She Takes a Hike

A walk in the woods is what I need.
Nature’s charms to clear my mind and relieve the stress of modern life.
Happiness is found in the glimpse of a fleeing deer,
white tail waving ‘goodbye’ as she bounces over the hill top.
God’s voice in the shrill of a red-tailed hawk.
Peace in the gurgle of the stream.
I’ll follow the direction of the deer,
Hopefully get another glimpse.
What a glorious day for a walk.
Minutes fly by like hours.

I should have bought one of those GPS thingys
that “Outdoor Life” said every hiker needs.
There’s that white oak in the hollow.
Isn’t that where the deer jumped up?
Maybe I’ll just follow the creek downhill to a river,
The river all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
The beach will be at the Gulf.
That would be nice,
Not as many trees and a better breeze.
Doesn’t moss grow only on the north side of the tree,
or does it grow thicker on the north side of the tree?
Maybe it’s just the rolling stone that has relevance to moss.
Why do I need to know which way north is anyway?
I’m not going to Canada.
Is there a view of civilization from the top of the ridge,
Or only a view of the next ridge?
Is it safe to drink from this stream?
I’m not really thirsty but I should probably stay hydrated.
Are the bright red berries edible or poisonous?
Am I really hungry enough to eat berries?
Have I been gone long enough to be hungry at all?
I wonder if there are snakes in these woods?
I think it goes “red touch yellow, kill a fellow.”
Or maybe it goes “red touch black, you better stay back.”
Do squirrels get rabies, and if so, will they attack?
If I’m bit by a rabid squirrel, how long before I start to foam at the mouth?
Do bees hibernate?
If I get stung will I swell like a balloon?
Can’t I start a fire by rubbing two sticks together?
What kind of sticks should I use,
pine or hardwood?
Is it really cold enough for a fire, anyway?
Isn’t that one of the symptoms of hypothermia,
to not feel cold even though you are cold?
Is it ‘Stage One’ or ‘Stage Two’ hypothermia,
this falsehood of warmness?
How many stages before I die?
Maybe I should start that fire now.
If I start a fire will it escape my control and become a forest fire?
That would be embarrassing.
But at least some men would have to come and put it out.
I should have dressed in layers.
Multiple layers–cotton, wool, and Gortex.
What kind of name is Gortex, anyway?
Is it an acronym or simply some inventor’s name?

Oh, thank God.
There’s my car.

I love a good walk in the woods.
It’s so relaxing.

One Cold Monday

It has been cold here for a couple of weeks now. I believe the temperature made it out of the thirties today for the first time in over a week. Night time lows have been in the teens for at least a week. A lot of low temperature records have been recorded, and we still have a lot of winter yet to go.

I’ve lived most of my life in central Alabama. It is a great place to live. Natural beauty and a rich diversity of landscapes, from the mountains in the north down through the coastal plain flat woods; from the black belt prairie to the sandy beaches of the Gulf. Nice folks, too, on the whole. It’s a place I’m proud to be from.

But many Alabamians are not equipped for weather like this.

The cold temperatures have been the main topic of conversation everywhere I go. Mostly people complaining about it. I confess I have complained some too. I don’t have the tolerance for temperatures in the twenties and thirties that I once had. But I live in a nice house with central heat and a fireplace (that I hardly ever use). I have plenty of warm clothes. And quite frankly, most of the people I hear complaining have these things too.

But in reality, most of Alabama is still largely rural. You don’t have to drive far from any of our towns, even the small ones, to see poverty. Sub-standard housing occupied by people who are are probably Black or elderly (or more likely both) who have got to be cold in these temperatures. Not just “suffering” from a shiver as they walk from their nice warm house to their nice warm car–but really suffering in houses and trailers where you can feel the north wind as it blows through the walls. These are the people trying to stay warm with fireplaces, wood stoves, or little gas space heaters. People wearing their winter clothes inside their homes.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Honduras quite a few times in the last ten years. Poverty there is widespread, almost everywhere you look. It is stunning to a North American–it grabs your attention like a slap in the face.

The poverty in my own back yard is more subtle because it is not concentrated–it is scattered across the landscape. But it is just as real and just as profound. And it is largely being ignored: by the government, by the Church, by families, and by people like me.

I wonder how I’ll sleep tonight. It’s supposed to go down to seventeen.

New Year’s Resolutions

I just read the “Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions” in my local newspaper. Although a source is not cited, I have a feeling they got most of them right for the average person. Included are things like “Start Exercising”, “Quit Smoking”, and “Lose Weight”. These are noble aspirations, but quite frankly a little boring. Although I don’t usually make resolutions I’ll make a few in the spirit of the season. Here’s my list for 2010:

1. I resolve to ride my motorcycle to Honduras.
I bought a motorcycle several months ago and began riding again after twenty-five years (I’ll write more about that later).

I have lots of rides planned, including eventually riding south to Honduras and beyond. I’d like to ride the Pan American Highway all the way to the tip of South America. I’ve yet to talk to anyone who thinks this is a good idea–which makes it all the more appealing.

2. I resolve to write a poem each week; twenty short stories; and a novel.
I started writing again several months ago, also after about a twenty-five year lay off (perhaps motorcycles and writing are somehow linked in my brain). I currently write for me. I hope to eventually write something that someone else would like to read.

3. I resolve to go to Dublin to see a U2 concert.
I don’t know if U2 will be playing in Dublin this year. If not, I’ll call Bono–I’m sure he will schedule something if he knows I’m coming.

4. I resolve to have lunch with some of the people I’d like to talk with.
This won’t be anything real formal, just a laid back lunch. I’m still working on the guest list. I think I’ll invite Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, Cormac McCarthy, Rick Bragg, Robert DuVall, Harper Lee, and maybe the Dalai Lama (on that last one, does anybody know if he’s allowed to eat barbecue?).

5. I resolve to end all war, hunger, disease.
There will be widespread sunshine and happiness. Hospitals, orphanages, and funeral homes will be closed and boarded-up. I’ll admit, this idea isn’t original. It’s a favorite goal of contestants at beauty contests and politicians seeking votes.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “He ain’t gonna do all that stuff.” And you may be right.

But I’ll wager you won’t exercise three days a week and lose twenty-five pounds, either.