Sunday, July 22, 2018

Jenny Lake Sonnets

I only read one book at Jenny this year.  I usually read three.  Instead of reading by the fire each morning, I decided to write Elizabethan Sonnets.  I know that sounds a little strange, but I'm kind of frozen on a project and I thought the poetry would help me thaw.  One gentleman who got up as early as I did sat next to me by the fire and asked if I was keeping a journal.  "Nope.  Just writing Elizabethan Sonnets."  I can't quite describe the look on his face, but he did move shortly thereafter.  I can't say I blame him.  Anyway, here are my sonnets.  I know it looks pretentious, but I have numbered them.  One of these days when I am discovered, my first poem will not be called "Mountain Ranges," but Sonnet 1.


An inconvenient clump of lodgepole pines
Sits between my cabin and my view.
These trees are straight and tall and fine.
I've seen them grow for twenty years plus two.

At first they reached just barely to my knees.
Mount Rockchuck rose majestically above.
Later they rose up to my chest, all three,
Rockchuck still on display to see and love.

And now they must be twenty feet in height.
The saddle to Saint John's is all I see
And if I really crane, I almost might
Spot a peak behind the middle tree.

I love to look at mountain ranges
Because the view it always changes.

5 July 2018


The path from Bluebell zig zags to the lodge,
A trail of asphalt lined with buckwheat blooms.
And bears are there you sometimes have to dodge
At night when guests walk to their rooms.

We had a bear who walked up to our place.
He nosed around our kayak and lumbered by.
"Get my drink," to Katherine I explained.
"My gin and tonic is something he might try."

There've been others, but that one was the best.
Like every sighting, it took my breath away.
All they really want to do is rest
And munch on nuts and berries every day.

A bear just makes our trip complete,
Another one of Nature's treats.

6 July 2018


A hearth of stone sits on the southern wall
While banks of windows to the right look west.
Through them Mount Owen and The Grand stand tall.
There've been years when both in snow are dressed.

A dusty moose head sits above the fire,
His antlers graced by fourteen jagged tips.
Those glassy eyes stare out; they never tire.
They grant approval to all the hiking trips.

A giant tree stump standing three feet high
Looks like it's been there since the place first started.
I prop my feet and sit back with a sigh,
The center of this circle so full hearted.

A roaring fire completes the picture.
The whole room makes a perfect mixture.

6 July 2018


I think I've heard that aspen groves are one.
One thing, I mean, the roots all twined of course.
And as one thing this tree is never done
Spreading itself in streams from one core source.

I'd like to say that families work like groves
And grow as one just like those aspen trees,
Clinging to those roots, yet on the move.
Most families are not similar to these.

The aspen in this place are all connected
And among the oldest things on earth,
So even if my science gets corrected,
My clumsy simile stands on solid turf.

These aspen trees are always there
With life that's spreading out to share.

7 July 2018


Sixteen years ago we got a tree,
A gift from management to new arrivals.
One of those few things we got for free,
We were to plant it for some green revival.

The planting of the tree wasn't really green.
Sure, it fulfilled eco-sureties
And all those liberal voices in between
To pacify those people who hug trees.

In sixteen years it's barely three feet tall.
Every day I water it with care
And still it struggles to rise up strong and tall.
It's clear the other guests don't do their share.

The tree will rise above my head,
But by then I'll be long dead.

7 July 2018


The guests walk to the fire and warm their hands.
Some grab a cup of coffee or some tea
And talk together sharing this day's plans:
A drive, a ride, a hike among the trees.

They lead us to our tables one by one
While servers greet each party with a smile.
Outside, each morn The Grand reflects the sun.
The pinkish light will linger there awhile.

The waiters always serve the food with pride
And always bring you anything you want.
One suggests a hike you haven't tried
And offers warnings of ones that you should shun.

It's time to clear the breakfast dishes;
This day's already filled our wishes.

8 July 2018


There are two deer that root among our aspen.
Ruminants must like that kind of fare,
The skinny one with ribs almost misshapen
And the other one, well fed with shaggy hair.

