The Dark Green Conifers

another day in the woods. on Strawberry ridge
looking out over undulating green hills to
the next great wall ridge of mountains. the last
morning clouds left from last night’s storm
hanging in the valley mistily. the sun eventually
burns them away.

the respect between old Paul Karlsen and I continues
to exist. even though he’s a Mormon and I’m a fallen
New Yorker. the work is comparatively easy, lifting
hundred pound bags, so you can just imagine what
we do other days. in fact, it’s fun, especially for
young Bates. we get all white (and our lungs dusty).

on the way to and from the work site I read
in Silent Spring, the chapter against herbicides, gathering
inspiration for the upcoming controversy. in the end
perhaps I’ll be fired for refusing to lay down Tordon
beads. realizing this, as I drive with Bates,
I see the dark green conifers and begin to miss them.

Rocks and rattlesnakes, bluebells
and mountain daisies, grasses and cactuses, mahogany
bush, lodgepole pine and quaking aspen, lush forest
and dry sun-tortured mountainside, wind and seed
carried by wind, ants, streams, hummingbird
and hawk, deer, badger, ground squirrel, wolverine.

By Robert Ronnow

fir trees by meadow overlooking foggy mountain valley


Robert Ronnow’s most recent poetry collections are New & Selected Poems: 1975-2005 (Barnwood Press, 2007) and Communicating the Bird (Broken Publications, 2012). Visit his web site at www.ronnowpoetry.com.

Photo by Mykhaylo Pelin

Leaf and Tree

I suppose we all have those places that preoccupy our early imagination. For Thoreau it was Walden, Donald Hall has Eagle Pond, Annie Dillard gave us her account at Tinker Creek, and for the rest of us, if we are fortunate to experience the common wonders of any natural landscape, this activity can become an opportunity for learning and even spiritual reflection. Growing up in West Virginia, the creek was always one of those places for me; a place to fish, explore and learn. Those finds in all aspects continue to renew themselves and remain an inexhaustible source of material for writing. “Leaf and Tree” is about that search that continues to this day.

Warm, autumn afternoons I would walk parallel with the creek
onto a broad, gravel bed.
Over the wide clearing
spread leaf-woven canopies beyond my body’s reach.
Once, in mid-August
I found a glass chalice half-covered with maple leaves
in the cradle of a wash-out.
Every rise of the creek changed a geography of shore and bank.

At the limestone base of a hill,
an eroded slip bordered this shallow pool of water.
My feet waded, walked a narrow space
beside jade that only light could conjure.
Hours in summer shade
rock shards tumbled from my hands at water’s ledge.
Their stacked forms would break,
shatter on the ground like loose glass.
Fragments held fossils; wood-knots, fern, feathers,
a tooth, ammonite, or the bones of fish in carbon film,
lichen green on burgundy brown.

Released from limb’s hold, gold twirled down,
yellow bliss in wind-spun shower
where light-filled forms fell in water at my feet.
I could feel the force of life
surge, open, not knowing solitude,
ignorant of all, yet aware something moved through me,
was part of me, that sensed in the reeling flurry
what is seen and lost, what always is, even then, unknown.

You don’t have words when you’re young.

A broken piece of lime, angled end in water,
drew gritty lines on sandstone—
primitive scrawls where meaning never was.
Leaves arced here and there.
These collided, tumbled forms in wind
were like a sea of breath throughout the body.
One shell, fragile as a locust hull
glided like an ancient boat across my reflection.

By John Timothy Robinson

Rocky creek with green trees


John Timothy Robinson is a traditional citizen and graduate of the Marshall University Creative Writing program in Huntington, West Virginia with a Regent’s Degree. He has an interest in Critical Theory of poetry and American Formalism. John is also a twelve-year educator for Mason County Schools in Mason County, WV.

Photo by sergwsq

Brambles

They nose dive into the earth as
a great white shark arcs into the sea.
Water fountain spurts escape the ground
sprouting on to the woods page.

Hiding the homes of the occupants
badger, fox, weasel, stoat.
A bridge for wrens, warning seats
for robins, tunnels for rabbits.

The brambles sow their way through,
tying up the wood with their arrow
flights. Fencing off areas so we can’t
wander.

My life in the wood is being squeezed out,
pushed away.

By Gareth Culshaw

path along brambles and trees


Gareth lives in North Wales. He loves the outdoors especially Snowdonia. He is published in various magazines across the U.K. Visit his website here.

Photos by Jacqueline Moore

Suburban Journal 1: The View From My Window

new suburban houses near snowy woodsWhen we first moved into our subdivision six years ago, I could still see the woods from our front window. Not deep, dark woods, but an area of land not yet razed for more cookie-cutter houses. It was mostly brush, weeds, and mesquite trees, patches of land once pasture and now sitting in wait for its demise. I liked the woods being visible from our house. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to buy the house. As a child, I grew up in a small town, but I often visited my grandmother in the country, and woods were close to her house.

