across the treetops.
Clouds suddenly become fiery
over my left shoulder
back towards town,
and also over my right shoulder
towards Quabbin water and
countless abandoned farms
returned to trees.
The wilderness stretches on mile after mile to the north
all the way to Monadnock's rocky summit
treeless, burned off by those
who still farmed its slopes long ago -
to drive away the wolves.
Emma pants, struggling to keep up
with Nikko, who hurtles silently
like a panther
dodging trunks, skimming over the earth,
showing off, passionate, exulting
in his freedom to run.
I walk in quiet.
Nikko's running makes my heart sing.
Even when I was young I did not
run so much, with my legs or loins,
even less now.
But I have run with my heart and mind,
creating sit-ins against war,
leading gatherings to celebrate and explore
God's secret voice,
writing a few fiery poems and essays.
Mainly, perhaps, I have stood and spoken
my voice shaking with love
while others sit silently about me
with heads bowed.
I know my way of living, my self-styled passions
have often caused you pain, my heart.
You experienced them as thoughtless, even cruel.
I have tried to learn decorum, patience, tact.
You have been a good tutor, I a poor pupil.
I will keep practicing
unobtrusiveness and subtlety,
continue to try and learn from you.
But I am not done running yet.
Nikko bounding leashless reminds me of that.
I walk slowly, joyfully,
feel a breeze on my cheek,
gaze up at the hem-stitched needles
spread out delicately overhead,
dark bark and rustling oak leaves beside me,
moss and roots underfoot.
And my heart sings on.
I call the dogs by name
and turn back.
Am I really only half a mile
from curbs and streetlamps?
Thank you, love, for gifting me
this simple wood-walk
that I dreamed about, imperfectly
for so very many years.
- Peter Blood, Amherst, Christmas 2008