Spirit, in Place

Spirit, in Place

Bluffs and streams surround me.
Those who like to think themselves
native to this place when its indigenous
people were eradicated from the state
long before Roundup was even remotely
considered a hazard to a biology that would
include them if they were still here,
like to think it’s part of the Ozarks,
even if it’s a bunch of foothills to the north
with bluffs scattered here and there.

As for those bluffs and streams,
I walk trails that skirt them, cross them,
offer great views of them. Or I float
the streams, sometimes right beside
those bluffs, taking in the beauty
they hold in an eagle carrying a fish
to its nest, or an aged cedar clinging
to a hundred foot cliff, or a green heron
at the foot of that cliff watching
for a fish the eagle may have missed.

Will I ever consider myself a native,
when my mind always goes back to
the blue water of lakes that were great
long before I knew them, or a river
that flows from one lake to another,
rushing over a cataract midway,
or land that lies flat before it meets
mountains that aren’t afraid to be called
foothills of the Alleghenies?

When there is spirit of place in both,
where I witness both peace and struggle,
where I can try to forget my own struggles
and become a part of the peace
that surrounds me, is there any difference?

This is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: SPIRIT OF PLACE, where Brendan asks us to “write about the spirit(s) of place where you live and have your being in.”

Hiking with Mark Twain

Hiking with Mark Twain

I’ve always enjoyed taking photos of fall colors, especially when I lived in New York, with its colorful sugar maples. Although Missouri has fewer maples, in the eight years I’ve lived here I’ve taken the opportunity to hike in a few of the state parks and conservation areas in the fall. This year I decided to try something different.  (Click any image for a larger view in a new tab.)

The Mark Twain National Forest covers 3 million acres (1.5 million acres of that is public land), with nine tracts of forests in the southern half of Missouri. On Thursday, I hiked one of the loop trails in the 16,500 acre Cedar Creek Ranger District, which is the one district north of the Missouri River and has 34 miles of trails. Before 1940, private landowners intensively cultivated the land, resulting in depleted and eroded soils. In the 1940s, the Soil Conservation Service began purchasing and rebuilding it, stabilizing gullies and planting trees and grasses. It’s been managed by the U.S. Forest Service since 1953. The Smith Creek Loop covers 5 miles, but I hiked 5.7 miles to cover a couple of side trails for photo opportunities.

It was a sunny day, and the temperature reached 87ºF by late afternoon (a near record). While I could have chosen a cooler day for hiking (Friday’s high was 49º), Thursday was a dry day in the middle of a rainy spell. I started at the southeast corner of the loop, traveling “clockwise,” which worked out well as I appreciated the mostly-level stretch of the final mile. This image, with the trail map layered over a Google terrain map, shows how much the elevation changes on the trail.

As I hiked the trail, it was obvious that some of it follows former roads. Any trace of gravel or dirt roadway is long gone, and if it wasn’t overgrown it would look like a lane winding through the forest. The width of the loop trail varies from 15-20 feet down to a mere footpath crowded by trees. This area is known for hills and bluffs, so much of the trail includes slopes that climb and descend the numerous ridges leading to the bluffs. We can get some pretty heavy rain here, and those old paths offer the perfect course for runoff, so the trail often winds around or parallels those sections. In fact, we had a heavy rain the day before, so there were a few spots that had slick areas that were hidden beneath fallen leaves. Even on some of the narrow, steep sections, hoof prints were evident, as the trail is open to horseback.

The trail crosses Smith Creek, which is about 25 feet wide, but there was no water running in the creek. One side trail took me to Cedar Creek, which is 30 feet wide with a very mild current. The trail led to an old iron bridge that served the road that once ran through there.

I never had to actually cross Cedar Creek, but the trail loop approaches it at two other points. The overlooks there gave some nice views looking down and across the water. The first was about 100 feet above the creek. The second, at roughly 150 feet above the creek, had some impressive formations, with cedars clinging to the edge of the bluff.

Cedar Creek, 100 feet below a limestone bluff

This tract of land is primarily oak, hickory and cedar, but I saw a dead tree that could have been an ash, and I did get some maple photos.

I had the trail pretty much to myself, encountering one pair of hikers, and these two that crossed my path.

