In spring I crave a reunion with solid rock, and when it arrives I savor it and smile. After six months of life in snow, moving in and on and over and through that miraculous medium, on sled runners, snowshoes, skis, and snowmobile tracks; feet swaddled in bulky soft warm boots and moccasins, always subconsciously gauging and second-guessing the consistency and depth, the give and take, of that smooth white surface, there is a moment every spring when it ends with one solid step. (Barefoot will come later – it’s still cold here.) My love for the feel of firm rock underfoot is bolstered, I suppose, by the fact that once the snow melts right here at home, we live on a wide sand slope – a beach. The snow melts in spring only to reveal sand. Pushing a loaded wheelbarrow through sand would account for one good practical reason to love rock. When we re-build our house, it will be right where the old one was – on an outcrop of bedrock.
Finished with soft flakes,
All done with smooth white curves and muffled footfalls,
creak of snowshoe, hiss of ski, rumble of rubber track –
had enough of slip and slide –so long, Snow White.
At the evening end of a mid-May day —
chores, repairs, sawing and sharpening —
I stow the tools and saunter onto seventy miles of white ice
to kick myself east toward the mouth of the river.
Wood-and-steel spark sled from Norway
comes into its glory now.
A kid’s scooter on metal rails, nothing more.
Just kick and glide. It goes!
Sentinel Point in the far distance,
its flank still white with drifts.
East the rise of Pike`s and edge of the barrens,
where May is hardly spring at all.
Beneath me fifty inches of solid ice,
no hint of candling yet.
Another snow-drought winter,
another late cool spring.
T-shirt and old sweater are enough tonight.
Jeans and work boots, wool hat in pocket just in case.
Pepper spray strapped on my belt, for those bears we’ve met,
black and brown, over the years, out on the ice.
Kick and glide, smooth and steady,
frictionless or nearly so.
Across broad pools of meltwater,
spray slinging up from the rails. Kick and glide.
Over a mile out and breathing hard,
I arc back toward the north Twin Island.
Home and supper ahead,
wind at my back, flyin’ now — but wait…
That dark island – oh man, that smooth bare bedrock.
I pull in and step off the runners
up onto granite and – yes –
that first firm footfall is delicious.
Sole on stone, crunch of lichen,
steep slope of the rise,
step lively now, and up.
Terra firma. Boot on rock.
For ten minutes I scamper the crest of the island,
Every solid step a pleasure, like the handshake of an old friend.
I cut up and clamber through the steepest notches.
Boot on rock, stretch of legs, start of spring.
Turn back to the sled, step onto the ice
and kick for home.
May 14 2017