They each appear again when lunch time nears.
It's almost like they're trained to nibble thus.
Because there are few predators to fear,
They munch around our porch with placid trust.

Sometimes they smell a bear and then they freeze,
Their heads jerk up, they sniff the air and run.
They go and hide among the quaking trees
Then re-emerge to bask in morning sun.

Those deer are like the lodge's own
And for the place they set the tone.

9 July 2018


The clouds in Santa Fe are thunder beings;
The ones above The Tetons not so much.
They build up in the north all filled with meanings.
There's always one that looks like such and such.

But then they nestle up into the mountains.
From there there's only two ways they can go:
They can gather up and spew down rain in fountains,
Or peter out to let the blue skies show.

The clouds are born in higher elevations
And you can see them as you're hiking through.
They coalesce the day's precipitation
Into wispy bits that form as something new.

Still, I miss the thunder beings.
They give weight to wispy feelings.

9 July 2018


Our bug repellant doesn't work on flies
And once those deer flies latch onto your skin,
They stick like glue no matter how you try
To swat them off; they stay through thick and thin.

We killed a fly and left him to the bugs,
Big and black and smashed with yellow oozing.
The ants they dragged him off with mighty tugs
And hid him in a place of their own choosing.

That was the end of that fly's occupation
To flit around and fly into your face.
That is, of course, a fly's most natural situation.
All those genetic strands you can't erase.

The fly he tries to do his best,
But still at heart he's just a pest.

9 July 2018


Mount Rockchuck sits majestically above
And then Saint John's fills up the western sky.
It's a view I see each day and dearly love.
The wonder is that such a scene's nearby.

The slopes are filled with little mountain streams
And near the top Lake Solitude appears.
It's a happy vision in my dreams;
In the flesh it makes me come to tears.

We paddled up a little mountain stream one day.
In less than twenty yards we changed our minds.
Our boat was flipped; our gear was washed away.
Nature's awesome power is seldom kind.

We gathered up our soggy stuff.
For that day, we said "Enough."

10 July 2018


There are two rides a day at Jenny Lake.
The first one goes promptly off by ten o'clock.
It often takes the trail to Hidden Falls
Which at the end requires a little walk.

The best part of the ride is coming home.
You have to ford the rapid String Lake drainage.
Sometimes your ride will balk and start to roam,
But if you show the horse who's boss, you'll manage.

Once past the creek, the horses sense the end.
They shake the reins and break into a trot
And then the whinnies come from all their friends.
If they could, they all would fairly shout.

You know, in this state's western way
Horses have the right of way.

10 July 2018


A hawk swooped down one shining summer day.
He flew between the posts on Bluebell's awning,
Deftly grabbed a squirrel, and flew away.
The spectacle was something more than stunning.

And once we saw an eagle on the shore.
He had a fish that he was calmly stripping.
In terms of eagle sightings, we've had more.
Skip a line, you'll find one rather gripping.

On Leigh Lake once two eagles they played tag.
We stopped and watched as to the sky they raced
And then at once their talons seemed to snag.
They twirled to the ground in that embrace.

We never thought we'd be so lucky
As to see two eagles fucking.

10 July 2018


Emma Matilda Lake's our hike this morning.
The southern side is wet and full of weeds.
Bears might appear with hardly any warning.
No need to fear, it's berries that they need.

Then at the tip the world opens wide
And wild flowers fill the southern shore,
Delphiniums and lupine side by side,
Purple flax, tall buckwheat, and there's more.

There's Mount Moran filling up the west
And it's all framed by stately lodgepole pines.
At last the one track trail winds to our rest.
The bar at Jackson Lake is on our minds.

All hikes should end with Margaritas.
Sometimes you'll find there's nothing sweeter.

11 July 2018


Yesterday, two girls were cabin shopping.
That happens all the time at Jenny Lake.
They stood outside our cabin truly hoping
Ours could be the one that they would take.

We told them they should hope for something other.
Through summer months Bluebell's booked up solid.
For primo cabins you need not even bother.
Our indifference to your wish is fairly stolid.