Whenever I looked out at the tree line, I was reminded of my childhood with my Grandma, one of the happiest times of my life. For me, forest meant a sense of comfort, the comfort of my Grandma’s house, of building forts in the woods, of exploration and excitement. All those memories were tied to the undeveloped area around my house, and I hoped it would stay untouched for as long as I lived there.

But those hopes were misplaced or naïve. A couple of years after we moved in, more houses were built across the street, and as the months went by, more houses popped up like a disease. Now the tree line is blocked from view, the woods enveloped by a long line of brand new homes. However, there is still an area of untouched land; a place I envision still has a few wild animals, survivors who are watching as suburban sprawl continually encroaches on their native habitat.

I don’t know what the future holds for the little patches of woods left, but I hold out the dream some it will still remain. Every day I leave to go to work, I can see the edges of forest still there, peeking over the roofs of homes, and I know there is still hope.

For that, I have faith.


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by Julia Keller

In the Woods

Hazy peaks of Blue Ridge Mountains

I love the silence that fills the air. But then the silence gives way, and you hear the soft sounds of the creek tumbling over river stones, the gentle whispering of the wind, or the rustling of leaves as they fall from the trees and scurry over the ground. The birds are often quiet after the morning sun has risen high in the sky but occasionally they sing out to each other, and to me. I love how the sounds build into a crescendo as the moon rises and the sky turns dark. The silence is obliterated by the shrieking of the cicada and the incessant croaking of what must be a thousand frogs convalescing at the creek’s edge. The evening wears on and I love how the sounds gently fade away as even nature’s nocturnal creatures decide to retire for the night. I love when, in the middle of the night, I can hear that the wind’s whisper has become more urgent and the leaves hang on for dear life as the tree branches thrash against each other vying for my attention, but they only manage to lull me into a deep sleep. I even love the way my dog, at 50 pounds, spends the night shivering from fear of the noises in the dark until exhaustion overtakes her and I feel the weight of her body give way to slumber.Alert dog by mountain stream

I love organizing my campsite as if the tiny patch of nature is my home—sweeping away pinecones and rocks and twigs with a fallen pine branch to make a smooth surface to pitch my tent, moving a log near the fire to sit and write in my journal, placing a book and a flashlight in my tent to keep me occupied if I wake in the night. I love foraging for firewood, first tiny twigs to serve as kindling, then small sticks, and eventually large fallen branches that require me to break them up before I can lug them back to the campsite. This is a laborious task and the amount of wood I need to collect is overwhelming but I know the reward is a fire that will endure through the last hours of daylight into the dim moments of dusk through the blackness of night and then again in the morning. I love the challenge of starting the fire, building a teepee with the kindling and taking care to make sure the branches are all dry. I know that the fire usually won’t catch the first few tries and I’m forced to be patient and try again and then again and again but sometimes I rip blank pages out of my journal and crumple them up, sticking them under the kindling and lighting them and blowing on the steeple of sticks, praying that a spark catches and the fire begins. I love how the fire grows and I love knowing that I can tame this beast roaring before me and with the same fascination I watch the fire die and whimper and fold into itself until only hot white coals remain.

I love the mornings when I wake up in my tent to the light of dawn spilling across the sky and giving birth to the possibilities of the day. I love starting the fire anew in the chill of the morning and cooking over the open flame. I love sipping strong coffee from a tin mug and watching my dog run after birds and squirrels and leaves and the way her ears perk up, and her head tilts, and her nose lifts in the air catching the scent of the next bird or squirrel or leaf.

Trail through sunlit forestI love hiking through the forest, with my dog just ahead of me, always looking back to make sure I haven’t fallen too far behind. I love when she stops, ears alert, tail up, front paw raised in anticipation, and then I see the deer and she sees the deer and the deer sees us and the world pauses to determine who makes the first move. I can never detect who moves first because in a burst of commotion the deer is bounding deeper into the woods and my dog is leaping, with a grace she doesn’t exhibit in the confines of my bedroom, and the two are lost to the forest and I wait patiently for my dog to come sauntering back to me after losing her prize.

I love the way my mind… slows… down… There are no deadlines, no phone calls, no traffic, no obligations other than to myself and to nature. I cherish this moment by myself and with myself and with Mother Nature who guides me and protects me and feels free to teach me a lesson when I’ve disobeyed. My spirit is at peace. I have conversations with my creator and I listen to my soul respond. I am renewed out here. On the trail. In the woods. In the mountains.


Simone Adams is a freelance writer and editor. She enjoys telling a
story from an intimate perspective. She is an avid hiker and is often
joined on the trail by her teenage son or her dog. Connect with her at
www.simonewrites.com.

Photos by the author Simone Adams