Crossing Spirit Lake in Early Winter
Eyes burning. The slashing snow.Since dusk a gale had sweptthe frozen lake—snow driftedunderfoot—our boots slipped.Night left but the thin lightof glazed ice or none at all."Stay close!" we warned. Most grippedhands. Or linked arms. Onlyour boldest—those few—brokefree. While they fled acrossnew ice we heard that firstcrack! Another. The thirdlike a distant lightningstrike. But no more. How farhad they gone? When the windblownsnow settled we foundno trace. Then all the livingwitnessed an apparition:Every face luminouswith its fever—the briefhaste of a flare untilit faded before us. Yes,and the pulse in each voice—how their souls urged us notto lose heart. As we pushedon we cried out their namesover the snow-scrim and bareice. No distinct trail to track.Finally, "Are you there?"we pleaded. Searching, slowstep by step through the dark. [End Page 536]
Lines at 2 A.M. on the Sea of Cortez
The bright morning brought its mirage—The far shore and one shadow-freeinlet loomed before us. UntilTwo gulls swooped across our deckhouse.That pair rising with a single shriekinto the sudden overcast.Then it was dusk all day. Humid,warm, the sullen light of a low sky.
When evening arrived without starswe saw the vast gulf grow formless—Brackish tide pools, coves, a pocked reef
and each white beach slipped out of sightwith the sea snakes. Old turtles, allbut blind, cleaving dense clouds of silt.
The swarming crabs, hammerhead sharks,swordfish, prowling rays. The nearlylevel sea itself invisible . . .
Our boat bobs among shallow troughs,horse-like, irritable beforethe worst weather. In water quietbut not at rest—the sleepless stirof a tense calm. Now blue-black cloudsquake with storm light, and we knowthis night has a life of its own,we hear it breathing in the dark. [End Page 537]
In Wind and Rain
Crossing the high meadow above Wolf Riverthe wind deepens the waves of tall grassbowing beneath it. Two blackbirds startledinto flight complain zeeer! zeeer! Magpies rowover the sweet clover and the day glowsas it darkens. A fresh scent fills the air.When rain arrives the pelting drops rattleeach patch of dry nettles. A searching raintakes the shape of everything it touches:nests, nettles, weathered outcrop, seethinggrass. The wind sweeps headlong down to the brimof the meadow where a footpath glimmers,already mud-slick, sluiced by onrushingrain. At dusk the wind stalls, hovers. Withholdsitself. Gathering not time, which it scatters,but eternity in a storm of leaves—the one large-limbed tree towering overthe fence, the black iron gate flung opento our hillside cemetery. The gale grasps,wrenches loose, tilts, uproots the ancientmemorial elm. It lays the quiveringcanopy, crushed boughs, and that great trunk,its rough-ridged bark black with wet, proneamong the graves. All night scouring white pinecrosses, stone tablets, urns, rainwater poolsthen welters. Once the runoff starts the elmplummets the slope, plunging into Wolf River,its turbulent current rushing downstreamwith the low urgent roaring that persistsin wind and rain. Together now they drivethe river. Writhing, churning, it never rests. [End Page 538]
The Angel of Solitude
At daybreak I knelt by the shallows. Ripples nudged the skiff—pine green paint worn thin from knocking
against our pier. One dead loon drifted ashore overnight—we'll bury
the remains this morning. You're here, spirit, silent as ever while you gather
to yourself the shrill squall of the young gull wading out from the sedge grass. High-stepping
over a broken oarlock, driftwood, damp stones. He quiets now. Moves on
as I walk onto the pier. Minnows dart, disappear among cedar pilings sunk into bedrock
of the spring-fed lake. Its deep current flowing through finger-long fronds, tendrils.
In that dim filtered light lie cloud-colored bones delicate as feathers. Hunters' shell
casings. Once the gull reaches mid-water...