Try for Harebell, even Wild Daisy.
Huckleberry is another choice.
But Fireweed and Lupine, that's just crazy.
The long time guest would rise up in one voice.

The cabins here are all quite fine.
Just keep your hands off one that's mine.

11 July 2018


Opus One was absent on the menu,
So we bought one down at Dornan's yesterday.
We'll use it for our last night's fond adieu,
A heartfelt toast before we go away.

We'll uncork the thing and gladly pass out sips
And slurp the wine and give out knowing looks.
At the end we'll give out massive tips,
Not just to waiters but to the team of cooks.

On that night we'll sit at number thirteen.
We'll have that perfect table to ourselves
And drink that gorgeous wine like it was routine,
As if there's more at home upon our shelves.

When everything is said and done
I'd like to drink an Opus One.

12 July 2018


Today we're going down to Spaulding Bay
To launch our kayak there on Jackson Lake.
It's where all the locals go to play.
The four wheel road provides a test for brakes.

We paddle up the shore toward Mount Moran
Past Dead Man's Island and stands of lodgepole pines.
We love to stop at Bear Paw and just stand.
To stretch our legs is all we have in mind.

We sling around a rock in Moran Bay
And follow in the wake of where we came.
We'll save the eagles for some other day.
Trips on Jackson Lake are not the same.

And then we drive to Jenny Lake;
It's a trip we love to take.

13 July 2018


When Katherine carries ice back to our cabin,
I like to watch her progress down the path.
She's dressed in shorts and has her yellow hat on
And sports a cut off tee she got at Katz.

She's more than happy striding through the woods.
Her head is either on a wary swivel,
Or focused on that day's should nots and shoulds.
She isn't one to waste her time on drivel.

The folks she passes get a cheerful greeting.
She stops to watch a yarrow grazing deer
As if it's just another lucky meeting.
In Katherine's wake she always leaves good cheer.

Life with her has been a joy;
I surely am one lucky boy.

14 July 2018


Our back pack bladders hang from trees like balls.
That's how I dry them out after a hike.
I stash the sticks against some random wall.
As for the rest?  I put it where I like.

And then we sit down on the porch at last
To rid ourselves of dusty socks and boots.
With two drinks we end our hiking fast.
As for my diet, I just don't give two hoots.

In a while we trade off in the shower
And think of what we'll wear for that night's fare.
the second seating starts in just an hour.
We wander in the lodge with time to spare.

Another day at Jenny's done.
I hope tomorrow's just as fun.

14 July 2018


There's three days left, our trip is almost done.
It's the time in every stay to decompress.
Hanging at the lodge can still be fun.
We've hiked and kayaked; it's time to take a rest.

We have to go to Dornan's for some gifts
For all those who made our weeks so fine.
Like Tony for the morning logs he hefts
And Rachel too, they both deserve some wine.

For Mr. Friend, another fifth of gin.
Add fifty bucks for Andrew's fire dance.
And since Maria cleans our place, we win.
She'll get some cash when e'er we get the chance.

When Wednesday morning rolls around,
We'll sadly head back to our town,

15 July 2018


A bunch of flowers hangs outside our door.
They're in a papered pot with built-in hook.
You'll find them all on sale in grocery stores
In the aisle right next to where they sell the books.

Petunias!  Are you really being serious?
Do you really think that they're indigenous?
The reason why you chose them's not mysterious.
Pretty, but in The Tetons not contiguous.

The pot gets watered two times every day
And after that the thirsty flowers brighten.
Out of place, but pretty anyway,
The flowers chase the sun and surely lighten.

Petunias next to aspen trees!
The only word that fits is "Please!"

15 July 2018


We drove the tree lined road up Signal Mountain.
The last time we were there the trees looked sick,
But now the sickly trees are stacked like fountains
In pyramids of beetle-ravaged sticks.

Now in their place are healthy looking trees.
The ugly beetle blight has disappeared.
A healthy forest rustles in the breeze.
The mountainside's not brown as we had feared.

