[During the first week of September, I stayed in a remote Forest Service cabin on Montana’s Boulder River. It was an artist-in-residence program through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation. I used the time to do all the final rewrites and edits to the manuscript of poems I’ve been working on for the last two years. When I needed a break, I stepped outside into the stunning beauty and inspiring power of the wilderness. I wandered around and scribbled little notes in my journal, or often, since the journal is too big, onto blank portions of my pocket size copy of Han-shan. Following are some of these little scribblings, as well as a few photos I took.]
Baboon Mountain with its beard of snow.
Moss clinging to fenceposts. The cliffs to the east are tinged with the last vestiges of alpenglow. Each marmot has his favorite boulder, toasting themselves with the sun’s heat stored up in the rock throughout the day. Three women pass. They’ve been hiking in the wilderness for five days and are only 10 minutes away from their car, but they still stop to admire the beauty of the river.
The tiny outhouse shared with wood rats tucked deep in Box Canyon is the perfect place to re-read Han-shan. It’s the appropriate temple deserved by our big big thoughts.
The ruffed grouse, one by one, break cover and dart into the fir trees. Each time I think the last one has gone, another erupts from his hiding place. I could stand here all day. I’ve often envied the catness of a cat or the dogness of a dog. The birdness of birds, every day. But I’ve never envied a human, not even the ones on TV.
The Baboon Mountain that can be climbed is not the true Baboon Mountain. I learned that from Lao Tzu. Buy maybe, like me, he had bad knees and was making excuses.
When I was young, it occurred to me that a life of poetry would most likely mean I would die poor and alone. The alternative seemed worse. Not to be wealthy and loved, but to be wealthy and loved without poetry.
One little mouse just checking if I am awake. Okay, okay. I’ll get up and put the water on for the day’s pot of coffee.
[Click on any photo to view slide show of larger images.]
The sun tops the ridge and suddenly this propane lantern seems so ridiculous.
I’m on a lichen-braided boulder in a field of whispering grasses and the shadows of ravens, looking up at the silence of Baboon Mountain. Where are you?
Clouds come over the western ridge. Sun comes over the eastern ridge. Sometimes they pause in passing and exchange pleasantries. Mostly they just talk about the weather.
Sweeping the porch, I feel like a Buddhist monk. Until a deer fly buzzes me and I swat the little bastard.
The maroon & yellow butterfly
lands on the cabin’s stone step
Flexes its wings
Sorry about the hurricane
Last night under Baboon Mountain with a cigar and river-cold beer on the porch. Three robins run back and forth on the dark trail, over the bridge and back. The stars are clicking on their porchlights one at a time. Tomorrow, I’ll pack up my typewriters and a freshly inked stack of poems, load my gear in the truck and see if the engine will turn over. Then, it’s the long, slow descent back to the busy world, whirling with busy-ness.
[If you enjoyed this, I’d love to send you my free e-book, Notes from the Grizfork: A Year of Watching in Montana’s Paradise Valley. Simply click here.]