Synthesis Of Light

The way Sabrina (almost six-years-old) lays on her bed
and plays her iPad for half an hour. Like the way an owl
can turn his head totally around since he/she has no eye
ligaments or nerves to keep the eyes moving without
the head. Sabrina loves playing dolls with me, her father,
and she has a doll house that we use sometimes.
Mainly we talk, as if plants have ears, and I heard
they do, by means of flowers. Our talking among flowers
it is best to do so directly, and their brighter flowers
will improve the garden.

The mountains hold everything providing light,
whether it be clear or dark—stars whisper to
the moon, like when you talk to me, and shine
right back to us, up on the mountain top,
arriving at six a.m. The sun rises over the edge
of the mountain before its full body is seen.
As its body illustrates pops from the sun’s
surface and day-lilies outside the coffeehouse,
we will drink dark roast decaf and talk to each
other like a window opening and no one disturbs
the hush of the window opening but a crowd
is heard in the background. I want to hold
your hand and do so. I want to toss your hair
with love twirls and tell everything in silence
since we first started dating and married not
yet whole in ourselves. It takes time to grow,
and the sunlight illustrates through those
day-lilies ripening outside as we stare out
the window until we rise, get another cup,
and go out and trust in the day ahead to guide
and shape us into who we want us to be.

There is nothing
I will not do to keep
light on your face
until the sun
deepens its fade
into stars
and moon of eve,
and then we will
both grow even
then, even any
-time. I just want
you loved by me
to see our dreams
coming true
as day-lilies held,
squeezed tight,
and planted even more
due to the sun
and dark at night
with the sun again
in the a.m. preparing
its heat and day-lilies
opening once the light
turns to both itself
and heat
for the afternoon
calling lemonade
to quench
our thirst appearing
as the first
light of morning.

When are you going to the peach tree
again? Like a movie we’ve seen numerous
times because of comedy, lucidness,
and delight in philosophy? I just see you
with an arm around me, which doesn’t
occur often, but does when I need a hug,
and then a couple of minutes is all outstanding.
Under the peach tree you sit so the sunlight
doesn’t pinch your eyes closed, and you
take a bite of a peach that fell and you
had to stretch to catch it. Its own
hunger fills your body, an enormous
task to do so by itself, not because
of you but the peach having to work
through photosynthesis, and the juice
slushes down your skin into your hand
under chin until you sleep in the heat
of afternoon, and I sit and dream
right next to you.

After peaches picked from the trees and taken home,
Grandpa makes the best homemade ice cream ever
tasted, even now with specialty ice cream places around
town that could fill streets if not so separated, and I
find you in a dream eating that ice cream before death
rings true to my Grandpa, and the doctors said prepare
for seven more years when the newly formed arteries
and vesicles will run themselves out. Grandma soon
moves to a nursing home after a car crash,
not resembling my own low blood sugar diabetic ones,
and lives as long as her sister did, ten years in the home,
and then the call from the home told my Dad and we
both went out to see her lying in her bed with her eyes
closed and a smile upon her face; she hasn’t looked
this good in ten years, the dementia had left her body
as did her spirit, into heaven, and finally met her love,
Grandpa, over fifteen years apart. I dreamt they simply
walked in parks or sat on chairs and fished, and maybe
even went camping in the fall before it cleared. The light
remained on them both without having to do a thing.
And life seemed to last a blink of a moment looking
back and seeing them together for all the years,
and even past their moving to St. Louis from
Chillicothe after their 50th wedding anniversary.

In the phosphorescent morning, as the squirrels
and birds fly to catch a new fresh breath tasting
of the clouds and of fog, a new trip to the western
part of the U.S., and all I need is your breath
to wake me, like the boat that offers its own wake
where water skiers pass into and out of that wake,
and nothing can at this high tide hour. At the lake
there are some smaller mountains, and I’ve hiked
some but not many or often. I’ve never really looked
into the trail situation. I hiked when I went to school
in Flagstaff, sometimes everyday in summer,
but weekends during school hours. It will be great
when we both and Sabrina get to go out there
and see the vastness that awaits. Please let us
have fun on the vortexes too! It’s really windy there.
It’s really windy on the vortex due to the equilibrium
that exists on them. Their trying to continue
feeling from one day to the next, like with meditation.
It’s in the light I see you swimming back at the dock.
I want to be there with you when we otherwise
could be somewhere else doing something else.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk about hiking all I
have done in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon
as it’s something needing the experience
to understand. I haven’t really been able to find
the words to explain the experience; it’s like
running backward and having people asking
what it’s like, and there’s no answer to give.
In the calmness of the night language can
provide what’s necessary to continue to try
and distill the answers about all the hiking,
and that’s the best I can really do.

