Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Way Out of Wilderness

Bob Ambrose and Susan Richardson
Athens, Georgia
April 23, 2011

A remembrance and meditation
on Susan’s cross-country trek with her friend Thomas
while attending a professional workshop
at Lake Louise, December 2007.

When ice encrusts your goggles
and it's twenty five below
and paths are sealed in darkness
so there’s no clear way to go
there comes a time to drop the mask
to face the bitter wilderness
with inner strength, untested faith
in vulnerability to find a trace,
the faintest track to follow out.

Cross-country paths descend in snow
through Rocky Mountain wilderness
from Tea House trail to valley floor
where waits in tranquil purity
the lovely face of Lake Louise,
and halfway round its frozen shore
lies warmth, conviviality
the grand old lodge in season shines
faint beacon in the dwindling light
to adventure’s end and restful night.

Within the woods the way seems clear,
constricted choice can free the mind
to glide through worlds of majesty
and fill the silent snowy way
with joyful laughter, human song;
but time goes by and treks grow long
constraints close in as ways wind on,
and winding endless ways we take
with dimming faith
and lowered face
we press ahead
our eyes cast down
and only then
the narrow path
emerges into openness
a clearing wide in winter peace
we lift our heads to gathering grace
and pause in awe of open sky –
there are infinities undreamed among those evening stars
and crystalline visions too fragile for words,
mute jewels mark this a holy place
set in stillness, white on white
far from the lodge at Lake Louise.

On Canadian Rocky December trails
the days dim fast, and well too soon
our souls detect the definitive turn
of early evening when fading light
merges with night, and stars alone
cannot brighten a land gone stark
with a wall of woods all around and so
we hurry along to the farther side
to pick our pathway on and soon
we’ll speak of transcendence by crackling fire
at the hearth of the grand old lodge, but now
where is the pathway ahead, we can’t
find any pathway ahead, or back
where was that pathway back, it’s gone.
Concern takes hold as beauty grows cold
in deepening night when ways fall dark
and disappear from mortal sight,
a silent prison sealed in white.

While woods are lovely, dark and deep
when viewed from lodge or well-groomed path,
sometime in life will come a test
when woods turn into wilderness –
you stand exposed in trackless midst
where dark and deep oppress the soul
and lovely turns to creeping cold
it’s here where bold becomes once more
false memory from some life before
spent safe beside the hearthstone fire
that burns and brightens even now
in warmth, the lodge at Lake Louise.

As ice encrusts your goggles
it seeps into your heart
and time compresses tightly
in the frozen snowy white
no room for deep reflection
on the meaning of it all,
its icy heart, indifferent
to your choices and their toll
so brave the cold, embrace the pain
blue jewel of the night, and then
let it go and bend down low
with faith secure and focus pure
in God’s own time you just might find        
faint traces in the snow to choose
and follow on in willful trust,
determined hearts will find a way
led by the arms of God to life
or to the arms of God to lie,
it matters not, in wilderness
where faith clears paths to inner strength
makes safe a vulnerable soul.

Whence comes the faith to calm the heart
revealing pathways through the dark
to find resolve despite your doubt
to tamp the ground and take a step
then test again and take one more
in time to find the lights ahead
no longer lights of setting stars
but steady lights of distant lodge
the grand old lodge at Lake Louise.

A steady light still shines afar
through darkness into crippling doubt
sustaining souls through wilderness
for in its cold indifferent heart
will fear transform to grateful dance
to dawning life, a grant from God
who through dark paths prepares your heart
secure in vulnerability
wherein abides a humble strength
to let your stillness show the grace
reflecting hints of majesty
as snow-white peaks seen in the face
and placid depths of Lake Louise.

Years hence I’ll hold this blessed trek
with Thomas through the wilderness
in doubt and fear and final peace
more worthy than the warmest fire
by spacious hearth of grandest lodge.
From far away I’ll wander back
to ponder pathways in the night
and count myself the grateful lost
pursuing traces etched in white,
and reach that pathway’s end in time
forevermore as grateful found.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why I Run In Spring

Athens, Georgia
March 2011
Observations from a run on March 27, 2010
and reflections a year later.

Territorial birdsongs brightly pierce
the crisp predawn darkness through depths unseen
and from airy heights of those canopy worlds
there echo bold calls to awakening
as I set a light pace down below.

A brisk east wind blows cold against sweat,
through muscle and marrow and deeper yet
to cleanse my body, to lighten my soul,
to shed all distractions, to fall into flow
in silence of mind as I step out of time

and stride the high plains
under African sky

in searing noon heat
brash predator, I

to run the wild beast
through a dry thorny land

where the Garden is naught
but a hazy mirage

that hovers beyond
forty million more dawns

with all history’s tears
still yet to be shed

no burden of why
nor what lies ahead

eternity’s now
in my gathering will

in my pounding heart
and my gleaming skin

my deepening breath
the cooling wind

for immortal am I
till the moment I die

or run out my race
and reenter time

where asphalt yields to open fields
and far across a wakening park, white
halos of pear blossom hover against
silhouettes of pine emerging from dark,
pale spirits of spring in the soft morning light.

And so on a springtime Saturday run
my corporal spirit does sometimes soar
insubstantial past aching, to penetrate
the bubble of darkness encasing my core
in primitive peace, reconnected once more.