Hoof On Gravel

Softly, in the dusk, I follow on horseback; Burning on,

persistent embers of the campfire seem to summon us, till’

we hear granular friction against hoof. Neighs echo amongst

lonesome hills.

By the road to the nearest town, under the surge of blue, I

blurt, frantically “I am jealous of your life.” The cowboy laughs-

ensuing silence.

Boots against hide, hoof on gravel, fastened. “I’ve never left

Wyoming,” he says. In spite of myself, my yearning of naked

places animated, I grow wild voicing my desires; I am beyond

wasted space.

Away from commercial worlds, what I am missing is fields,

endless fields, brown and purplish, scatterings of small

upstanding hills.

I continue with candle lit colors, outlines of reddish land,

ebbing of falling sky. Through seedtime, harvest heat and cold,

dirt suffused pores, I would work till’ sore. I promise these

small moments.

Weak from haste of speech, from words I could not keep

to myself, I am completely undone. Hoof on gravel, I am

eventual wishes.

Seas, Unseen

Marbled slabs of sunshine

pour into the face of the forest,

as morning spread across the

whole earth. I fill my glass of it.

Beams soften into shade,

are buried and put away

in fleeting grasps, interrupted.

Shrouded in verdant pauses.

Essence of soil, dirt, leaves,

waft upon the wings of wind-

they are expressive,

have detectable signatures-

I lie in a wakeful familiarity.

Encounter the sightless

couriers within each breeze.

There are wild seas, unseen.

Out of blindness, they are

held to be felt within voids.

Bucolic monuments, frequent

charms, unbounded glimpses.

Past Lives; Sporadic Light

I have a reoccurring dream in which my body takes flight, following the path my mind seems to take when I listen to certain, familiar songs. My mind’s eye (or the images that I seem to create with my imagination- if you will) seems to create designs and movements to the beat or rhythm of music. For example, I particularly love a band called Tame Impala, and when I listen to them I feel as though intrinsically I begin to twist into a spiraling, rope-looking stream- ceaselessly. However, when I listen to my other favorite band, Fleet Foxes, I conjure a drastically different image: of running, skipping, frolicking, being outside. I see streams, lakes, mountains, grass, trees, fields…(bucolic utopias) I am taken back to another time, another existence within myself (what I used to think was a past life). As much as I love music, it seems that very rarely I can dance and twist and move the way my soul (consciousness or mind) deeply wishes me to; my body seems to simultaneously inhibit and admit my freedom of musical movement: I need my body to dance, but it cannot follow the movements I can create when dreaming or listening. In these dreams I am running through masses of people. The latest dream I had a light, transparent scarf draped around my shoulders, and held each end in my hands as I soared through the crowds. I was laughing, and dividing this laughter with periods of closed eyes- to be hidden from those around me (only imaginatively). In this instance, and in the others, it was like my genetic code had been altered. I have never fully wished for my genetic code to be altered, but I will say admittedly that I have been desirous of another personality. I wanted (and hell- who am I kidding?- still want) the freedom that full confidence admits. Metaphorically, I think these dreams really symbolize and embody regrets that have been generated by opportunities missed, and negative experiences I had caused or encountered. The swirling images and dreams of running/dancing seem to symbolize freedom, confidence, extroverted behaviors I can only sometimes obtain. Such desires are rooted within me.

I often feel stuck when I am in a city, or crowded place; as cars go by I have meadows in mind. I long for natural beauty- this is where I reap the most happiness. I tell myself “at least you know this,” so that if ever there is a time in my life where I am utterly unhappy I will drop everything I am doing to live somewhere where I can explore outside. Unfortunately we always have to work (because money controls us and our existence), so I will work on a farm or national park– these are imaginative plans. When I listen to Fleet Foxes, a favorite band, I imagine a European farm lifestyle for myself- I long for it  and perhaps it is a past life of mine. When I imagine this lifestyle I subliminally leave out the hard, physical labor involved: milking cows, tending to fields, making food, reaping crops, etc. Usually it is the leisure time, I am convinced these farm people must have had during each day, that I envision. There is always golden light- the kind of light that holds unseen particles up for you to glance upon; quickly, before it is dropped once again. The light that we all must noticed on occasion, the light that radiates in afternoon angles- through ones window blinds and painted a room with sporadic light. So, here I sit in a time period I am not sure of, and a location I cannot map, but there is this golden, slanted light. Slanted light occurs in the morning and in the afternoon (about an hour after the sun rises and before the sun sets). I do not see myself in these narrations, but see what is around me, like I am using my eyes (not witnessing it from above or from another body). I am usually under a tree, with slashes of light pouring down- trickling down- between the leaves of trees, and onto the slightly swaying grass. In these day-dreams I run through golden hay fields, and feel the dry reeds smack my shins as my body rushes over and past. This imagined place doesn’t seem to be a place I journey to find, but somewhere I know well- did not have to find. I have dreamt about it while asleep and imagined it while looking out car windows, or while being outside. Am I just seeing my own inner-peace? Is this what my personal idea of calm is when built into something obtainable and visible? This is just a spiritual reoccurring image I suppose: a place where I no longer can see myself, but only fields, trees, hills, etc. Biological and historical notions and truths are non-existent in this “place,” or feeling. It is my consciousness riding away from reality and into imagined bliss for concentrated moments of time, I think (day-dreams).

