Friday, October 13, 2006

Eagle Creek

From the creek, a slope of cedar and mossy maple. Fractured sunlight through tree branches in forest. Rise up above creek - over moss coated scree. Arched walls of chasms yellow green. I am in fascination with cliff side vertical gardens of moss and fern, wildflower and lichen. A complexity within my span. Dark green, gray green, blue green, lemon green, olive green: moss. Flowers the size of a pin. Intensity of blue, white, purple, red. Drops of water fall glintsilver on moss covered rocks. Bees hover like moving sleep.

Curving fronds of black stalked maidenhair ferns. Alder, bleeding hearts, Columbine. Wild Iris. Red Paintbrush. Blue Lupine. There are few birds here. I do not know why. I have arrived too late for Trillium. I will not press on to Wahtum lake.

I peer onto cliff face, half lit, half shadow, and look close at one of the mosses that cling to it, I don’t know its scientific name. I see yellow dust collected below, surmise it spores. Odd shade of green unique to itself. Shape, interconnected circles like venn diagrams, indication of cycles of growth. This patched life has been here many seasons, in sun, in rain, covered by snow in convulsive January storm. Under night and day, darkness and light. Close touch its life in nature, the insects that might gather upon it. This is one bit of moss, I circle with thumb and forefinger touched.

Next to it another moss, another kind. A fern. Cryptogamic flora. A single blue wildflower. I stand back, carefully, wary, aware of precipice, and take in all that I can. A thousand species of plants and insects, moss and lichen cling to this shear wall. All is actual, as opposed to art, artifice, this existing, on its own, not for man’s purpose, but through and for its own ancient crafts and devices, acidic secretions, evolved chemistries, symbiosis, contingent histories, many understood through science and craft, but many simply and impossibly unknown. On a steep cliff, overlooking a chasm in rock, and the sky above, and the creek tumbling down to great river, the river which travels past my home to the North Pacific. The world spins a great blue ball in space, half in light, under sun, half in darkness, under stars.

Straight white patches of ash. Rockslides. Clamber at cliff edge on columnar basalt. Bridge over deep narrow chasm, geological fault that pierces the thick layering of volcanic cataclysm. Once the deeps opened, and mantled this region with lava. And in contorted layers of time, the rock cracked by tension. But I have stayed too late. The inevitable descent will be through darkness.

The sun withdraws from the valley, as if with the snapping of a spiders strand, a windblown arachnid sprung from connection with tree limb, spiraling, drifting. The valley and all contained slide with the earth past last arched angle of sun, spinning all towards vortex of darkness. Limbs of moss covered trees appear like human figures. The music of the rushing creek, inevitable orchestra of motion and erosion, forbids deep silence, but darkness will consume the gorge. Deep water turned dark black, foam of streaming luminescent white, in last breath of small light, I must return.

My narrow path descends deep under cliff ridge and moonlight. I am immured within cedar and moss.


  1. exceptional writing and photos.

  2. thank you for sharing your words and photos of this special place that is now on fire---my heart hurts for the suffering going on there due to a stupid human with fire in his ignorant hands---from one poet to another may we grieve with dignity

  3. Thank you Grace. May our magical place recover. Fire is a part of nature. We must learn how to best live with it, and see it in the natural progression of the ecosystem. I've been learning much from the people at BARK, here in Portland. (although still very worried about climate change, and its effect on the Pacific Northwest.