Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Living a Peak Life

Photos, Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2019

This morning I sip from a mug of Chai tea on our expansive balcony above terraced land, looking around and down the sudden slope, then beyond to shadowy foothills. I close my eyes. This resident wind is tender or sharp, easy or pushy. My hair swirls about; dashing along my neck a tingle of coolness is ruffled with warmth. The rising land still holds its rocky, earthy muskiness–out of which a coyote or skunk may emerge as if from hideaways–and floats upwards. A brighter fragrance–far-drifting new cherry tree flowerets?–joins in. Air currents are full of promise and mystery–palpable power–as it weaves through firs and red alders, grazes ubiquitous ivy which climbs over hillock and gully.

A hammer contacts wood in chirpy rhythmic fashion. The drone of a circular saw thrums beneath hammer’s affirmative strikes. Someone is stapling shingles, another broadly mowing. Soon a dog, then two and three voice approval or perhaps dissent. Robins and crows compete, flit and swoop then call and respond. Mourning doves utter throaty yet subtle refrains. Squirrels chit and chatter, rush along tree limbs. Of which there are so many my mind feels forested with greens and browns. The woman next door is sweeping her balcony, long strokes that make me think she is distracted by the horizon. My eyes fly open.

Two orange butterflies dance a romance in mid-air. There is, as ever, a veritable feast for the vision. Verdant land, with more to be revealed by the looks of budded limbs. A gleaming blue sky paints space above Coast Range foothills; they proudly reveal simple elegance. In the distance, a motorcycle–Harley-Davidson cruiser?–speeds up, drives on then downshifts, rounds a curve for steep descent to the valley, belches a satisfied growl. Soon a child spirals across a street, there is hard contact and response of a basketball, while a father’s laugh is reassuring of his love.

All of these spring signs have given me joy for as long as I can recall. Contentment is close to follow a shock of giddiness. Spring was not very gentle in my childhood Michigan and could be problematic despite the dreamy fever it brought. In Oregon, it sneaks into being, a balm spreading upon day and night, a surprise of sunlight here and there, a slow drying out of air and dirt and then more colors popping out. Blooms never really end here, but they prevail with more gaudiness and grow bigger in heat.

March in 2019: the advent of spring arrives after last acts of spotty snowfall or icy drizzle. It follows, for me, more death knells, then illnesses and pain which riddled my psyche as well as flesh. Added to the mix was a frustrating moving experience (and costly), undercut by rounds of sleeplessness. Spring is a relief even when it seems overdue, even if it feels lean. I can wait long no matter what. I rub the cocooning wintry dark from dim eyes. I reach for rejuvenation and find it. I look, behold.

But I studied the mirror the other day (not recommended after hard winters). Deeper and more lines bracket eyes and mouth from all that gritting of teeth (those left) and squinting of bloodshot eyes, a daily praying for strength and courage, shameless pleading for a truly good rebound. I am looking–becoming–older. And I am moving on, if not free of body’s complaints then pleased with more upsurges of energy. And a deep motivation to embrace our new home as well as the future and what it will offer (our daughter’s twins, for two wonders; care of both soon to be nervously/attentively/happily experienced…). I can do anything I must do, believe anything I desire to believe in. I make my own life become what it shall. The aching inside and out will lessen or be accepted, managed. Not only the great scheme of nature is resilient. We human animals daily take part, too, and we try hard until the very end, even excel at the labor of it.

So, spring arriving like an exquisite hope come true has made the demands of winter worth enduring–as it is for any who dwell within a land that brings chilly/rainy/dark/snowy winters. It is the soft singe of heat that is longed for, a soothing flutter of wings, the rustle and sweep of things growing in designs and hues that break through after hibernation.

When I walk here, I see snow-capped Cascades on the eastern side of where I live. At this surprising 800 feet–after living at sea level for over two decades–it feels like we reside in a grand high place. I see: resplendent Mt. Hood. A reshaped-by-volcanic-spews-yet-lovely Mt. St. Helens. And is it Mt. Baker there, too? Glimmering white crowns above jagged granite blues of enormous ranges. One cannot help but be raised up by peeks into beauty while moving through sunshine.

