Disquiet Quiet

Can an empty trailhead be wonderful?
An empty trailhead can be wonderful.

An unusual thing happened last night: My wife and I pulled into the parking lot at one of the trails we like to hike, and it was empty.

Not a car to be seen.  Empty.

As you can tell from reading the last paragraph or so, that doesn’t happen often. It was cool, but kind of strange.  Quiet and disquiet all at the same time.  

The hike was wonderful.  Quietly wonderful.

Thank you, Christie Wyman of Wondering and Wandering, for providing me with a link to help me understand this poem form that I’ve been seeing recently.  This is called a Skinny Poem, and–it must be said–I’m not exactly following the rules right out of the gate.  That’s okay.

As Christie did, though, I’d like to share info with my readers as well. The Skinny Poetry Journal’s “About” page can be found here.

Unnatural Succession

“Natural Succession,” the sign says.

It’s a small sign on a simple post
placed beside the trail, its paragraph striving 
to explain the growth in the area just beyond it.

The just beyond is a stand of young trees
mostly eastern red cedar, sweetgum, 
a few elms and the rest loblolly pine.

Brambles claw at their modest trunks
while Virginia creeper and poison ivy 
work their way skyward, green-red and springtime shiny.

I understand the “succession” part of the sign
but — not to be difficult — I have to take exception
to the word “natural.”

At some point in the recent past
a bright yellow behemoth (more than one, I’m sure)
made its way across this place



all that stood 
in its path.

The land was left devoid of anything organic, bare and raw
silt-red rainwater running in rivulets
through the track-tread trenches.

But, yes, nature is succeeding
Birds fly from tree to tree, and the blight
is becoming harder to see and more of a memory.

For that, I am thankful.

Just a note: I truly am thankful for the donation of the lands I spoke of in the poem above, and I’m thankful for the stewardship and conservation efforts of the Land Trust of North Alabama. That said, I hope we get to a point where it’s not necessary to go on biggering and biggering. If I’m not mistaken, that’s how the Onceler put it. The Lorax’s response: “Unless.”

Technology and Chipmunks

One of my favorite animals is the eastern chipmunk.  While it’s safe to say they’re a common animal in the woods of north Alabama, it seems as if they’re either ubiquitous or nowhere to be seen.  I suppose it’s a matter of food.

Anyway, I’m out on the trail the other day and there’s a lot of chipmunk activity–this was a ubiquitous kind of experience.  The little guys were all over the place (my theory: it’s springtime and love is in the air).  Chipmunks are funny, because they have a  warning chirp that almost sounds like a bird.  They’re running around, so there are leaves rustling, and the ‘munks were chirping up a storm when suddenly one of them stops on a rock some 15 feet in front of me.  

He (?) faced toward me, sat up on his back legs, and just started barking at me!  It wasn’t a dog-like bark, but it certainly wasn’t just a chirp either.  This went on for a few seconds, then he jumped down, ran between two rocks, and was gone.  

And then it was quiet.

Okay, I’ve been in the woods a lot.  I’ve seen a lot of chipmunks.  I’ve never experienced something like that though–it was strange and a little bit funny, all at the same time. 

In keeping with the strange and a little bit funny theme, I had the sudden urge to share the experience on Twitter.  I’m not a big Twitter user, but that’s where I chose to share what had just happened.

In keeping with the strange and a little bit funny theme, my sharing turned into a haiku, compliments of Jean LaTourette (@mz_lat).  

Thanks, Jean, for a fun experience as fellow writers, technology, and an irritated chipmunk all came together on a Saturday morning!

Things that Catch My Eye

Today’s post is just a simple quatrain that came to me after I spotted a small tree frog out on the trail yesterday. I’m oftentimes surprised when I actually see things like this, because I know I walk by them all the time. Camouflage is an incredible survival adaptation for so many animals!

Sometimes I find myself surprised
by the things that catch my eye
Though they often make me wonder
‘bout the things I walk right by!

Sunning on a Sunday Afternoon
Most likely a Cope’s Gray tree frog

Hiking with Children

Hiking with children leaves me wondering
Am I seeing my past or experiencing a vision of their future? 

Watching them, I remember my early steps 
     when everything was new and simple
          — when the immediate was infinite —
and I could see all there was to see.

I have a glimpse of the paths they have yet to walk
if they choose to take them.

We’re planting seeds from an unmarked envelope.

April 2nd

We walked through the evening woods, my wife and I.
It’s this time of the year that she was born, which seemed fitting 
as we moved among the new and re-newed life.

The dogwoods blooming and the elms coming into leaf.
Virginia creeper emerging in delicate goldredgreen
and the recently silent trees alive with robin song.

We walked, sometimes speaking, but mostly in silence
hands in our pockets to defeat the just-cool evening air.

We walked with the setting of the Sun and the rising of springtime
absorbing the newness of it all.

Draft, Tim Gels