Wilderness Waterways - Poem by Ken Nye
No matter where I find it,
clear water flowing over pristine sand and gravel
always stirs in me a longing for wilderness,
empty forests, dark and wonderfully forboding,
with small streams searching their way
from mountainside to ocean,
banks lined with green moss,
rocks covered with wet green growth
that make me pay attention to my step,
sunlight reaching the forest floor
only in sunbeams.
When I was a boy in New York
walking home from school
along Quaker Road,
a drainage ditch, lined with sand
and looking like a bubbling spring
in a Maine forest,
was, to me, the picture of vernal purity.
Never mind the paper cups here and there,
the orphaned hub cap and occasional Twinkie wrapper
caught in the current.
Even now, fifty years afterwards,
I can conjure a clear image
of that roadside drainage ditch
that called to me, like a siren.
As a man, when I roam the foothills
of the White Mountains of Maine,
I am conscious of
the sentinel silence of heavy woods,
broken occasionally by distant cries of crows,
and then by the soft, cheerful cadence
of water flowing from pool to pool,
a whispered serenade, played by the natural world.
Making their stepped journeys down stairways
built by glaciers,
along streambeds lined with white sand
and peppered with tiny water-logged pine cones,
these primitive vessels of nature’s life blood
create an almost inaudible music
for lovers of the forests’ wonders.
Coming upon a brook in the middle of wilderness,
I always wonder where it begins,
where it ends,
what I would find if I followed it
up or down.
A few times I have come upon the origin of
one of these pristine tendrils of purity,
a mid-forest swamp or marsh,
carpeted with skunk cabbage and marshweed,
an oasis of watery green in the dark understory.
Footprints here and there –
deer, moose, raccoons, coyote –
all drawing life from a watery nursery.
And, inevitably, I search at the edge of the
swamp for the outflow,
the beginning of another forest capillary
There is a mystery in a mountain stream.
Like gazing at a fire,
I am mesmerized by its simple beauty
and only feel the questions
whose answers are yet to be discovered.
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