Monday, May 28, 2012

Cold Mountain

Here in the Blue Ridge, this Monday morning of Memorial Day, where I’m hiking, I am alone. The trail is mostly dirt, gentle up hills, down hills, switch backs, a few steeper climbs. The perfect hike to warm up my hiking legs. The path cuts through a field where tall grasses grow. Wildflowers. Now an opening After hiking through a large field to an open meadow. Leaving the meadow, I sit on moss, pen in hand when I see a hiker approaching. A young man wearing shorts, a white shirt, cap, a small pack on his back, he hums his way along the trail, sees me, or I see him. I say “Hello.”
Hardly pausing he says, in a voice that sings more than it speaks, “Hello, how are you?”
And he’s on his way, humming, again.
A breeze stirs the air. In the pale blue sky, the rumble of an engine. A plane I can’t see. I love these colors, this particular blue of the sky, these leaves on the mountain laurel, on birch and beech. Conifers.
An artist at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts where I’m in residence loves color. Vibrant color that dances and sings. His colors come to him as he paints, and he describes for me a white rabbit, a golden monkey, a dancer spinning inside her red dress. I see only shape and texture. Color, of course.
On the trail again, I pass the hiker who passed me. He’s sitting on a rock beside a stream, lighting a small burner, eating breakfast or lunch at nine forty in the morning. At a trail junction, I notice that my reading glasses are gone. They slipped through space between the waist band of my trousers and the waistband of my pack. Go back? Continue on? I’ll need to come up with a better system for carrying my glasses. This will be the second lost pair of reading glasses in as many hikes.
Now, on the Appalachian Trail, I’m meeting section hikers, a through hiker, a young woman, heading to Maine. I’m thinking about my glasses again, when I hear a voice. “Ma’am, did you drop some glasses.”
The humming hiker. In his hand, my case with the purple swirls.
He goes on. I don’t see him again. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Boston, Sunday Morning

Sitting in a Starbucks across from the Parker House, reading a story by Ann Hood, I tried to keep a man’s voice from interrupting fiction’s dream. But his voice was strong. Insistent. I glanced to my right. Two men, street people, poring over a crossword puzzle, the man with the strong voice, leaning into the table, his long stringy unwashed gray hair, streaming. He wore jeans, a thin tee shirt, an undershirt, really. 
“I can’t remember how to spell palest or pale,” the man opposite him says. He’s younger, with reddish hair, glasses, wearing a long sleeved flannel shirt.
            “P-a-l-e-s-t,” the older man says.
            “Palest. Is that what you’re saying?” the younger man says.
             As I listened, I kept my eyes focused on the scene outside the window wall, the garden of the Old City Hall where azalea as white as snow bloomed, profusely. Rising from the garden a statue of one of history’s giants. Later, I learned he was Josiah Quincy who lived from 1772 to 1864, a long life. Josiah Quincy was a member of the Massachusetts Senate, of Congress, a municipal court judge, mayor of Boston, president of Harvard.
            “I can’t continue with the this,” the younger man said. Glancing over, I saw that he had pushed himself back from the table. “Want to take it over to the park?”
            And I wondered on this particular visit to Boson, how many times I'd  walked past these men as I crossed The Common, head high, eyes erasing their humanity? Now, as they walked past my table, the older man, shouldering his dirty back pack, the younger man following, I lowered my gaze, hopefully, a gesture of respect.