They cull the dying trees and stack them all,
Then douse them with obnoxious sounding potions
Which help them start to decompose in Fall.
The folks in my state need to learn this notion.

The beetle kill is on the run;
There's still more work that must be done.

16 July 2018


The squirrel that has been ravaging our ceiling
Refuses to give way to normal measures.
The building engineers are simply reeling.
As for the squirrel, it's only nuts he treasures.

It could be worse; instead of squirrels there's bats.
They seem to congregate near Lupine every night.
That's why at nights we like to wear our hats.
Bats nibbling at my ears gives me a fright.

The mitigation team has come and gone.
They say the squirrel shouldn't be an issue.
Those cheeps and scratches are just his harmless song.
But squirrel, when you're gone we will not miss you.

In a forest you'll have such critters.
I have heard they're born in litters.

17 July 2018


The trip back home is always bitter sweet.
The car's all packed and one more meal's in store.
We'll eat our breakfast and sadly hit the street.
It's time to go; we can't do any more.

Like always, Jim has made our bloody marys.
The folks behind the desk have done our bill.
To look at it is always rather scary,
But still, of fun and joy we've had our fill.

Tomorrow morning we'll wake up at our home.
We'll jump into our own familiar shower.
Then we'll call the kids up on the phone
And spend a quiet day in our sweet bower.

Our Teton trip is at an end.
The next poem from my home I'll send.

18 July 2018


Monday, June 11, 2018


Our trip to Jackson Hole is nearly here
In just three weeks, some twenty days from now.
I feel the same each time the date grows near,
Convinced I'll plod up all those trails somehow.

It's time to stack up all our clothes to take
And check our gear for any last repairs.
We'll test our paddles just for safety's sake
And fill our water packs to check for tears.

On hikes the main concern is my old age.
There's nineteen switchbacks on just one hike alone!
Once at the top, my tired legs will rage.
Lately, I have lost all muscle tone.

We walked one hundred miles one year,
But that was long ago, I fear.

11 June 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


The garbage truck comes by at 6 a.m.
But not each day, just on Tuesday mornings.
It has one driver and on the ground a man.
The sound it makes provides an ample warning.

So on those days, I jump right out of bed
To push the garbage barrel out on the street,
Then scan the paper for things I haven't read
And look around the kitchen for a treat.

If you eliminate the garbage rush,
The other days all have the same routine.
I'm up at 5 a.m., the house is hushed.
There's nothing in the place I haven't seen.

I love those quiet weekday dawns
When all I smell is dewy lawns.

22 May 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018


I wonder how much better off you'd be
If I had shown up at some other school.
You might have married someone else, not me,
And life would be smooth sailing as a rule.

You'd sit back, settled, and watch your cash amass.
With jaunts to Europe and exotic ports,
The pace of life wouldn't have to be so fast.
Beside a pool, you'd bask in some resort.

There'd be no worry whenever I did mope.
Instead, the guy you picked would have no cares,
No new expense would throw him for a loop.
With him a life of leisure you would share.

I think these things when I can't sleep
And pray your life is one you'll keep.

20 May 2018

Saturday, May 19, 2018

White Power, Coffee, and Birds

I read Kathleen Belew's monumental book, BRING THE WAR HOME, on the plane to Belize and I finished it the next day at the pool.  You know how when you buy a new car, you start seeing your model everywhere?  Kathleen's' book was like that.  After I finished, it seemed that there was a new example of paranoid white people calling the cops on "suspicious" people of color.  Starbucks, Waffle House, even the dorms at Yale, were all scenes of outrage.  I looked at each of those incidents in open mouthed amazement.  How could such people exist in the America of 2018?  Haven't we learned anything?

I looked at a lot of Kathleen's book in open mouthed amazement as well.  First, my amazement sprung from the quality of her work.  She traces the white power movement in America from the end of the Vietnam War up to the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City.  She uses nine chapters, each able to stand alone as a separate story, to build on her thesis that the white power movement as currently at work in America got much of its fuel from returning disgruntled Vietnam combatants who were disillusioned by America's handling of the war, disillusioned by what they saw as America's first "lost" war, disillusioned by not being welcomed home like WWII vets.  And to add insult to injury, they came home to a country in the process of changing its complexion as refugees started flooding into their homeland and as people of color began to noisily demand their rights.

