“I go to meet it at the edge of the light”


The other day John was in the back woods looking for possible Christmas trees. We usually cut ours from the designated area up on the mountain where we walk regularly. There’s a power line up there and (free) permits are issued for tree cutting under the lines. (We always cut our tree on December 23 and let it sit in the woodshed overnight, bringing it to dress on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.) But because we’ve had a fair bit of snow lately, we’re not sure we’ll be able to get to those trees when our family members join us for Christmas so John is looking for other options. There’s a bluff back in the woods and he said that it’s covered with elk droppings. An hour ago I went out to cut (frozen) kale for my morning smoothie, taking a flashlight with me because it was still almost completely dark. I heard a strange sound, a bleat, a whistle. And it was close. Then I heard crashing. The elk had been on the trail behind the garden shed and heard me, I guess — a solitary woman in a dressing gown and flip-flops, gathering kale behind the fence the elk have been known to stand beside to gaze longingly at the garden bounty. The garden is fenced with black mesh, 8 feet high, and although an elk could easily tear it to bits, they don’t. The best theory I’ve heard is that they can’t see it and it freaks them when they touch it with their faces. They’re quick learners. And, fingers crossed, they’ve never broken the fence, though they’ve torn grapevines from the side of the house, eaten fig leaves (wouldn’t you?), broken apple branches and eaten uncaged roses to the ground. So this morning, the sound of huge bodies crashing into the woods, probably a dozen of them — we’ve seen a herd recently at various points between us and the Kleindale corner and I think this must be the same one.

Before I went out for kale, I was working in my study, drawn back to the novella I keep putting aside for other things. This morning, my character was spreading her maps on the side of the Deadman River, in the shadow of the hoodoos, inspired about some discoveries she’d made about women and the way their writing echoes the landscapes they love. How they carry these landscapes in their bodies and write from that experience. And while I was doing this, the elk were out just beyond the house, sleeping maybe. (I’ve seen most of a herd lying down on the grass below the Hydro Line near us, one cow keeping watch while the others rested.) I’ve felt so excited to be writing these mornings, before the sun comes up, in the dark, the little lamp on my desk hovering over my computer.

How Poetry Comes To Me

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light

                      –Gary Snyder