The Quiet Hills

Recently a local photographer dropped by the house and asked if he might take his cameracircles to my “back forty” and look for some perspectives on Jackson Hill, a view to the east. That wouldn’t be a problem, but he’d have to forge his way on foot through some very deep snow.

Next day, I followed his tracks uphill to see what perspectives he might have studied, albeit with professional equipment rather than with my own limited eyesight and basic digital camera.

jackson hillStepping through the knee-deep snow I looked to Jackson Hill and asked no one in particular, “Why the hell am I doing this? Why look for a view that someone else with a camera might have seen from these familiar acres?” Rhetorical questions didn’t seem to hurt me. I would get no certain response from Jackson Hill or from the chickadees, blue jays, deer, and red squirrels flying off or bounding out from my approach.roots

The quiet hills seemed indifferent to the human element here, indifferent to everything including the slow turning of their season under snow. My eyes could range over the whitened valley and my senses could report that nothing much happens here in winter, yet the questing spirit wanted some kind of response, a sense that my experience counted for something.

red pineWith repeated views of Jackson Hill, I had an intuition. What the camera guy with his tripod and zooms might have picked up from the hill was also here beside me… An uprooted tree trunk that reminded me of a dark and hairy animal asleep in the earth… A standing red pine that extended comfort to a seeker who approached on foot… Russet cone scales on the snow, scattered by a hungry red squirrel… Tracks of whitetail deer that survived the recent hunting season… And the blurred tracks of a cameraman who found images of a distant hill, perspectives that most likely had a base in what I saw just feet ahead.scales

I took it one step further. What he found and what I think we saw is like a picture of the sun cradled by the moon. The points of a crescent body reach around the full circumference of a star. The hill perspective has its simile in the artwork of a King Crimson record album from the 1970s. Call it serendipity, if you will, this drawing of comparisons.

It’s what I take from a chance meeting with another human being, from the re-creation of a hill walk where I live, and the attempt to understand what people see when nature is embraced.

coverThe quiet hills have a music all their own. I don’t pretend that I can hear it. Maybe there’s some comparison in the world of man-made music. Something from the works of Bach or Beethoven, say, or even from progressive folk or jazz or rock-and-roll. I pull out a record album from the year 1973. I listen to Crimson’s “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic,” a most unlikely counterpart to the sounds and rhythms of a quiet hill. Or is it that unlikely?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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2 Responses to The Quiet Hills

  1. Keith on Puget Sound says:

    It’s nice to know that somebody’s getting some beautiful snow. I especially like the photograph of the territorial view.

    • Thanks Keith. We’ve had more snow so far this season than we’ve had in the last 2 to 3 years. If it keeps falling though, we may have to find a way to lift the eastern seaboard so thatthe snowslides down across the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest!

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