I cannot recall the names or faces of my ancestors
further back than a single great grandfather
and this only seems to reaffirm
that we come from nothing
and return to nothing
dead and forgotten
in due time
I was lost again.
Following a stream, looking for sanctuary
-a canyon on the right catches my attention
its entrance a dry waterfall twice my height.
I start climbing
top out in a dry rock basin
carved by once raging floods.
A new fall is revealed
beyond this another
I keep climbing
tracing the rock walls
until finding a face too high to climb.
I lost myself again
in movement and breath
and an empty mind.
Red poison oak leaves, sticks
and scree in my sandals, between toes
squatting on an outcropping
-comfortable at last
in the arroyo tonight-
yammering, snarling, squealing
excited by something cornered in a bush.
Two adults and a pup, a family
rubbing necks and biting
all mangy, ribs protruding
lean snouts scanning the air
strangely unconcerned by my presence.
Bald spots and matted fur
bodies thin and stressed
their eyes burn with wariness
a feral light
ears erect and alert.
Survivors, born and tempered
by the indifference of drought,
vanishing streams and chain-link fences
-mouse eaters, beetle eaters, cat eaters
always looking, always looking
out there hanging on, if only by a strand.
While counting smooth pebbles
and sorting my affairs
a spider strolls across the ledger.
My new office lies streamside-
beneath sprawling, weathered oaks.
Hold all calls, no visitors, please.
Thinking of you, today, all of you;
the Cold Mountain poets
-who know their way back to the world but instead
choose the loneliness of trees.
The bird watchers and stream listeners,
connoisseurs of dragonfly flight
and falling blossoms.
To all those who carry the Burden,
who feel uncomfortably hot with the windows closed
even when it’s cold outside
-who find their cure in the smell of dark earth and moss.
I hope you find it.
I’ll be out looking, again, today
as soon as the other world lets me be.
If backpacking is about taking to the wild and severing ties with civilization, bike touring the Southern California coast seems to be about skirting its edges and flirting with the perimeter. Riding paved roads and stopping for drinks or burritos, only to silently glide off into obscurity, lost to the rest of the world in the shimmering heat of untraveled paths. The bicycle has always brought me a sense of freedom rooted in the relative anonymity they provide- being just some guy on a bike. Seeing a person on foot on a remote road is unnerving and usually draws the authorities; seeing a cyclist doesn’t give much pause. Bikes tend to glide under the radar, slipping through this world to their own rhythm. Rolling onward, sweating, sprawling out in the shade on curbs and street corners, cowering from the sun in laughter behind military gas stations. Heat and asphalt, fried brains and missed trains…three fools on bikes, free, if only for 36 hours.