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Talking Rocks
Week-long Tours in the Desert Southwest
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I’m genuinely interested in geology for its own sake. I like investigating processes that have created the landscape and rock formations we observe today. But I’m also an incurable mystic and poet.

 

Then You Killed Me              (Dedicated to my friends of other colors,  5/29/2020)

I went running in the mountains with God this morning
under achingly brilliant blue sky.
The sun hot on my back,
sparkling on the rocks.
Through meadows of lupine
and forests of cedar
and Doug firs as big as a house.
Off to my right Mt. Rainier raised its dome
rocky and snowy, ineffably sublime.
I felt the strength in my legs and smiled in delight.
I felt the throb and thrum and rhythm in my chest,
the life of God running in my veins.
I ran for hours on the trail
soaring like a bird
flying like an angel in the atmosphere of heaven
Then I ran down the mountain
and onto your street,
and you killed me.

My mother lit candles on my birthday cake.
My daddy taught me baseball and soccer.
Aunt Velma made me cookies that tasted straight out of heaven.
And Uncle Gilbert taught me wrenches and cars.
Mr. Jackson taught me calculus and the mysteries of biology.
Ms Jones around the corner taught piano.
Taught me bass clef and eighth notes,
Scott Joplin and Bach.
When you listened to my music
you said to yourself,
It’s divine. It’s heavenly.
Like he’s related to God.
as you tapped your foot
and bobbed your head
before you killed me.

I was a teacher at Harvard,
an honored professor,
a high priest in the grand edifice of learning,
collecting knowledge and sharing it with the next generation.
Third cousin, I was, to the source of all truth.
But I was the wrong color
so you killed me.

I carved wood.with my knife
making crows fly from logs
and bears crawl out from dead stumps.
And you loved my creations,
marveled and wondered.
You sold them in galleries and showed them in museums.
You paid good money to have them at home.

And then you killed me.

 

Perfectly Mismatched Partners

Running a long, sidehill traverse
On the mountain they call Rainier
I’m a mere speck on the towering wave
Scarcely a beetle on the hide of the slumbering beast
The trail itself a faint, negligible scratch
An invisible wrinkle
on the face of the mountain.

I feel the skin of the trail through my paper thin sandals,
Sometimes smooth,
Easy on my feet
Sometimes rocky
where I run with great care
Dancing lightly
To avoid bruising my feet or tripping,
Sun on my back,
Air in my lungs,
Light in my eyes
Rhythm in my chest
Hunger in my gut
The trail tracing up another mile to the pass.
I run blissfully content.

But sometimes
At home alone with my thoughts
Or sitting at dawn under a dripping grey sky
I want to be more.
More than a speck
More than a bug on the great stony wave.
I dream of being the mountain.

I want to be big.
to make my own weather.
To tell rivers and railroads just where to run
To alter the wind and storms in the affairs of the nation
To make news and shape history
To bring justice alive in politics and finance
To be consequential
In the grand scheme of things.
I want to be the mountain
No mere runner of trails.

In vision I taste the life of the mountain
Live its birth and its fiery ascent
Rivers of magma
Thundering columns of ash.
Layer on layer
Building its bulk
Across six thousand centuries
Climbing out of the Earth
And kissing the sky.
Mother of rivers
Cradler of glaciers
Conjurer of clouds
Seducer of climbers
Beguiler of hikers
Immense, magnificent, and grand.

I taste the life of the mountain, and I’m jealous.

But I stay with the mountain
In rapt contemplation
I give attention to all of its story
I listen to the end while it whispers its wisdom:

I, too, says Rainier, am merely a speck,
Barely a pimple in scale
On Earth’s rocky crust
The slightest of hints
Of its red molten core
Its pulsing magmatic heart
And already I’m shrinking and falling to pieces
My skin wrinkling and thinning with age.
Glaciers and rock fall diminish my bulk.
And rivers run away with my life

Even my ocean,
the wave that I ride on–
This great globe of Earth
Racing round and around in its annual orbit–
Even my wave, my mountain, my beast
is itself a mere beetle
Wandering clumsily about
This local neighborhood of space.
A mere speck
Jealous of galactic immensity.