Western Black Snake – 4 ft. long

Its been about a year since I’ve taken a hike of three or more miles. This one was was a reminder that I’ve had a couple of health issues since then. My back and legs were feeling it before I was done, but I recovered with no problems. Early this year I learned of a heart condition I’ve had all my life, one that now leaves me briefly winded when I climb a flight of stairs. The downhill slopes were a breeze, but let me tell you, my heart knew when I was climbing, even on gentle and moderate inclines.

Occasional stops on the frequent uphill climbs were the order of the day. I’m only 67 and have a few years ahead of me, but I’m learning that I need to modify my activity, something I’ll have to keep in mind on future hikes. My favorite part of this hike was the overlooks, so the next time I walk this trail I’ll start at the bridge near the northwest corner of the loop and hike up to the overlooks. There and back.

Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters

I do not tire of the bluffs,
with their grand faces.
I pass from one to the next,
straining to see into the depths
between them shrouded
in a canopy that was bare branches
just weeks before. I came here
knowing the differences
would show. The same is true
for the similarities. Would
the summers be longer?
The winters colder? It’s not
the weather so much
as the familiarity. I’m getting
there, but I still miss the blue water
and the maples. I miss the maples.

Today is Day 12 of National/Global Poetry Writing Month.
This may be off-prompt, but I’m sharing it at napowrimo.net.

Image:  of course, any time I see a maple while hiking in Missouri…

Waiting, Impatiently

Waiting, Impatiently

Will a wet summer mean a burst of color
for Ozark hills familiar with drab autumns?

Clouds more frequent, but blue skies,
still, in these shorter days of lower sun.

The sycamores seem to measure
the light, their yellow the first to show.

Without a frost to say otherwise, green
clings to maple, oak, and hickory.

No monarchs in sight as the milkweed
goes to seed, but the season will not be rushed.

Back in Buffalo, I’d be taking photos of peak fall foliage around Columbus Day. A week later could be too late, with colors fading. There’s nothing here yet, in Missouri, but our first frost of the season is in this weekend’s forecast. Fingers crossed.

Images (top to bottom)
Sycamore starting to change on Moreau River (04 Oct 2019)
Milkweed, bank-side of pond in Runge Conservation Center (09 Oct 2019)
Common buckeye feeding on aster at Runge (09 Oct 2019)
(click each for larger view in new tab)

where she will ~ magnetic poetry

where she will

rain falls
water rises
a river flows where she will
with no regard for man
or his needs
a course never by choice
ever by circumstance


If you want to try magnetic poetry, you can do it online, here.

Background image: Missouri River at Jefferson City, Missouri – 06 June 2019
(click image for larger view in new tab)

Unfortunate Turn of Events

Unfortunate Turn of Events

No one saw it coming.
Hills. Valleys. Bluffs.
They’re not conducive to tornadoes.

Technology changes everything,
showed this one developing.
And so it came.

Middle of the night.
Sirens wailing.
Cars and houses sailing.

Walls in pieces.
Roofs gone.
Ours still over our head.

Close enough to go down
to the corner and see
the damage. Feel lucky.

It’s said they turn
counterclockwise.
This one twisted right past us.

A tornado passed within a mile of our home last night, causing extensive damage in Jefferson City, Missouri. Several homes and businesses were destroyed. There were injuries, but no fatalities.

Image source: fox2now.com – aerial photos of damage
& screenshot of local news

Contemplating Ice on a River That Doesn’t Freeze ~ prose poem

Contemplating Ice on a River that Doesn’t Freeze

The winter water here is cold, but I’ve seen colder. Felt colder. I’ve seen ice float down the Niagara River, filling it shore-to-shore. But that was a fluke. No, there are no whales there, but normally the ice boom keeps the Lake Erie ice from flowing downriver and damaging docks along the shore. Actually, ice is more common on the Missouri River. Winter temperatures always are in flux, and hundreds of tributaries send their broken ice downstream. I’ll think about that today, when I’m kayaking in a t-shirt. Make that a kayak. I’ll be wearing the t-shirt – in 60-degree weather – thinking about last week’s river ice. And I’ll be on the water, not in it. It’s still cold, and I’ll be thinking about that tomorrow morning, when the temperature will be back down to 20 and the ice will form again on the creeks and streams. I think I’ll head back to the river next week and take some pictures of the ice flow – from shore.

Image: Osage River, Missouri – ice free (noon, 14 Feb 2019)
~~ click image for larger view in new tab ~~