There is a system of trails atop these undulating hills. I explore them daily, pull on trail or tennis shoes and take off as if I know where I’m going. I trust that I will find my way. I have a good inner compass, am not floundering in wilderness. I recall landmarks as I go. There are fine houses interspersed among pathways and briefly admired, but trees and creatures captivate me. Swing of arms and squared thrust of shoulders, two light feet and an elongated back take me where I care to go. Mind as clear as spring water follows this beat; chest fills with heart’s power. I clamor my way up and up winding, steep ascents and then I rest, gulping piney air. I hope to find musical brooks; there is a lake and the meandering river nearby. I lack nothing much, if anything. (Perhaps the sea, a short drive away.)

My well-seasoned body is regaining strength and new boldness with daily forays. My spirit is flooded with pleasures. I sink into bed with thankfulness. How much can the flesh and being hold of sorrow and elation and wonder? So much. So much. We need to welcome it all, open the windows and doors of home.

Who could have known what we needed was such a change, then guided us to such a good place? In the core of my being that constant hunger for forested land and wilder creatures with an outdoor life right within my reach rang loud and clear. My husband, Marc, also believed more nature with its authenticity and intrigue was needed. Now. So here we are. The city is close enough, while we awaken each day feeling far from it.

I came home the other day sweaty, my hair tangled, hands a little dirty, my brain and camera stuffed with ideas and images. I will take you with me as I learn the places and ways here. Enjoy now a little of what I have just begun to know.

Trapeze of My Body

Days become open, elongate
as tenderness seeks each flourish of light,
finds roadside bud and petal,
graces bough and wing inside chill wind.

My body like theirs tilts toward sun,
struck by expectation, how it thrills.
Adornments of earth trumpet
caregiving Mind of God made visible,
how it scours and sloughs off wintry rags,
conjures rustle and sigh of life spun, released.

This hidden skin of mine, fluff of milkweed
covering elegant spine and capable wrists,
bright collarbones, coiled arches of feet–
my soul flies on the trapeze of body
in higher places, an homage to each spring reveal.

 

Friday’s Quick Pick/Poem: Mount Tabor After Thanksgiving

 

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Photos © Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2017

So after all that other–the absent family,
the breathtaking near misses,
and such uncertainties carried in
the heart like burning sticks or
the mind with its curtain of denial
and, too, prayers resonant with gratitude–

we come for relief and climb the volcano,
sucking air between our teeth like
sustenance, visitor sunshine relieving
wintry chill, earth sheltering us
with no effort a day past the feasts.

We are kinetic with hope, trudging
and running and cycling, leaning
into drapery of pine branches and
the pendulum of no-time, a ticking
of joy rife inside life-pulsed veins.

No one curses or weeps beneath ancient trees
atop the long-sleeping cinder cone, once
so powerful it revised all contours of life.
We understand, have our own potent geology.
Each of us tethers our souls now fluent
with scarce purity, heart-mending moments,
exhilaration under wilder, sweeter skies.

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Friday Quick Pick: Rainy Rumination

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The rain is generous here,
manifesting its chameleon ways.
It beguiles and rages,
tap dances and waltzes,
arrays the city’s narrow streets
in a rainbow of taupe, bisque, slate;
calls cyclists and walkers
to come nest in cubbyholes
with a strong coffee or beer
and ponder from windows the
voluptuous clouds, their churlish rebuke.

Rainfall does not bother to cease
for rewards of joy or taxing sorrow,
will not flee farther eastward
to high desert, rocky buttes.
It commands, feeds bloated earth
and rattles the awnings
and rushes headlong into
mountains and rivers as if
it must bury every crevasse
and slick down every abutment.

And, too, drench our souls,
which pine for small luxury–to step
onto pathways with no slimy mud,
no gutter a shocking flood, to avoid
more wreckage of yet another
month that may miraculously
reveal fine blue horizons,
emergent from that muck and drear.

So as the brazen clouds regroup,
restrain deluge and drizzle,
we enter gardens long at rest,
see anew the rewards of wetness,
how it does right by its duty:
sumptuous blossoms, chittering birds,
the trafficked pond, waterfalls’ chorus,
our hearts hitched up again
as senses feast on seasons
defended, recreated by copious rains.

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