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On Night Paths

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On Night Paths

We walk under a full moon, Diana and I,
on the last warm night of an Indian summer
that has stretched into the abbreviated days of December.
From high on the ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains,
we peer out through the dark Douglas fir boughs
and hickory oak branches
upon a palely glowing sea of fog
shrouding the valley and bay below
as if the Pacific now lapped against the slopes.
Our path leads us through dense, tree-canopied darkness
and blindingly moon-washed fields of dry grass.
The first gentle rains have dampened
the leaf litter and bay leaves;
damp forest smells gather in cool hollows.
We brush against a sharp-edged odor that
carry me back to childhood explorations twenty years ago.
The pungent smell has no power to tug Diana
into remembering a Georgia childhood,
but the path we follow takes us into a memory together
of a night several fleeting seasons past,
a deep, bay-scented darkness,
the faint starlight stolen by the leaves above us,
stumbling footsteps across a shallow stream,
balancing on bay branches laid across the water.

Tonight the stream is dry and we cross heedlessly,
climbing the other bank until we stand
before the boll of an ancient oak.
Though I have walked this path
a hundred times before,
this night, I know the elder oak for the first time.
Diana and I close our eyes,
run our fingers over velvet moss,
across deeply fissured wood camouflaged beneath,
and against rough bark stretching to the sky.
I put my nose to the cool, velvet softness
to breathe deeply the heavy green smell
and listen for the secret slow pulse
hidden under soft green fur.

When the green cloak releases us,
we step through tree-canopied darkness
and blindingly moon-washed fields
until the night path leads us home again.

Spilt Ink logo by Brian Kunde. Used by permission.

Copyright © Geoffrey Skinner. All rights reserved.
Please contact me for corrections or comments.

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Last modified, Jan. 22, 2001