Golden Light; Eternity

Marbled slabs of sunshine pour into the face of the forest, as morning spread across the whole earth- I fill my glass of it. Beams soften into shade, are buried and put away in fleeting grasps, interrupted. The sun shrouds me in verdant pauses. Essence of soil, dirt, leaves waft upon the wings of wind- they are expressive, have detectable signatures. I lie in wakeful familiarity as I encounter the sightless couriers within each breeze. Beneath mountains there are wild seas, unseen. Out of blindness, they are experienced only as frequent charms, bucolic monuments. I rise lightly, having been awakened by wildness. I have no thought of time as I peer out my tent flap. Jonathan kissed me goodbye early this morning, perhaps around eight? He will return around four, but I will not count the time.

Clambering out onto the platform, I start the gas stove and begin to boil water for my instant coffee grounds to be poured into. By the downed, dead log adjacent to the tent’s platform I do my business, returning just in time to remove the boiling pot from the stove. In my blue striped mug I combine the steaming water with the packet of grinds, finally adding my hazelnut creamers. I sip coffee in my foldable canvas chair, feeling steam move across the plain of my cheeks as I take another careful taste. Reentering the tent, I unseal the bag of nuts and take a few handfuls into my mouth before attiring myself for a run. Over my shoulder, I carry a bag with my car keys, current book, clean t-shirt, and journal.

Parked on the street below our driveway, my car exists as a storage unit for my mundane belongings. I start my car briefly to get an idea of the time, it was eleven minutes past noon, and I was just emerging for the day. As I drifted by the canyon on my left, I knew I had reached the half-mile marker of my daily run, then waved at the old man with the cane, who always sits on the bridge in sunny afternoons, as I crossed over the river. I continued on past the Baptist church, and towards Erwin, the nearest town. I couldn’t seem to extinguish the foolish smile on my face, for I knew not of any worries during my runs. A tree line broke away, momentarily giving a glimpse of the mountainside, my favorite view along the daily route. I smiled and waved at every car that passed me, feeling a little bit lighter as I gave away each exchange.

At the small cottage with blue shudders, I turned around and repeated my route on the opposite side of the road. My final wave was for the old man again, as I crossed the bridge again. The next hill was extremely brutal, as it always seems to be, and I allowed myself a restful walk in reward. I past cold storage, the old collapsed cave, and felt a brush of cool air at my back. Picking my pace back up to a run, I climbed the hill after Ewok’s driveway until I caught my first glimpse of train tracks, an indication to begin following them. I scurried down the footpath that led to Cow Bell, a swimming hole I was happily surprised to find empty. After double and triple checking for possible company, I stripped off my shirt and shorts and waded into the slight current, succumbing to the depths as they rose above my shoulders. Dunking my sweaty body underwater I felt goose bumps breakout above skin.

Upon the island of washed up rock and wood upon sand, I warmed myself on sunny rocks. A group of rafts rounded the corner, and I quickly stumbled back behind the tall grass, back to the floating crowd. Releasing my breath when they were out of sight, I laughed aloud before swimming back across the river, with my head on a swivel for more unsuspecting rafts. My soggy tennis shoes squelched until I peeled the noisemakers off upon reaching the warm train tracks. Balancing my weight I walked along one side of the raised track, listening for the familiar sound of steady steel horns. Returning to the car, I changed into fresh underwear and clothes, applied deodorant, teased conditioning cream into my hair, and strapped on my sandals. I traveled back in the direction of cold storage, drifting down the beaten path towards Dead Dog, a smaller rapid along the lower part of the river. I turned right as the path diverged, wishing to avoid the redneck campsite to the left, as they had turned that portion of the beach into a local hotspot. Three small tents were pitched there, two fire pits dugout, a handmade stage and bar erected, as well as a stained, soggy-looking couch resting in the sand. I sat down on a log, far enough away from the redneck’s commotion, and began reading Prodigal Summer. This is my typical day in Unaka Springs, alone and blissful.