I listen to the whispering, aging volcano
I give ear to its story
And eye to its place
I feel its grandeur
And its vanishing smallness.
I taste the fire of its birth
And the chill of its inexorable decline.
I sit with the mountain
Through ten million years
While its grandeur feeds lichen and moss
And its rocks become tree-growing soil.

Then after awhile,
I return to my run
In vision I’m back on the trail.
With sun on my back.
Hunger in my stomach
Rocks underfoot
Air in my lungs
Rhythm in my chest
My feet making happy with the trail.

And glory fills my soul.

Along with the mountain
I, too, am aging
My skin wrinkling and thinning with years
My height now less than it was
My strength and speed in decline.
Erosion eats away at my vigor
Birthdays gnaw on my bones.

Still I have the pleasure of running
Caressing the mountain with sandals
Keeping sweet company with glaciers and lava.
And meadows of bear grass
and ice-polished rock.
I dance along logs set for bridges
Under a dazzling, achingly brilliant blue sky.

I am a speck, it is true
A mere beetle in scale
But perfectly sized
For this scratch of a trail
This invisible wrinkle
On the face of the mountain.

Together we tango
The great breast and I
Making love on our feet through the sweet afternoon.

I cannot make weather or rivers
The mountain can’t dance on its toes.

I run wary of falling
The mountain placidl ay circles the globe.

I admire the mountain’s muscular beauty
She holds me light as a feather.

Together we’re well-suited partners
At the fantastical galactic affair
Perfectly mismatched together
On the vast sweeping dance floor
of space.

Sitting at the Center of the Universe

I sat at the center of the universe
At the helm of a thirty-foot boat
Surrounded by nothing but water and sky–
Huge waves and a cloud-dancing moon.

It was a wild, fantastical ride, that night .
My ship the playmate of waves
Huge following seas, tops blown by the wind
We surfed on their faces
Slid down their backs
My hand on the tiller
And sail in the wind
Making our way center court
In the great cosmic game.

For those hard-of-seeing
We were only a speck
A negligible nothing on the vast empty sea.
We were not,
these dull-eyed pedants insist,
at the Center
of anything,

My ship was not,
It is true,
In the middle of the sea
We were sailing in Queen Charlotte Sound
A small bit of ocean
Off the coast of BC.

And it is true
That unlike the path of the great solar fire,
Our path and our mass did not hold as center
For orbiting planets.

And if you charted the line of our creamy wake
On a map of the Milky Way galaxy
Our course would show up way off to one side.
A little dot on an ethereal arm.

These bits of celestial and terrestrial geography
Fool those hard-of-seeing
Trick their eyes into thinking they’ve see it all,
Blinding them with small facts
to dreams that are true.

They pompously declaim
“You’re whirling through space
like fingernail dirt
on a careless, galactic Bigfoot.
You’re weightless and useless,
Gone with the wash.
You’re not consequential
And you’re not at the center.
Not the center of the ocean
Not the center of the planets
Not the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
You’re not at the center
No, not at all.”

They pontificate and swagger
drunk with their knowledge of West coast geography
And local astronomy,
And blind to the universe beyond.

While their heads were in books
And their eyes were on Facebook
The cosmos exploded.
The universe swelled
Till in every direction
east, west,
north, south,
up, down,
The universe stretches away
Radiation, bodies, and movement,
Every which way, every distance,
Every place we can probe with our scopes.

Galaxies whirl,
black holes gobble their lunches,
light streams,
particles hurl.
.
There’s no edge, no shore, only waves.
A vast cosmic ocean restless beneath us,
Above us, around us, and in us.
Its hunger for heart
Alive in my chest.

So we, all of us, at the helm of our tiny ships,
Our hands on the tiller,
Our sails in the wind,
Our eyes on the white caps
And the cloud dancing moon
We’re creating a path
center stage in the night.
We sail at the center of the cosmos
Cradling its heart in our ship