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.”

Beside, Before, Beneath

 

Beside, Before, Beneath

Placement is paramount in understanding
this gift, to be so near a natural wonder
appreciated only by proximity and granted
by the good grace of introduction by parents
who appreciated the beauty around them
and were aware of the intrinsic value of water,
that essential element that lives within all of us.

To be held beside, to stand before and beneath,
and to ride on the waves below the Falls of Niagara.
All of these have been my pleasure, practiced
for the first six decades of my life.

While being with the one I love this past decade
has been an additional blessing in my life,
my distance from that natural wonder is now
nine hundred miles, a curse that is lifted
only when traveling to see family.
The day when it is once more a short drive
from my door cannot come soon enough.

This is my response to Day 29 at napowrimo.net, which is to “write a poem in which you muse on the gifts you received at birth — whether they are actual presents, like a teddy bear, or talents – like a good singing voice – or circumstances – like a kind older brother, as well as a “curse” you’ve lived with.”

Photos
American Falls with Horseshoe Falls in background
One year old, with my father & grandfather
Visiting Niagara Falls with my wife

(click each photo for larger view in new tab)

 

The Commons at Niagara

The Commons at Niagara

Passing from one great lake to another,
would this not seem a natural course?
But who could pass treacherous rapids,
or the mighty cataract they surround?
Of what use a river, if not for transit?
But let that not halt the progress of man.

Of what use a river falling great heights
if not to be harnessed for industry?
And so it came to be, mills and plants
along its rushing course, amid the islands
that divide those cataracts, atop the walls
that once were a stately gorge.

But oh, the steep price of progress
and the unbridled power of industry.
Far from sightly, the discharge
of chemicals to air and water
and the scars they leave the cost
of harnessing the power of nature.
If not for visionaries.

Free Niagara became the cry of those
who followed Olmsted’s lead.
And so they did. Land along that gorge,
beside those rapids, and on the islands
at the very brink of the falls,
once claimed by commerce,
became parkland for the people.

From one century to another,
and now another, the trails and paths
of Olmsted and Vaux continue to offer
views that show no sign of those past scars,
only the beauty of this natural wonder
at the Niagara Reservation, the Commons
that displaced an industrial wasteland.

 

This is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: The Commons, the prompt from Brendan which as us to “describe that half-wild, half-human habitat of sharing and sustenance in your locale?” The Niagara Reservation, later named Niagara Falls State Park, was New York’s first state park. I lived in the area for most of my life and often visited the Falls, sometimes several times a month.

Off prompt, but shared with Day 29 at napowrimo.net.

Aerial view of Niagara Falls from Niagara Falls Public Library
Black & white image: former industry along the Niagara Gorge, from Wikimedia commons
(click photos for larger view in new tab)

 

A Whisper in the Mist

A Whisper in the Mist

The voice of a lifetime, yours,
calling to me through the years.
Some would say it’s a roar.
That’s hard to deny, but
it can also be a whisper.

Those moments beside your brink,
wrapped in my father’s arms.
Your mist reaching out
to gently caress my cheek, a whisper
even there beside your might.

Floating, bobbing in the current
at your base, you towering above,
your sound drowning out
all else, while we drown
in the torrents you rain upon us.

A bright summer day, standing
beside you, drinking in the rainbow
held in the mist that embraces us,
a whisper within the roar that speaks
all languages to all visitors.

Even now, a thousand miles away,
I hear that whisper, your call to me.
I take any opportunity to travel,
to stand beside you, to continue
the conversation of a lifetime.

I’ve read many responses to “earthweal weekly challenge,” but this poem is my first time participating. To quote earthweal weekly challenge: NATURAL FORCES:
Personify, magnify, glorify nature… How have natural forces shaped you?

Images
~ One of my earliest visits to Niagara Falls ~
~ The view from the deck of The Maid of the Mist, at Niagara Falls ~
~ Visiting Niagara Falls with my wife ~

Light Seen in Colors ~ haibun

Light Seen in Colors

For most of my life, I lived within ten miles of one of the most magnificent bodies of water known to man. Its combination of splendor and power never ceases to amaze me, though I’ve visited it hundreds of times. I see it far less often since moving away eight years ago, but seeing it this month for the first time in nearly a year was no different. From the rush and fury of the rapids above the falls to the roar of the water as it tumbles beyond the crest to the gorge below, the Niagara River at Niagara Falls once again took my breath away.

chilly mist
light seen in colors
sailing gulls

This haibun is my response to Haibun Monday: Being But Human,
from Kim at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, with the prompt to write a haibun
inspired by a moment “in nature that left you with a sense of wonder or awe.”

Image: Niagara Falls – 10 November 2020
(click image for larger view in new tab)

Rising Falls ~ cascade

Rising Falls

Beside the vast and rushing waters,
Within the cascade’s swirling mist
I marvel at a wondrous scene

Rising moon in amber splendor
A welcome sight this summer’s eve
Beside the vast and rushing waters

Contemplating nature’s wonders
Thoughts consumed by roaring thunder
Within the cascade’s swirling mist

Embracing this gift of nature
This beauty before my eyes
I marvel at a wondrous scene

Since I missed Poetics: Cascade at dVerse from Amaya (Gospel Isosceles), I’m linking this to Open Link Night #240. The original prompt asks that we write a poem using the word “cascade,” with an optional prompt of using the cascade form of poetry. Coincidentally, I was introduced to this form by Jane Dougherty three years ago, when she suggested using the form with the word “cascade.” I wrote two responses at that time, here and here.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris shows the direction of sunrise, sunset, moon rise, and moon set for any point on a map. For this photo, I crossed the border and took the shot from the Canadian side of the gorge at Niagara Falls.

Cascade ~ four (or more) three-line stanzas, with no set meter or rhyme
~ three lines of the first verse used successively as last lines of following verses
~ line pattern A/B/C, d/e/A, f/g/B, h/i/C, (j/k/D, etc.)
~ longer poems may be created by having a longer first verse