To The Right

In America, we drive on the right side of the road.  Also, people here generally walk on the right side of the sidewalk, busy hiking trails, even grocery store isles. When I walk along the trails around a nearby lake, I keep to the right side of the path.  If I have the trail to myself, I walk right down the middle as if I owned the place.

What is your neighborhood like during the pandemic? Where I am I have noticed giving another pedestrian 6 feet is seen as a courtesy; in the grocery store, offices, parks, etc., keeping your distance is a sign of good manners. It is awkward or rude if a person stands too close to another. Feathers get ruffled.

Earlier this year, before the snowpack in the mountains could build and the rains of the Northwest La Nina winter began, Padden Gorge Trail was dry and quiet. The creek was all but dried up. The cold air chased away many birds and I experienced the eerie sensation of standing in a silent forest.

To The Right
second draft

The woods are quiet today
I do not hear the rustle of a bird
no wind playing at the leaves
no foraging of a rodent
or the panting of a dog
Padden Creek is down to its
late summer trickle
Everything is off

My ears reach for the sound of people
at the lake trail on end with mine
I hear no one
I haven’t been sleeping lately
For a moment I am dream walking
zombified in this quiet wood
with no direction, no purpose
No others to use as a reference
or provide a sense of direction
No validation of movement
or placement

I walk down the canyon trail in silence.
surrounded by silence

Then–they find me
The crunching roar of off-road bike tires
approach me from behind
I move to the right
The joggers with focused steps
and controlled pants
I move to the right
Two dogs and two owners
come at me head-on
I move to the right
Facedown each time to make sure
my breath does not mix with theirs
Behind me I hear the steps of another walker
I move to the right
I’m a slow walker compared to others
I know this walker will pass me
I wait
no walker
Then turn to look
No one

There are two places on these trails
where the sound tricks the ear
My own steps sound like another
getting ready to pass
but it is just me
and my steps
echoing off the walls
of the thick forest

How nice of me to give the same
courtesy I give others
unknowingly
yet, still as sweet

A Noisey Padden Creek

Feature Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Poem: Voice on the Trail

Copy of Picture 177

Voice on the Trail

—with a nod to poet Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

All the voices of the Wood called “Shannon!”

But it was soon solved; it is nothing, it is not

my real name.

My real name is written on a stone kept warm by eternal

embers I am still too cold to hold.

Words like Real and Endure

Sound like Health and Hell

Then I see what is calling, it was the road

I traveled, miles behind, warning me of the FORK

The sound bounces forward, then back, right-side-down

warns of mud ahead―not to me, but to anyone.

And at last I saw where the road lies wide,

and clear orchard rows, easy fruit and bundled grass

roll along a tan, green and blue landscape.

Not for me. Not for me. Not for me.

I came into my clear being uncalled, alive, and sure

of all but what I see.

Nothing speaking to me, none know my real name―

not the owl, the fish or the elk, but I offer myself

to the strangers and it is well.

Strangers we are.

I know them all.

-SPL

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