Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Walking on the edge of winter

Today, walking back from the grocery store with a full red pack like a mountain peddler, I smelled woodsmoke and saw a palm tree. I normally consider these things to be of different worlds, but I was wrong. It is growing colder here, with nighttime temperatures dipping just below freezing, and I have heard rumors of snow. Apparently it does not get cold enough here to prevent palm trees from growing. I have also seen some succulents, like jade, and caught hints of fragrant plants that I cannot name, reminding me of California.

Just a short walk from our apartment, one can leave the small town behind and find the sky open up across scattered farms here on the flat plain of the Po Valley. Here are some photographs I took a few weeks ago, on a particularly breath-taking day. A distillation of fall.

Following that one-lane road path leads after two miles to Mulazzana, a collection of 6 or 7 houses with no stores and a church I have never seen open. Beyond that, it is almost another two miles before one reaches the village of Camairago. I do not know how many miles I have run and biked along that road, but I am familiar with its turns, stretches, trees, the irrigation ditches that line it. Recently, as the weather has cooled and the rains have cleared the hazy air, distant mountains that were formerly invisible have come into view: the Ligurian Apennines to the south and the snow-draped Bergamo Alps to the north.

A poem from a man of the mountains.

by Gary Snyder

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
straying planets,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
Dragging saddles—
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.

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