Only when I write do I shine forth enough beauty…
whether here or not, I’d like to think I do for you.

By Bradley Bates

father and daughter silhouettes at sunset

Photo Copyright: BlueOrange Studio

Tree Dippers

sparrow bending branch to eat seedsThe tree is withstanding a drought of many, many years. Desert downpours and high winds in late summer took one of the top limbs so it is shorter than necessary. And in spite of human intervention of trimming, a passerby may still look up to see the few remaining green, turning brown, yellow and red leaves on otherwise bare branches. They bid hello with a wave while some yellow and gold jewels lay on the ground to marvel at or walk on. But the passerby will not be privy to the homecoming events seen from the sky.

I call them dippers, the sparrows and finches and they have been gone for months it seems. Summer vacation languishing somewhere in a cooler environment perhaps? The fall has come and avenues of branches and limbs of all sizes reach up and out performing beckoning dances to them. Reddish tipped branches wave frantically in a slight breeze. The more mature limbs with leaves of green turning brown and yellow wave back and forth slowly as a whole.

Perches of pleasure await. Seeds attached throughout are being readied for the taking. Then a tweet from the past breaks an otherwise quiet moment. The dippers see the waves of welcome and the wide open branches to gather them in as we do with open arms to another. Daily visits by one or two scouts test a seed here and there. Turning their head sideways and moving outwards they glance at seeds. A taste test proves the gifts are not ready just yet. A slight turn and they are gone. Provision has been made for them elsewhere to check. The tree’s personality at this time of year becomes slow and slower to finish ripening the expected treasurers. Everything in its time.

Now abundant, matured and nourishing to indulge in, the call is made. Limbs are chosen by all and the gifts of bounty are broken into. In contrast, dippers have a personality of frantic it seems — hurry, hurry. Colors of red, yellow, brown and even green flash by as heads bob in and out, moving limb to limb. Using tongue and beak they start at one part of a little round morsel and turn it until the envelope is open. Somehow it looks as though they hold the meaty inside with their beak and with a flick of the head, fling the casing away. With a loving touch of tiny feet and weight of slight bodies on the branches there is no pain for the tree as there was with the trimmers. There is only giving and receiving; acknowledgement, touch, expectation by both.

The desert winter has arrived. The tree will have given the past away for the future. Few leaves are left and seedless branches means less energy used, a time to rest, a season for everything. The eaten gifts will be planted far and wide during the dippers journeys.

Continued cold weather and desert rains mean few leaves to protect the dippers and they will gather on my balcony and window sill. Whether true or not, they look fluffed up against the cold. Now I am able to become a very small part of their world. They are unaware as I get close to look at them through the double-paned window. I have such diversity in coloring, movements and personality sitting before me and I’m given my gift of time to just watch. A break in the rain and scouts announce another source in another area and they are gone. Just as they arrived, they leave with no sound just a tiny mass of moving air.

With the explosion of the spring the dippers may leave on vacation looking for the welcoming wave and open limbs of another. As our desert summer then begins those that stay will be lost in the green canopy of new leaves. The tiny gifts of the future seeds are barely a hint.

As a story in process does not end, nor does nature, nor does learning. For me, the birds of my past years don’t abide where I am now. By the time fall returns I will know more of the dippers. I will welcome them along with the frantic waves of red tipped branches and the slow wave of the green, turning brown and gold.

Diane Steele enjoys watching the simplicity of nature. If left alone nature will do what is needed when needed. To imagine what complexities are involved in all of life is what makes Diane want to explore.

Photo by Vladislav Enshin

As Above, So Below

Sweet meadow grass grows
Where forest used to be. Not all has gone to seed,
While all that is fallow awaits a time of need
To push through dirt, and rocks, and clay
Toward another greening of the day.

Even starlight cast over a midnight lake
Shimmering on rippling waves,
Beds down with ash and mud,
Mingles with fish and bones, and holds
A bit of universe tucked away in stones.

