Neither beautify nor uglify. Do not denature.
—Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer
, Green Integer 2
So Saturday, the boys and I are coming into Yosemite on Hwy 120, sleet off and on, about 35 degrees, and a deer flashes across the road within feet of the front bumper. There’s another, down, in the road, barely lifting it’s head, one eye rolling back.
“Holy crap!” Peter (13) yells from the back seat. There are no visible marks on the animal. No car with a bent grill. We idle dangerously on the curve in the road. CRASH!
The biggest coyote I’ve ever seen jumps onto the road from the bank and grabs the deer’s neck in its jaws. Shaking it.
*#*##$%$#*!! Andrew (15).
Nature is savage. Marlin Perkins never had it better—in the middle of the road! Readers of this blog are lucky there were other cars coming and my efforts to back up to get a photo were thwarted—“Dad, you’re going to kill us!”
It is easier to feel than to realize, or in any way explain, Yosemite grandeur. The magnitudes of the rocks and trees and streams are so delicately harmonized they are mostly hidden.
—John Muir, The Yosemite, My first Summer in the Sierra
My car is a mess, not withstanding the window made out of packing tape that resulted from a black bear bending my doorframe down to the ground last fall. Apparently, they really will break into your car for a tube of sunscreen. Amidst the rubble and remaining glass shards, an old journal from a Half Dome trip in 2001:
The yawning breadth of the Sierras
and that’s enough. That’s why
we came here my brother and I
in November after the first snow.
People gone the cables
down for the season
no common-sense reason
to be here. Only the fluttering
of a pack in the wind
to mark the ascent,
the lonely pace of a raven
following from camp bringing news
of an alien planet.
After a day of bouldering near Camp 4, the boys and I huddle around a gathered-wood fire and watch the climbers sort gear by headlamp. What sounds like thunder— reverberating through the camp—is really a rock-fall. People from all over the world come here because they are drawn to adventure, to something that exists nowhere else.
As for poets, Gary Snyder found his Yosemite inspiration in trail crew work, as his Zen training might suggest. We’ll end with this meditation with a piece from “Riprap” :
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change in thoughts
As well as things.
J Gould has been exploring wild places and writing about them since age 6. He was one of the first "beach-watchers" and newsletter editors for NOAA out at Point Reyes National Seashore. He reads sporadically across the spectrum of poetry and poetics, without any discernible pattern, and toils in virtual anonymity as a poet with annual chapbooks and publications in obscure journals -- the first being Toyon at Humboldt State, where he taught and earned an MA in English. Friend J Gould here, and join the Poetry and Nature group to meet others who share your interest.