Lake LaCrosse Trek {Sip 3: Serenity}

October 10, 2016

We share the sunrise with four bear, plodding across the valley slopes, heavy maws dripping with the sugary blood of late-season huckleberries. I chew them myself as I walk among the galaxies, pale blue orbs adrift and brimming in the expanse of burgundy leaves—the sweetness washes over my tongue like a hurricane glimpsed from the timescale of mountains. I'm sure the bears too are rejoicing in their good fortune, that their last meals of the season should be so decadent. They hide away in tufts of trees as the shadows slide into the lake, where the golden fish of bending light swim in wavelets across surface. With each step along the rocky shore a new generation of tiny frogs scrambles into the water. We eat breakfast by a pool of tadpoles waiting patiently to walk on land.

In late morning the light is full and generous. Reading by the water, the grass is like a cushion and the pages turn to peach with the sunshine glow of my bare skin. Erica is there beside me in her own silent fulfillment, watching the click-click-click of grasshoppers jumping their jagged arcs of fear and joy. But—the short crorking chortle of a pair of passing crows cuts right through the quiet! I strip and plunge into the crystal waters, nerves aflame, now running through the meadow naked and exulting as the sky drinks the water from my goosebumped skin. The sun showers us in warm kisses until the only thing we can do is drift asleep in her soft lap.

Fly buzzing
through silence
--lazy heat.

In dreams I think, the second biggest lie we're ever told is that this bottomless thirst in our spirit could ever be filled by the stuff of possession. I think, the biggest lie is when we're named.

Upslope across wandering streams that trickle along and suddenly plunge into stonecutting canyon. Ground grades into wall as I scramble up what seem like ancient trails, set down with the gentle grace of age, grasping slick sedges and loose rock and the hope that things will turn out just fine. Around me now are the far horizons of mountains; they're curved downward like spines, Farallon Giants bowed in adoration to something far greater and more terrible than even their own ageless power.

Reaching the ridge, I see it. Mount Anderson's silent mass—Great Tombstone Mountain! It's clear now to whom those lesser peaks are praying. Immense & stony-faced, glacial nesting majesty, jutting at unbelievable angles out of the skinny dark valley below. Monuments of ice hang from His peaks, spilling at mineral speed over rocky cliffs, each instant grinding away at His hard flesh. Yet He sits in monastic stillness, unflinching. Mortality does not scare him! No churn of mantle, no gape of tectonic jaws can make his blind eyes blink. He is mortality itself! Sunset licks her many kings, and the dried-mud precipice stares into me like a mirror. I blink, exhale. Back. 

The whole twilight expanse of the tree-toothed eastern Olympics is there before me, but I can only watch my fragile feet, whistling nervously as I stumble downhill in the deepening dark. Somewhere on the slope the sound of tumbling rocks gives away two elk. They're also headed back—and in an instant the path to camp is clear and safe. I've been following all along the old etchings of their broad hooves, the paths of their ancestors, and of mine. I thank them deeply for showing me the way one more time.

White twilit butterfly
wings flapping
together into darkness.

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