Each chapter focuses in on a different player, or group of players, who incrementally ramped up white power and white paranoia.  The book explains the unlikely partnership of Ku Klux Klanners, Evangelical Christians, and Skinheads all rallying around a perceived need to save their erstwhile white privilege in the face of a tidal wave of people who didn't look like them, or who practiced different faiths, people who were changing the face of America, trying to take away their guns, trying to share in the American Dream.

It explains so much of what is happening today.  White populism.  Group identity. Isolationism.  Tax cuts to the wealthy.  A war on anything that smacks of welfare.  Donald Trump's name calling.  Kathleen's book was incredibly disturbing; I think everyone should read it.

I don't read as much fiction as I used to;  I prefer reading closely written examples of scholarship.  I have read a lot of that brand of scholarship since I left the classroom, and I can say without reservation that Kathleen Belew's achievement ranks with the best of what I have read.  Her research is staggering (100 pages of footnotes), but more impressive is the clarity of her voice.  She never loses her tone.  The book marches majestically through the years under consideration.  I can't wait for her next work.

Don't read BRING THE WAR HOME because Kathleen graduated from good old GMHS.  Read it because it is so damn good.

After I finished Kathleen's book, I moved onto THE MONK OF MOKHA by Dave Eggers.  Eggers is a New Yorker and New York Review kind of writer who I always delight in reading.  THE MONK OF MOKHA is the true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni American who decides to restore Yemeni coffee to its historical place as the first producer of coffee.  It is a fascinating travelogue of Mokhtar trying to negotiate the Yemen of 2015, dodging bullets and bombs and terrifying border patrols as he takes his coffee to market.  I learned a lot about the politics of Yemen and other "shithole" countries and I learned a lot about coffee.  If I ever go into a coffee shop again (not likely), I will surely order a cup of Yemeni brew.

I started BIRDING WITHOUT BORDERS by Noah Strycker on the plane on the way back to Denver.  I finished it yesterday while waiting to pick up Willa from school.  It is another delightful read about Strycker's world wide big year.  He travels well over 100,000 miles, visits the best birding terrain in every continent, and blows through $60,000 on his quest to see as many bird species as he can.  He ends up with 6000!  That is supposedly over half the known species in the world.  The book is not a dreary catalog of every bird he sees; it is mostly a story about geography and people.  My bird taxonomy can best be described by two terms that Kathie and I always use when we're hiking or kayaking:  BBBs, and LBBs.  Big Brown Birds and Little Brown Birds.  That about covers it, but I would have loved joining Stryker on his trip, minus some of the swamps and war zones he has to negotiate.

These are not what you would call classic poolside books, but they did manage to keep my mind off the heat and humidity of Belize.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


When the grandgirls open brand new crayons,
Their eyes grow wide and start to scan for paper.
There's ninety-six in all, straight up they stand,
Four multi-colored rows all sharp and tapered.

Jaydee's favorite colors are purple shades,
Plum, blue violet, glycene, and razzmatazz.
A bear, an ape, her passion never fades.
They're colored purple, everything she has.

Willa's color sense is much more varied.
Her main concern is drawing graphic scenes
Peopled with the folks she loves and needs
All gathered round as friends and all that means.

So great to see them play with art.
I love to do this watching part.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


The String Lake bridge is where most hikes commence.
A photo of it hangs upon our kitchen wall.
The stream's so deep a crossing there is tense,
Still, horses ford right there from Spring through Fall.

Above the bridge, three mountains are in view.
The Grand sits high above the Teton range.
Mount Owen with its glaciers sits there too,
And Teewinot, it's jutting spires so strange.

Below the range, a forest of Lodge Pole Pine
And a leafy carpet flecked with sun
With Glacier Lilies and Fireweeds so fine
You want to break into a joyous run.

Nine miles up the Cascade trail,
We're up there yearly without fail.