My summer caused me to rethink what truly is a civilized lifestyle. To me, constantly catering to commercial ideals and society’s constructed illusions of purpose, sounds barbaric. I am content being alone with my thoughts, exploring the natural world, working on bettering myself as I forget about time, consumerism, and constant busy lifestyles; I havesovereignty over my experiences. I was driving one afternoon, back to Tennessee, when I had the thought “I am becoming less of an ego, and more of a soul.” I repeated this phrase to myself until I reached a red light, and was able to write it down in my journal. Without looking at a mirror for days or distracting myself with technology, I gained a greater appreciation for my mind and loving heart. Without the distraction of the ego, I was another being that lay under the sun, feeling its ray like a rock would, or a leaf as it reflects glowingly its green hues. I was held within golden light, held within a blissful steadiness, which bound me to each present moment; just as if there was to be nothing more, yet could be no less.

What constitutes this golden light? It is fleeting and constantly ebbing and flowing. Can a human whom rejoices in golden light, whom holds it in a warm orb within the heart, become encapsulated, and embodied by it? Perhaps we all already do carry such light within us, to pass along in a brightened fury: life. Or perhaps when we die, we will truly hold golden light, like the kind of light that holds unseen particles up for you to glance upon, quickly, before being dropped once again. The light that we all must notice on occasion, the light that radiates in afternoon angles- through one’s window blinds to paint a room with sporadic light, for example. In birth, we join the rest of the world in a soft light, a light which gives all things grace. Throughout my life I strive to find golden light, to glow and float on the experience of entire happiness, as much as I can. When it is my time to go, I hope to dissolve into a golden light, return to a form of entirety.

Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad

The PBR can, securely situated between my legs, was sweating, and drops were pooling on both sides of my legs. In this lull of conversation, I looked down at my legs and let my mind wander, until someone spoke next— I have never been one to talk much among this group. Sam, with a glass handle of red alcohol in his left hand, walked towards the deck, on the tips of his toes— a walk many people embody, a walk I honestly have always found quite odd— and filled the silence I was enjoying. In his right hand was the assault rifle that contained his most recent artillery purchase, a scope that heightened sight for an absurd amount of yards (a statistic immediately forgot). When Sam carries his gun, and passes it off to someone, he does so with the care an antique dealer might utilize taking rare jewelry from a case. As the recent purchase was passed among the group, Sam would squint while he measured each person’s response to his scope. Calmly, Sam asked the group if they would like to drive to No Business, a nearby shooting range, to fire off recently purchased bullets using the rifle’s new scope. Excited by the prospect of loud noise, all but four of the raft guides jumped up at the opportunity to shoot with the new scope. To get my attention Jonathan squeezed my hand, and asked if I wanted to try shooting the assault rifle, which I answered with a face full of worry.

Three minutes of playful persuasion later I was clinging to the rusted bed of Sam’s truck, surrounded by seven rowdy raft guides, who seemed considerably less frightened of our precarious nature in an unenclosed truck bed. With the view of Ewok’s (the nickname of our raft-guide forest camp) steep driveway now insight, I turned and knocked on the small, glass window behind the driver’s seat. I began to repeat, “I want to sit inside the truck,” with increasingly tones of panic, until Sam was alerted of my desire to sit inside the truck. Just before the drop of the driveway, I clambered off the truck bed, and into the truck’s cab, the door of which was held open for me by Whitney. “Sit in my lap babe.” In this new position I felt strange for two reasons, I had only met this girl the night before and my nose was practically making fog on the front window. Dirty clothes, Gatorade bottles, trash, shoes, food was scattered in the truck’s hub. As we barreled on towards No Business, I slid off Whitney’s lap and into the small, clothes-covered space between two (practically) strangers. Sam was swigging straight from the bottle, guiding the gearshift with a sort of mindlessness that must come from plenty experience, and laughing with his eyes in the direction of the left rearview mirror, which provided a pristine view of the seven raft guides clinging desperately to the truck bed. Whitney, whose fro was tickling my shoulder ever so slightly, held a soggy box of bud-light between her legs, a comical contrast to the assault rifle I had propped between mine. My elbow rested on the stacked pile of ammunition between Sam and me, and suddenly that Dead song “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” contained much more relevance than it ever had. Transitioning from asphalt to dirt, we were nearing No Business, when our truck met the first bump along the trail, which Sam sped up for, as he simultaneously released a laugh of sheer thrill. Nervously peering through the glass window at my back, I was worried for Jonathan’s safety, and kept an eye on the familiar legs among the bunch— tanned, bug-bitten and covered in curly, light brown hair—as the boys were now standing in the truck bed. The truck cleared the last major signaling our ride’s finale and arrival at No Business’s summit. Lying the artillery mat on the ground, Sam invited the first round of shooters over, as another group of two set out down the to set up our targets: glass and plastic bottles, bricks, cinder blocks, cardboard boxes.