By Cynthia Sidrane

desert stream flows around white boulders

As a desert and mountain dweller and avid hiker, Cynthia Sidrane’s poetry and photography are reflections of the wild, remote and rugged beauty of Arizona deserts, and the Sky Island mountain ranges that rise like miracles from them. Her poems have been published online and in print, including two short-form poetry anthologies: “Pay Attention, A River of Stones,” and “A Blackbird Sings.”

Photo by the author

In the Moment

for Vicky D.

As often as it happens, when
you see a sudden deer
standing still as the mountain it lives on
there’s a silence that runs deep
into the earth
for the moment until
a shiver of sound
is caught in the wide open ears
and the head turns a few degrees
before she runs through summer’s grass
and disappears into the calls
of an oriole in woodland.
Such moments remind us
this is land between granite and grass
with horizons that tilt
beneath storms in their season
and valleys where thirst
runs on a riverbed
until the day the rains draw
toads from underground
to become the beating hearts of night.
This is the time
trees sing to themselves,
when owls are quick and stars
flow across the peaks. Look out
into the universe, take a step
in the moon’s direction
and look back at what surrounds you:
bedrock, cactus ribs, gravel trails
and junipers. After sunrise
you might find a rattlesnake stretching
out on a warming trail, look
a bear in the eyes as he ambles
on the other bank of a stream, or flush
a covey of quail from the shade,
and surprise will be what binds you all
to common ground.

By David Chorlton

cactus and sunset lit butte in Hewitt Canyon, Arizona

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Photo by Anton Foltin

Hiking the Grand Canyon

“This landscape is animate: it moves, transposes, builds, proceeds, shifts, always going on, never coming back, and one can only retain it in vignettes, impressions caught in a flash, flipped through in succession, leaving a richness of images imprinted on a sunburned retina.” From Downcanyon: A Naturalist Explores the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon by Ann Zwinger

I’ve always liked Jules Verne’s writings, and from my first reading, I was captivated by his novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. The fantastic adventure commences in Iceland, or rather under Iceland, for the most part. The movie versions never could compete with the fantastic images that Verne’s words produced in my mind’s eye. And as a child, I became curious about this place called Iceland, and was captivated by the photos of the landscape I found in the library and National Geographic. And amongst the photos that most evoked the sentiments in me that Verne’s book had, were the ones not of volcanos, but of the canyons. It was at that point that I made an emotional connection between canyons and the Journey, and I can’t separate the two very easily to this day. I have not explored Iceland yet, nor attempted my own visit to the center of the earth, but I have found some caverns and more than a few canyons. And in truth, I have not fully abandoned the whimsical dream that the Lidenbrock’s Path that Verne wrote about might exist somewhere at the bottom of a canyon, probably a grand one, at that.

south rim view of the Grand Canyon.When one refers to the Grand Canyon, it is usually the magnificent 277 mile long gorge cut by the Colorado River through Northern Arizona. Usually, but not exclusively as it turns out. There are canyons and gorges in many states that are referred to as “Grand” in some fashion. Kind of like the way iconic people are referred to as the “Babe Ruth of” whatever it is they do. There is Letchworth State Park’s “Grand Canyon of the East” in New York, not to be confused with Maine’s Gulf Hagas or West Virginia’s New River Gorge, both also dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East”. Alabama’s Walls of Jericho is called the “Grand Canyon of the South”, as is the gorge in Breaks Interstate Park in the Virginia portion. The “Grand Canyon of the North” is an open pit mine in Hibbing. MN, and the Waimea Canyon in Hawaii is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

Wyoming has the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”, while the “Grand Canyon of North Carolina” is Linville Gorge, and “Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon” is Pine Creek Gorge. Features called “Grand Canyon Of ” are found in Michigan, Tennessee, Idaho, Oregon and Texas as well. Interestingly, “Little Grand Canyons” also are found in Vermont, Mississippi, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Missouri, Georgia, California and Washington. That’s Washington State, not DC, although I’ve scrambled along some pretty steep banks fishing along Rock Creek in the District, our first National Park incidentally. I am sure I’ve missed a few “Grands”, but you get the picture. The park services, chambers of commerce or tourist bureaus are not trying to deceive you, they are merely paying homage to the ultimate one in Arizona. And for the record, Arizona is not immune to a little hype either, their state moniker being “The Grand Canyon State”.

