Bill Galvin

Gold Star - 12,979 Points (1911 / Boston, MA)

Reunions Thirteen And Fourteen - Poem by Bill Galvin

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Bright Angel Trailhead; South Kaibab Trailhead

(Desert dawns open gently and quietly.
I recount yesterday’s events while at Lake Powell.
There’s a warm Spring wind blowing through
The newly greened leaves; yucca are in flower,
Along with red bud trees and lilacs.)

This is big…
A big reunion at a big place, with big back stories.

Deb and I made our first cross country tour in ’73.
I was morose (much like now) ,
After the death by accident of my second son,
And after a divorce from his mother.
Deb did her best to understand
That our high minded plans were now lowered.
She loved my kids, too, but I was miserable,
And difficult to get along with.
We did stop here, got awestruck, as most are,
At the majesty and grandeur and scale and beauty.
We hiked down the upper headwall of Kaibab
Just to get a feel. We felt the hike back up pretty well.
We were mountain hikers back East,
So we knew how much effort it would take.
We vowed to come back better prepared.

Things did not go well for us when we got back.
Long story short, I was lost and non-committal;
She, young, healthy, and adventurous.
Deb went on a solo journey on invites
From friends in Taos and San Francisco.
She wrote back telling me where she was,
What were her plans, and what she was feeling.
Along the way, she decided to solo the Canyon.
Amazing woman. She wasn’t waiting for nobody!

A couple of years later, back in New England,
And back together, somewhat, we drove back
To the Southwest and did the same trip together.
When we were not lovers, we certainly were friends.
Could we forget that gorgeous sunset at the rim?
Then turning around, and seeing a full moon
Rise in the East? Such splendid serendipity.

The route down began at Kaibab, at 8 miles long,
The shortest, quickest (steepest) way down.
We overnighted at Phantom Ranch,
And began the hike out on Bright Angel.
The 10 mile trail out is less steep, and has water.
Kaibab is located 4 miles away on the rim road;
There are few to wave good luck when you step away.
But Bright Angel plops you in amongst tourists
At a key view point replete with hotels and amenities.
The sweaty, exhaustedly exultant true hikers are so
Disparate from the clean, well-upholstered lookalikes;
Comingling, but poles apart in earthly view.
Guess which one has red dust in his or her teeth.
Still the same today; but ten times more visitors.
I can pick them out, and congratulate their gutsiness.
A typical reply is a breathless, smiling “Thanks”.

So, I hike down the switchbacks a ways
On the Bright Angel. Many others do the same.
I find a ledge where I can sit and place my pack.
Waiting for peace and no walkers is difficult,
For it is suggested on signs up top
That novices take a little walk
To get a feel for the place. Just like we did long ago.
Did I tell you I am shocked at the steepness?
We were pretty daring back then; but, you know,
We were always better and braver together.
We were stronger and bolder then, too.
We were in the formative stages of building
A strong foundation of trust, respect, and love.
We were team building.

Behind me is a pocket in a vertical crevice
In the white limestone 270 million years old.
And in it is growing healthy green grass;
A patch about 2 foot square, a foot tall.
This is a good place for you to reside.
In this parched climate,
You’ll be with the rarest of greenery.
You can say “How’s it going? ”
To all the through-hikers as they pass;
As part of that veteran comradery;
You’d easily recognize them.
If you decide to fly off with the breeze,
You may be uplifted by canyon thermals,
Then to travel downward to reside
Forever in the endlessly eroding red soil.

I do my best to meditate the moment
On a bench above the trail, but people abound.
I go back and drive toward Kaibab Trail.
The Park has restricted access to some areas
Due to heavy traffic and dangerous cliffs roads.
Shuttles have generated long lines waiting.
So, at Kaibab, a handful of us park on the road
And hike in a half mile to avoid the waits;
Plus, just to get back to your car and travel on
Without having to backtrack to town on the bus.
Ah, how we long for the good old days!
Before people congestion caused limitations
On freedom to move about at will.

This trailhead is visited by shuttled tourists
To see another viewpoint into the canyon.
Some also test their will and walk down a bit,
The steep switchbacks keeping them
In sight for about a mile
Before turning the corner of the butte.
Far below I see the thread of the trail
Crossing the plateau toward the inner canyon,
Where the Colorado runs its course.
I find it hard to believe we walked these trails.

Did I mention the steepness?
Oh, yes, I did already.
I guess time made me think it was easier.

Here I find the perfect place.
A large gnarled, wind-sculpted juniper tree
At the edge of the white gravelly cliff top.
A view; quietude; and privacy.
Not many come here; not one after I set up.
The breeze is stiff and coming toward the rim,
From the forest of pinion pine behind me.
And your locks fly away so swiftly
I barely see them drawn over the edge
And down into the canyon.
Despite the arid climate, my eyes find water.
The memories so sweet and relevant;
The adventures still fresh.
I have been such a fortunate man
To have lived and loved with you.

I pick up two juniper berries, and some red dirt,
For to take back in a little souvenir packet.
I’ll mix them into your garden soil.
Mementos of past and present,
They accompany sand from Southern beaches,
And sage sprigs from New Mexico;
Soon will be Bryce and Zion sandstone,
And Yosemite granite gravel.

These moments are meaningful,
As I continue my spiritual devotions
Guided by a Great Spirit.

My walk back is lighter than going in.
It’s been a couple of years since I could hike,
Or walk in the woods, as my custom; but,
No complaints. Taking good care of my wife
Till the end was a privilege and an honor.
But, though my boots feel heavier,
My stride is as true as ever;
Easy, steady, straight, and deliberate gait;
God’s gift to us of strength and endurance
That helped me carry you and myself
Throughout your ALS ordeal.
My pace carries a rhythm which bounces
The memorial pendant of your remains
That hangs around my neck daily
From one side of my chest to the other.
Regular, steady, even... a dance, perhaps?
Or something more?
Oh, if it could be so. If I could once again
Hold you, dance with you… but, nevermore.

And my loving dreamlike fantasy
Drawn from the hypnotic pattern
Of pacing movement and foot drop sound;
Amid the pulse of you and pendant
In perfect cadence swinging
Back and forth against my breasts;
With my heavy, even measured breathing
As accompaniment…
This, my memory of our perfect romantic love
Evaporates as my car comes into view.

I remember then… and remember when.

4-2-2015 (completed at Kanab, Utah)

Topic(s) of this poem: love and loss

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 3, 2015

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