preparing for a hike

poacher’s knot,
lark’s head, and bight –

until I find
which ropes to break,

I will tie them
to my own purpose
instead

© Sarah Whiteley

I have been spending some time getting my gear ready for a solo trek into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness later next week. Last night, I spent an hour outside just before dusk, getting my new tie-outs ready for the tarp and finding great satisfaction in tying my knots. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s a certain grace in knots – in altering the shape of rope (or in my case, AmSteel) to suit a purpose.

Once hung, my tarp will be shelter and comfort, will allay the winds from the ridge and keep me dry. A bit of fabric, a length of rope, and I can be at peace in the wild for a time. If only everything could be so simple.

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the maps are out

hot coffee, and the maps are out –
the rise out of Box Canyon
an uneven line of red

a map may tally an ascent,
mark the twists in a trail,
lend certain assurances

what it cannot show is emergence
from a stone-heavy world
into the mercy of pines –

into the stalwart grace
of a waiting mountain,
where the rushing creeks sing
and the winds hum along

© Sarah Whiteley

I go out

I go out, and come back –
to the low voices of everyday
concrete saying stay,
voices that are each time fainter

I go out, and come back –
in sun, in mist, in rain –
and each time the tether
is less, and closer to temporary

each time the river’s shout
grows louder and I am more
cedar and stone, more
singing creek and warbler

I go out, and I am more
simply by being less

© Sarah Whiteley

assembling the fire

remember afternoon sun cures morning’s
damper specimens

for a bigger blaze, find an ally
to help gather

wet pieces can also be cured
by sharing laughter

but only if you share laughter
long enough

some pieces show more promise
than others

but do not discard dry grasses
as useless

recall that these encourage
a better burn

as with anything in life,
start small

and be wary of smothering,
when adding more

be mindful where you place
the most weight

and if you find that your fire
is faltering,

return to the simple honesty
of grasses

when all finally burns bright
beneath the dark,

sit beside the most kindred mind
you can find,

share the amiable heat of your labor,
and pause

to remark upon the enormousness
of the sky

© Sarah Whiteley