Image Credit — Sean Fitzgerald Photography

I think we love any cord that binds us to family.

From Night Orchard

She drove an old Buick, down every dirt road in central Florida, and never once did she wash it. Each year was added a coat of the fine black dust that blew on the wind from the coast until it was hard to tell that the paint underneath was blue. In the same way, that same black dust coats the fruit of every December; the citrus that grows in the groves by the road, hiding the bright skin beneath. …

… “know that this day
this sweet golden day
this bright manly day
(what we do with our days)
is like the clear river ?”

From Sheep Mountain, revisited

There’s a light in the western mountains that comes at the end of the day. After the heat of the afternoon and before the sage turns purple and black in the last of the light. It is then that the day puts away it’s inexorable expectations and the air becomes suffused and, for a moment, golden.

There’s a light that spreads on the evening river; the light of amber and memory.

We have come to the Whitney
our pasts inside us
silent, like the dogwood flower.

A tableau of sculptures
march the veranda,
some small and assertive,
some large and lethargic
all migrants, ex-captives

the clank of their chains
still shuffles the High Line
one foot fear, one foot courage
they join in assembly
they tell of their bondage

One figure, an ape of a figure
big African lips,
on his shoulder a bindle
not of clothes or belongings
but of empty food cans

I remember when father
lived in our car
lived out of cans
he too, emancipated

the Chrysler Lebaron
we prayed to redeem us
wood panels, chrome hubcaps,
digital clock, smooth leather seats

Image Credit, Fran Woods

We bought the old place
for it’s reach to the woods
and it’s true…

a step from the door
and on to the trail
that winds through the waiting aspen

is to enter the place
where the boundary awaits
where the rusted sign says
“please latch the gate” …
is to hear the land speak
of unfinished days.

There’s a corner-tree there
back deep in the woods;
a spruce, near eight feet around
and girded by strands of forgotten barbed wire.

On the day
that the rancher and his boy
built this fence together
did he stand and look across
and loving his son
with each beat of his chest

know that this day

this sweet golden day

this bright manly day

(what we do with our days)

is like the clear river ?

If all of the metal

were melted down

in this foothills town

all the rails

with their whispers

of longed-for arrivals

all the nails

holding our homes straight upright

all the girders and trusses

with their hard love for safety

all our fence, all our fears

standing sentry at night.

The blood moon arises

the seeing stars know

the sleeping town murmurs

of snow.

There’s a band of thin light

at the curve of the world

reaching into the forest,

flowing over the sage

rising with the still blue morning,

bringing the day’s

portion of earthly grace.

You may

lie here

for only a moment,

rest only as long,

to be living again.

You can

get there

only by running,

you may only arrive

empty handed.


At first,

I had trouble

with freedom.

My eyes

kept returning

to the same nighttime window

my ears

to the same

worn assertions.

This morning,

the wild elk are singing

the sagebrush is turning

the willow are burning

the snow geese are gathered

their flight

down the river.


There’s a town nearby I’ve loved my whole life. It sits by the river, the only choice for a western town, in a valley of sagebrush and piñon and too little rain.

There are high mountains to the west, so beautiful in the morning light, so imperious and purple. They break your heart, there’s not a damn thing you can do.

It’s a one-light town, where Main street crosses the highway that goes north to Leadville. There’s a garden at the four-way that opens only from Memorial Day, when the chance of snow is slight enough to make buying tomato…

Image Credit — David G. Paul

There’s a way of being

in the woods,

a way of walking

on the earth.

Have you seen how

the light slants in

on the summer aspens?

falling first to the leaf

and the silken branch,

and the columbine

how it spends itself

on the flowing water ?

then lies to rest

with the rocks and the grass

and rises through the stems of the grass.

Sometimes, in the woods,

this light will take you.

I know.

R Chastain

Read. Write. Love the wilderness.

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