I guess everyone who has been to the Grand Canyon has a memory of their initial reaction to standing on the rim and beholding what was now in front of them. Most people don’t say behold to describe what they see, but it is the only word that fits, and it is not really enough. We all have seen the pictures and film, or read accounts dating from the Spanish explorers to John Wesley Powell to the aforementioned National Geographic. But as cliche as it sounds, all that doesn’t do it justice. First fully explored by Powell after the Civil War, it was dedicated a National Monument by Theodore Roosevelt roughly forty years later. Roosevelt’s words on the plaque with his likeness at Roosevelt Point on the rim pretty much sums it up. “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American … should see.” It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the superlatives and awe are all warranted.

Hiker on a Grand Canyon TrailMy first visit to the Grand Canyon was in winter, when we took a break from trout fishing along Oak Creek near Sedona, Arizona. Driving north through Flagstaff, we approached the Grand Canyon traveling along a sagebrush plateau dotted with pinyon pine and juniper, and revealing an occasional pronghorn. My first view of the canyon was then of course from the South Rim. The exact spot was at the Bright Angel trailhead. Because of icy conditions there, we did more viewing than hiking. My clamp on ice creepers or a pair of YakTrax would have changed that, but they were 2,600 miles away in my ice fishing bucket. But the viewing was ample and the landscape was like none I’d ever seen. As I stated, I love canyons, so I’ve seen a few, but nothing remotely like this. Not only in terms of scale, but of vantage point as well. And perhaps the single most compelling thing to me from there and several other vistas, was the narrow green ribbon snaking along the bottom of the the gorge as far as you could see.

Although I knew what is was, I could not reconcile easily the appearance with the physical reality of the flow at first. It was of course the Colorado River, but I’d never seen any water so far below me except while on a plane. The virtual trivialization of this mighty river was stunning. The sight of the Colorado looking more like a varicose vein than a river is one of my most vivid memories of the canyon, right up there with the overall surreal scale of the landscape. We often use the phrase “as far as the eye can see”, and probably use it accurately enough in most cases. But here on the South Rim, glassing the otherworldly aspect that the Canyon evokes, it took on a new dimension. And in that moment when my breath was literally taken away by both the scope and beauty of my surroundings, I was re-filled to bursting with a particular thought, quickly becoming knowledge.I knew beyond a certainty that there were more places lying before me than I could ever explore in a lifetime. And right there, under my moon-eyed gaze, were places no one else had been. Boulders where no one else had warmed themselves in the sun, box canyons as narrow as city alleys that no one had followed to the end, rock faces no one had scaled, tiny gravel beaches no one had stretched their legs on, pools that had never seen a lure, and seepages that had never filled a canteen. It both thrilled and amazed me, and scarcely a day passes that I do not re-visit that feeling, a lasting gift of the Canyon.

But, there were other aspects of our initial exploration of the Grand Canyon that allowed a more measured observation of the landscape. A deserted trailhead access for the Hermit Trail provided a rare solitude that day along the rim. On the way there, we passed many coyotes and mule deer, the larger mammals most frequently encountered in the Grand Canyon National Park. Hiking down into the Canyon pleasantly afforded us a more micro view of the environment, micro of course, only in comparison to the rim views. The Hermit Trail is rough and steep along much of it’s 4600 elevation drop to the river. But the upper third that we trekked along was not unreasonable, and unlike the upper portions of Bright Angel Trail, the Hermit Trail was ice free that February afternoon. Hiking through the rocks, sagebrush and a few Englewood spruce, gave us a chance to bask in the below rim experience. Two golden eagles, several ravens and a peregrine falcon soared overhead on the thermals as we made our way down the trail. At a switchback we chose as the terminus of our hike, we sat and watched the lenticular clouds forming over the rapidly shadowy Canyon.

As the temperature perceptibly began to drop a well, we headed back up the narrow but relatively stable trail, I felt secure in the fact that our packs were weighted not only with an extra fleece and water bottles, but headlamps and flashlights as well. All but the water bottles never left the packs, as despite the fatigue of a long day, our pace was quicker ascending than it had been descending. That was so, partially because there was less to see in the fading light. Reaching the trailhead parking lot just before dusk, the Canyon had one final surprise for us. As we drove around a sharp bend, a small herd of elk crossed the road in front of us. The size of these animals is awe inspiring, especially to one whose home woodlands have only the whitetail deer as ungulate representatives. An enormous bull elk stood in the middle of the road staring at us until the cows and calves had moved well into the trees, before trotting away and disappearing like a ghost into the dusk and brush, but never from our memory.

Photos by the author and Sherry Yates