(Over the years we’ve spent time in Oregon’s breathtaking high desert and ranch lands. Our state is nearly 45 percent desert despite having lush forests and much rain in the western part. We once stayed at Kah-nee-ta Lodge, a resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and owned by Warm Spring Tribes. I felt a stranger in a strange land….but found it all compelling. Enjoy some photos of the area below. You will soon understand the expressions on our faces: true enchantment.)
Winds talk. Shape time. I listen to
stories riding on brittle air,
Native, Caucasian, Hispanic
tales woven and split apart like
strands of rope, bracelets
of bright, hard beads,
rawhide twisted and turned.
I am silenced, prepare for
discovery, too much I do not know.
Those old, old voices mumble,
whisper and entreat. They shear
rock and sand, insistent,
striated with memory of blood
coursing, blood spilling.
A woman like me can be entranced
so slips through mirages, spirits,
springs for healing, treacherous passes.
A landscape erupting with grief.
Desire. Power. Peace.
Raw beauty is strong,
burrows deep in dreaming,
hallowed and dangerous like a charm.
The scents of heat in high desert:
harrowing and pungent so it stings
but brightens the senses. The mind.
Light on rocky buttes, in valleys–
so pure I pray as it bridges earth
to Crooked River, volcanic ridge to beyond.
Chase it, embrace the land’s heart,
magic of juniper, sagebrush,
common woolly sunflower.
Life recapitulating. Surviving.
This time is slight, a guest
appearance between rains,
and so we gorge on light
and encores of color,
sounds and smells pillowing air.
Nothing is luxurious as this
blue flung far and wide, new
raiment donned for July.
Even trees lift up, limbs swaying
into washes of summer’s breath.
Birds practice acrobatics
inside blazing ultramarine.
Bear and wolf speak of bounty
from mountain to river valley,
noses caught in wind’s netting.
I cover myself in morning,
a cape that clings to my shoulders
undoing winter’s penchant for night.
Feet break free to slide, tap, patter;
hands seek tenderness of flowers
whose blossoms share glimpses of
nectar and mystique, perfumes of God.
July comes with a roar, laugh, leap,
a traveler emerging from coils
of cold and wet, then uncertain June,
from mosaics of silence, shifting shadow.
It unveils such wonders that even
hidebound hearts pause to soften
in this easy, ripening blush of summer.
This is a place where sky strives to
overcome water and aged rust of earth
deepens, decorates shoreline
like copper on bare skin. It rumbles
into sinew and bones. Peepers clamor, chorus.
Dusk is well laden with primal scent of
rock, teeming lake, the sponge of heat.
Day departs on vibrations of thunder.
I remember this canopy of tension,
and how royal summer sun leaves
its marks on flesh and mind,
a deep etching of my bloodline.
Sweat was evidence of industry,
nature’s work and our play, and it
leaked rivulets, gathered as bright beads.
We consented to heat’s demands or fell
into shadowed space, the breezeway.
Coolness swirled as we watched our mother
and a searing iron smooth cotton into fine art.
I know this heat’s oppression, it’s random release.
This place, discharging its cloying essence,
perhaps unforgiving, bound up
in a rapture of prayer, grief, laughter.
Being Southern was our way, a study in
drowsiness, easy talk, dignity and dreaming.
Din of cicadas and bullfrogs background songs,
and peaches so fat with sweetness they
dropped themselves into our hands.
See there: a spear of lightning charges a spot
that is unknown to me but I do yet feel it,
a sizzling clean flash that makes no wound.
Quaking clouds that can turn into killing force
now seem a surprise of reassurance.
This damp red earth cools like my blood,
and light flings its beauty over water’s body,
adornment like silk, a slow dance of
ardent adieus, night secrets trailing me.
Forget the rest, all hurtful things
and any false efforts, the energies
discharged when every look and
multiple words meant more or less
than what was needed or imagined,
and still the train of youth barreled
into midnights and mornings
when what mutely drew you was an
enthrallment, a peace planted and
blooming in the heart of chaos.
Which is here, now, and reverberates
up and down canyons and trees
with arms raised as you carry on
one heartbeat at a time, rocks sharp
though they give way and mossy places
still nestled, tender after all this time.
And the water flows, falls to earth
generous with riches, and long before you.
The wind carries secrets to all creatures
yes, and kindly, and always to you who are
made of starshine, angelica, pine sap and love,
brought into this slice of time, a drop of dew,
a tiger soul resonant with ancient life.
It came to pass, the fervid dream
that claimed the imagination and remained,
captured in a design of good intention.
The boat was built in time, did run,
the sly fish were caught and sold,
and river rolled and rambled to sea
with its insistent, munificent charms.
What an abundance of days
someone had at its bow, clearing
furious whorls and blinding depths
that cultivate coldest death.
A hail life or a middling one,
the Pipe Dream prevailed with
its steadfast ways, then perhaps
mistaken for more than it was,
a good dream made sturdy but
not undaunted, not untouched.
And the weather blew in surly,
the waters bucked and battered
and our stalwart boat was rushed, beaten
until it felt it might come undone.
Near to utter lost it was, yet not forgotten.
So the Pipe Dream II was crafted to
outlast a string of lifetimes
on that river, a place of welcome,
ceaseless toil and more laughter,
the result of great laboring and love.
But not all honest work is enough,
and plans are toppled by mere slips
and that dragon of a river takes
even the best, will toss over others.
So it stands the boat is a reminder:
there is no joy like a stubborn
dream taken in hand, with the
wind song in soul and whistling in ear,
river mixing a richness in one’s blood,
a man or a woman standing tall,
strong and proud at the helm.
But it will come to pass, they will be done
one day, will be sure and finally
done, while a good old boat
will endure as it can, will go on waiting.
(This boat is an old gilnetting boat, left on display as part of the history of Astoria, OR.)