The day had been unseasonably hot for June, but now at five the fog was beginning to come through the Golden Gate, and the air was fresh and cool. From his father’s house, Edward could see it banked like high-piled snow, filling the gap between the land masses to the right and the left of the Gate. Soon a mist began creeping over the Bay, penetrated here and there by shafts of sunlight. He watched with concentration, as a person who sees the phenomenon of the afternoon fog for the first time . . . Wispy shreds settled on the flat land below him. Etched on the fog were the shadowy forms of the eucalyptus trees. Beauty pierced him like a sword. Once many things had held elements of beauty for him. Was the capacity to discern it coming back to him?

Ambleside Waterfalls

hiker on trail overlooking waterfallAt the same time the different falls have as different characters; the first darting down the slate-rock like an arrow; the second spreading out like a fan—the third dashed into a mist—and the one on the other side of the rock a sort of mixture of all of these. We afterward moved away a space, and saw nearly the whole more mild, streaming silverly through the trees. What astonished me more than anything is the tone, the coloring, the slate, the stone, the moss, the rock-weed; or, if I may say so, the intellect, the countenance of such places. The space, the magnitude of the mountains and waterfalls are well-imagined before one sees them; but this countenance or intellectual tone must surpass every imagination and defy any remembrance. I shall learn poetry here.

—John Keats, Letter to his brother Tom Keats in The Letters of John Keats: 1814-1821, Ed. Hyder Edward Rollins, 1958. Photo by Jim Vallee.

Doubling Back

woman hiking along riverThe Valency Valley beckons me inland, eastwards, across what I remember was a meadow behind the row of shops, and is now a car park. The ground is tightly netted and gabionned against the vandal fingers of water. I’m soon walking through an aisle of trees, alone on a quiet path that follows the north bank of the river. A duck flies low and fast ahead of me, embodying purpose. Like the jets I see skimming the locks at home, it adjusts its angle in expert increments to steer the central course of the winding river, then disappears around a bend. But this flight defines the landscape as miniature; a narrow valley with secret corners. A scale and nature I’m here to re-learn.

Doubling Back: ten paths trodden in memory by Linda Cracknell, Freight Books, 2014.
Photo by Goran Bogicevic

Reedgrass Pool

Sunset Evening PondA wind has come up, alive and rustling in the reed canary grass. It soughs in the pines on the knoll above the Reedgrass Pool. The evening wind is their common voice, but the pines and grasses have distinctive tongues. I look up at the pines’ black silhouettes and see that these trees hold hands with the wind. With wavelike bowings and risings, they seem to pass the wind from one to another. An earlier voice comes up anew, a voice of a thousand voices that intensifies as daylight diminishes, until I can no longer hear the wind. Spring peepers fill the edge of night with a shimmering wall of sound, a massive, pulsing union of shrill pipings.

–David M. Carroll in Swampwalkers’s Journal: A Wetlands Year, Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Photo by Elen

Wind in The Rock

woman looking over Grand CanyonI sit, taking notes as long as I can see, and then go up to the saddle. The wind is fierce cross the twenty-foot gap, this hiatus in the rock, but somehow it’s the right wind. Up here it is fitting that there is wind, keeping open the slot in the wall, charging through, honing the air, taking voices away. The moon sharpens and brightens, bringing Saturn with it, rising in an open quadrant of sky. I absorb the strength of the earth through feet rooted in the rock. If I could raise my arms high enough I could garner thunderbolts and grasp them like a bouquet of crackling light.

–Ann Zwinger, Wind in the Rock, Harper and Row, 1978