Alan Drengson, 1977, LightStar Press, Victoria BC
Evening Venus, glowing light,
Polaris flickers red, blue, white.
Night time crickets, meadow fragrance,
reach toward the over-arching sky.
The moon is warm
in the meadow silence,
high above the darkened valleys
amidst a sea of mountain quiet.
The evening stillness
is hushed with sound;
within the flow of firelight
the tones of whispered dialogue.
Campfire circle talk,
spoken words throughout the night.
Community of friends with heads together
sharing memories and waking dreams
of other times and other spaces
and far-off mountains in other places.
Creating mountain tours
and climbing distant summits,
following ridges in the sky
across a floor of clouds.
A night of everlasting peace
and calm within me ever on,
a quiet place where I return
amidst the pauses in my days.
There have been other nights
that lacked this calm majesty,
whose spider-woven ways
threatened my life, my sanity.
There were those nights when
I attacked my sleep with stones
I hurled upon the stars
that watched my restless wakeful hours.
Through these stormy nights
I stoned my sleep with stars
and lay awake to hear
a thunderous silence
echoed through a never ending space
without a turn or corridor
a wall, or solid place to rest.
I waited for some sign
by a crippled tree of dusk,
a faint echo from on high, perhaps,
But I heard nothing,
except my own self, grieving.
A beaver kit, alone and lost,
separated from its family
crying in the stillness of his own home pond.
A whimpering voice of infinite resignation
that pierced me through to bone.
It was a sigh from
those past nights.
Both ecstasy and fever lay
in those tangled sleepless ways.
But, oh, to be excited by
cold stones, cold stars…
in the vast celestial spinning
of galaxy and sun,
to be where centers of glittering
mist-luminous stellar scatterings trail.
The cosmic swath of the Milky Way on edge
becomes a mandala before my eyes.
There my heart knows rest.
And these nights pass;
the joyful and awake
the restless and the sleepless too.
It was a summer dusty afternoon
twenty gravel miles from the highway.
We parked beside a battered bus
and did our final packing.
Tightening our boots and hoisting loads
and up the trail we went,
walking slowly, tramp-step, tramp-step,
looking for the magic pace.
Through Douglas forests of fir
and grassy older glades,
we unwound our way from civilization.
There were times as we passed
through the darkened woods
when we had a moment of fear—
as if some dark thing
hung over our heads
and watched every step for a fall. But…
Our thoughts could stay
with nothing for long
for we were caught
by each colorful throng of paintbrush,
columbine, and shootingstar.
In the high meadows, with heather and bees
we ambled along, entranced,
and then dropped down the ridge to Hagen Lakes.
That night the lakes became the Milky Way,
and the splash of water falling from the cliffs
became our protective spirit.
In the morning the sun climbed
Mt. Stone’s back side.
We watched the sky turn indelible,
and flights of silver ships
streaked through the endless blue.
What wonder had we witnessed?
These objects from the other side
we saw as the day grew lighter,
were insects flying in the sun.
High rock gardens,
mountain meadow lawns,
grand Zen boulders catch the setting sun.
We three camp on a ridge of Cat Peak.
We melt our supper snow
as the alpine glow illuminates
our end of day repair.
The bears come out to see Mt. Carrie
above Boston Charlie’s pond.
First one bear,
and then two more:
Three bears are feeding,
and then a grizzled four,
slowing turning stones,
looking for ants, spring’s diet relief.
We think the bears are migrating
when the seventh one appears.
Large coat of horsetail fur
ripples when they move.
The black brown seems a perfect round
in the middle of the green.
The sheer power of the Bruins
sends shivers up my spine.
Watch them moving slowly,
Tai Chi child;
this bear is anchored to the world;
his center’s always low.
When we look again
they’ve all disappeared.
“I wonder where they went.”
“Are they coming in our direction?”
Our adrenalin starts to flow;
but we see them, on this trip,
not ever again,
no, not ever again.
Camped in a hollow on the way to Quinault
in a rustic shelter beside the trail,
We cook soup and philosophize,
diagnose the clouds drifting by.
A small stream weaves a magic chant.
Frogs croak behind the old outhouse.
The fire dies down,
and a settled sleepy calm
tugs on our eyelids.
One goes strolling before padding out.
From the woods we hear a startled cry,
“Toads! Toads! Millions of toads!
We are being overwhelmed
by a toad invasion!”
We shine our Mallories,
and in the light that spreads
we see the ground alive and moving.
We see the eyes in their heads
as they hop all around us
and move toward the shelter.
We take to the top bunks
and half awake, we wonder
at the wonder of this hasty operation.
Is it mating season,
or a pilgrimage to the river?
They croak in unison with the moon’s early rising.
Their voices slice through the night time veil,
and we are transported
from the darkness to the sky above.
Their sounds sew the night and forest;
meadow and peak
all become their chorus;
dual semi-tones in an octave complete,
the harmony of the whole.