I sat picking old rifle shells out of the dirt single handedly, as I cupped my ear with the other. After an hour of beer, fired shots, ringing ears, and smoking bowls, nightfall was approaching so we began our descent. Taking detours to pass through recent mud puddles, Sam veered through waist-deep mud at full speed, and practically sunk the truck; front wheels deep in this muddy embankment, Sam immediately knew what situation we were now held in. Immediate laughter floated from the bed into the hub, colliding with the profanity fighting its way out the hub’s windows and out towards the bed. Joining the rest of the raft guides, now knee deep in orange-tinted, irony mud, Sam signaled Whitney to push the truck into drive as I watched eight boys loose footing in the fight. Without cell phone service, our only option was to abandon the truck, after taking all valuables from Sam’s car: wallets, left over liquor and beer, the rifle, remaining ammunition, and keys. Hiking down the hillside, in the pitch dark, we walked in small groups back to Ewok for almost an hour, some in better walking morale than others. Hand in hand, Jonathan and I whispered our way down the mountain, occasionally looking up at stars and sporadically racing each other for stretches. We all treated ourselves to drinks upon return.

Unaka Springs

I am a strong believer that to truly understand the spirit of a natural place one must not be in a rush, and should embark alone, if possible. There is so much to say for the silence of being alone, it leaves interpretation to other human factors: movement, nuance, feeling, and other ephemeral sensations. Taking with me a pack with water, nuts, a journal and pen, my phone, and a walking, I embarked for a day hike on the Appalachian Trail. As I voyaged farther into the woods, the sheath of silence was more thickly woven. I noticed that when the path veered along the outer ridge of the mountain, showcasing the valley floor, echoing noises from below could be heard. Contrastingly, when the path turned itself back into the containment of trees and branches, it was swallowed by silence. Reaching what appeared to be the first summit, mist hung in the air and revealed its insides to me, the particles bare and motionless, like never before. Still, I let the mist dance around me, tickle my skin with its slight, wispy kisses. I smiled, loving the way the forest filled itself with the percussion of percolating dew upon leaves, a sound that empties my head of words. To the simple ones life is easy and certain; to me living is a curious act. From this mountain peak it is slow and sure; water rushing is reduced to stagnant forms- direction unknown.
On the cliff edges a rushing sound similar to placing an ear to a conch arises-voices, barks, waters charging, far away mobiles. As soon as I round the corner I hear nothing but the camber of silence and darkness: the woods. Blue butterflies I have seen on the riverbank seem to have made their way to mountaintops like me. The woods have a clandestine code of understanding; a cyclical, unspoken agreement of life and death. It seems to be innate and inherent- I cannot quite speak it yet. Perhaps though the language here is one of silence, one of unspoken meaning and natural transactions. The extreme solitude I feel is only human presumption, for all acts are witnessed. Every light step is an earthquake to beetle life underfoot, and every choice is a world made new for unseen beings. We are all simultaneously known and unknown creatures. Comparison is foolish, for there is no likening to something so miraculous as living. We humans have lost ourselves as creatures; wonder and awe are rare to most. The natural world is for making post cards of- as if we can’t get close to it, can’t immerse ourselves in it. After a summer of being far-removed from material worlds, allowing the illusion of separateness to dissolve, I was able to see that I exist in the same cycle of life as the forest, stream and sky. To connect with the earth that gave us life, which exists within the basis of our human foundation, is empowering.

The Queen of Westminster Canterbury

Sat with legs crossed, clasping her white

gloved hands. My namesake—ninety-four

years of Virginian grace. She was gentle

affections of mild mannered poise, she

was the slight tap underneath my elbow

when stationed on the table top, and

the small nod of head when both hands

were in my lap. An Old Fashioned she

would take, with ice, giving her red rings

around her eyes—blue as the old Virginian

sky. Full of spirit, as the month of May, she

was a meadow flower in bloom, unfolding

in halcyon days. On gravel roads dust would

rise from our brakes as she would tap the

glass pane to motion a stop. Burgeoning

wild asparagus would to pluck—“It’s

delicious,” she would say. By our request

she would give the gritty ballad “Wreck of the

Old 97,” the bloody chart topper singing of

the mail train crash in 1903. She was a

window flower, radiant and patient,

exclaiming often “How beautiful!” Sun

streaming through her gratitude, she painted

colors to the earth. Her trees were favorite

painted bare, for with a dearth of leaves it’s

the only time all the branches are there.

Palettes of oak and maple, hills, cabins,

mountains were strewn about her home.

She lies beneath that old Virginian sky.