"I don't know about that."
"It's better than it looks."
Trust, not blind but with skepticism.
The worst part of the hike is the rope, I've never done this one before, and for some reason I go first. It takes a while to figure out how to climb up the twenty foot near-vertical face that's so eroded the dirt footholds have turned to slippery sand, and the ledge by the tree that's holding the rope seems like a mantle to nowhere, so instead I go left and once to flatter ground I promptly sit to collect myself. I don't look down the hundreds of feet drop below. It's better not to.
"It'll be better on the way down, right? There's nothing else like this on the route, is there?"
No to what, I wonder.
Merrily we hike, an endless ridge, granite towers, purple flowers, dwarf fireweed, signs of mountain goats and wolves, and eventually the turning point is the front door to the ice field.
The return hike, yellow flowers, sun in our eyes, side hilling to save our tired legs, I can see home far below by the water, ravens follow us, it's perfect.
And then, we're there again.
The down climb is, yes, just as bad. We stop, collect ourselves, mentally prepare. Slowly, safely, not exactly trusting the rope but letting it guide us down. I sigh when we're all safely to the ridge below, the scariest, and best, behind us.
What's the worst that could happen?
You fall, get hurt, really hurt, or you don't and then you get to see it all.
Ten Years to a Glacier
November 2012 and the glacier's face, its very terminus, dipped into the water from the moraine on the western side all the way to a rock cliff on the east, not far from the water fall. The ice caves were an afternoon hike across the peninsula and a short walk back across the lake in perfect, frozen conditions. From the trail on the east side, the glacier was visible from every view point as well as from the sand bar by the falls below.
I stood at the east side trail vistas in the summers before thinking that one day I won't be able to see it anymore. That day has come even faster than I imagined, quicker than scientists initially predicted. The east glacier trail is really just a lakeside trail now. I have no idea where - or if - any ice caves still exist. If they do, it would be a much longer, treacherous hike up new, exposed rock cliffs on the west side. The terminus is just barely in the water, a fraction of what it used to be, and they say we'll no longer be able to see it by 2050. The cliff face now extends all the way to the eastern extent. And worse, you can no longer see the glacier from the falls. That thought hadn't even crossed my mind until it happened.
I wish I'd known the glacier when it filled valley, before there was a lake, before the view from the falls vanished only to be replaced by icebergs floating in the lake that are really just remnants for a final viewing before the funeral and cremation.
Dancing in the Alpenglow
We sit by the fire, fixated on the embers, talking the night away. Fireweed halfway blooming frame the night sky and simultaneously make me want to enjoy each day, every hour of it, to exhaustion to fill the short summer with everything I can, but also take a moment to bask in it, the long nights and days, like we all did as children lying in the grass watching the clouds go by with friends until it got just dark enough that the threat of mom yelling at us for coming home past dark lured us back. The Sound moves in circles behind us, an abstract reflection of the mountains turn to zebra stripes. I'm reminded of summers camping on the beach, our annual pilgrimage, sea gulls calling in the distance, sand in my hair for weeks until the first day of school came and I finally had to clean the summer grime off. Somehow the green spruce trees on the hillside turn golden in the evening light, a magic shift that only happens at dusk. Mom and I used to sit on the porch swing, nights filled with laughter, we loved it when it rained, but our favorite was watching the evening light cloak the mountains. The sun would never really set, and we'd dare each other to stay up all night. The fire smolders, ashes settle in the ring. First we heard the music, then we saw them; a kayaker paddles by playing Dancing in the Moonlight. We locked eyes and laughed because no one else heard the music but us. But tonight, it's just me dancing in the alpenglow like we used to, and I can't help but think of home.
Too icy to wander off trail,
too deep and crunchy to make your own,
the only choice is too follow the track of another,
a dance where your feet must fall within their
frozen prints in the snow, otherwise you'll fall,
if you do you'll get back up and try again,
at the crux, the prints will peter out
and you'll have to find your own way to get where you're going,
maybe a route that takes longer,
one that scares you,
one that makes you give it your all,
one that makes you question if you did it,
but I promise, you'll know it when you're there.
Goodbye Sunlight, Hello Moon
Darkness in the upper latitudes
falls at four in the afternoon now,
it's hard for most,
but what they don't see
if they stay inside and hibernate
is the new world that comes alive,
snow brightly fills up the shadows,
and stars guide the way,
the northern lights dance
for those who stay up late enough.
We may have lost what little evening
sunlight there was,
but in it we gained the moonlight.
One purple flower,
your favorite color,
in the meadow,
surrounded by rocks,
water, and fading plants,
it grows next to the creek,
tucked in the middle of the valley,
like you once did.
It's your birthday,
the day we would have
gotten you purple cosmos,
but now your body is gone,
no cosmos today,
but the flower the grows
in the middle of the valley
on this October day
reminds me of you.
Little worms growing up out of the ground reaching towards sunlight, or maybe the rain, space-like, or of the sea.
Sea urchins on land, perhaps, sea urchins of the forest.
Purple spindles, must they be spun by dawn I wonder.
Purple fairy club.
All its names leave more question than answer.