Here I am, having arrived at a place
to lose myself
among exultant Sword fern bouquets
unfurling in the dim light as far as the
I can see.
There it is again,
that pesky “I”
but no problem, it will
get lost soon.
We breathe together, the “I” and
this verdant ravine where Redcedar soars,
roots, opens, and sits
as still and profound as two in the morning.
Just this, redcedar whispers.
A cool breeze scatters leaves. Was it from the ridge-top?
The jagged, black edge of the island? Or
did the wafting breath arise
fifty miles east,
in the center of the dark, cold Salish Sea?
Here, now, air manifests
in gentle waves of cedar boughs,
flutters of tender huckleberry leaves,
prickly bumps on old arms.
Air and mind
focus and release in shuddering waves
like the darting squirrel
that was perfectly still a second ago.
Back and forth,
we’re eachall centered in herenow
in the bottom of the green ravine
where the I loosens and
dovetails into the forest.
Note: This poem appeared earlier this year in a slightly different version, with different photographs.
In Washington state’s Deception Pass State Park, a double loop of intersecting trails climbs in and out of a dry, coniferous forest and a deep, wet ravine. In the depths of the ravine, a massive Western redcedar tree (Thuja plicata) stands. This is the tree in the first photo and the photo below (with a person for scale). Well off the beaten path, the trail that winds down into the damp, fern-filled valley where the cedar grows is quiet. It feels remote from the built environment. Fallen trees coated with thick layers of moss from which younger trees sprout vie with ferns for the weak light that filters down through tall conifers. One can relax into the feeling of losing oneself in this forest, with only the sound of a distant raven and a nearby woodpecker punctuating the silence.
If you continue past the big cedar you’ll find more trails; go one direction and you climb out of the park, past the remains of an old mine and a decrepit log cabin, and back down to a quiet road. Walk another direction and you’ll emerge into a rough, cut-over area where blackberries thrive in the sun. I usually climb a steep, rocky trail leading out of the valley to a gentle ridge above Pass Lake, pictured above. The small lake’s cold water provides food for Great blue herons, Bufflehead ducks, River otters, and other beings who are intimate with the shoreline’s nooks and crannies. Humans must fish from non-motorized boats and throw the fish back to the water. We protect the lake, a breathing being itself that loves fog and holds it close on cool days before it floats away, nourishing the forest as it goes.