Tag Archives: Boy Scouts

In My Veins

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Sitting on the shore of Bear Lake watching my boy scout troop, including my own sons, swimming and canoeing, I grew contemplative about the nature of water and the currents of my life.  The boys laughed and squealed as they frolicked in the cold lake.  They were clearly enjoying scout camp at Bear Lake Aquatics Base.

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The scene caused me to remember my own scouting days canoeing down the rapids of the Delaware River, across the lakes of New York’s Adirondack mountains, and over placid colonial New Jersey canals fishing for catfish.  This poem began to take shape as I continued to watch the water and happy boys so clearly enjoying it.  Good for you, I thought.

The river of my life continues to flow, with strange twists and turns, and not a few eddies and submerged snags.  But I paddle on.

IN MY VEINS

This water does not seem to move,
rather sleeps contentedly,
still, glistening the yellow sun.
Trees on each bank reach
skyward and riverward,
into air and water.

This river slumbers except
where my canoe prow tickles
up a wake and green sides
send slow ripples
that lazily lap the banks.
I do no injury.

If I slow my canoe, if
I drop my paddle and stop,
leave no trace,
I see:
the boat still advances
in quiet current
past the bank-bound trees.
The river does not sleep,
I see:
it creeps forward
inexorably, taking me
from whence to where,
from then to what will be.

I am part of the river.
My childhood passed a stone
upstream, a green-speckled hegemon
lording from the bank,
aged with orange and black lichens.
The river’s mouth, yawning to the eternal
ocean, will swallow me some day, draw me
into swirl and flow forever.
Here, today, the river is
the liquid in my veins.

I seek neither headwaters nor sea:
they were and will be, and always are.
Here is where I am.
Kingfisher knows this,
watching me from arching bow.
Great Blue Heron knows this,
winging downstream
to a place where I am not
yet.  River knows this, too,
expiring in oceans even
while birthing from melting snows.

The river is always
awake, every part of it:
River knows.
Rock knows.
Tree knows.
Only,
I am slow to see.
Sky knows.
Earth knows.
Wind knows and whispers
to me across the water.
Only,
I am slow to hear.

Brown Oak Leaf

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Several years ago I joined an expedition of older boy scouts, including my son, Brian, for a winter campout between the Christmas and New Year holidays.  At the top of Settlement Canyon, we spread insulating straw over the snow-covered tent sites, then shoveled out a foot of snow around the edge of the tents so we could sink the steel tent stakes in the hard ground.  I grew restless after eating my tin-foil dinner and visiting with the others for an hour or so, and set off for a winter walk.  Though the sun had long set, the moon and stars shown through the leafless Gambel Oaks and Mountain Maples to reflect brightly on the white snow.  The utter beauty of my surroundings suddenly washed over me transcendently.  Later in the night, in my tent, bundled up against near zero-degree weather, I turned on my headlamp and scratched out this poem.

BROWN OAK LEAF

A brown oak leaf
dangles from a stray gossamer string,
spinning like a winter whirligig,
reaching down to her sisters,
intercepted in her journey
to the resting place of all deciduous foliate life.
The cool air caresses the brown oak leaf
with the sweet fragrance of powder-green sage
and the sweet fragrance of the fallen-leaf loam
that rests, decomposing,
yielding to the hard earth
its fertile essence
to bless Spring’s
purple taper tip onion,
elegant sego lily, and
infant leafy-green canopy.
The dry leaf’s mother oak,
dressed in velvety orange-green lichens,
clings with tangled roots,
like the tentacles of ten octopi,
sinking their tendril tips into the high stream bank.
She joins her bare branches
to a thousand denuded tree tops,
waving randomly like
the up-stretched arms of
so many entranced worshippers
flexing toward their god.

(“Brown Oak Leaf” was previously published in the Summer 2007 edition of Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems.)

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Chapter 35: Canoe Trip

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–Being accomplishes more than doing.–

Our fast-paced society places so much emphasis on getting things done.  We often base our self-esteem on the completion of routine tasks.  I say to myself, “I had a good day: I got so much done.”  But what did I really accomplish?  Did I make a meaningful contribution to the world? Continue reading