The morning sky was colored like a bluebird’s wing, and the temperature promised to reach the 60s mark. My wife and I headed toward the West Branch Pine to do some hiking, but first we stopped for breakfast at a small cafe in Galeton (PA). My new book of poetry was scheduled for release in just three days, so I decided to celebrate the imminent appearance of Earthstars, Chanterelles, Destroying Angels (from FootHills Publishing, Kanona, NY) by ordering a mushroom omelette, with homemade bread, and coffee. It was good food, with a mushroom theme that set the tone for a fine Sunday in the hills.
Mushrooms in poetry can symbolize the spirit of wild nature, I suppose, and yeah, the poems of my new book run the gamut of experience from the personal to the cultural to the wild…
Leighanne and I hit the trail in the Susquehannock State Forest along a feeder of the upper Pine Creek watershed. It was pleasant going, especially when considering the fact that we were still in the final month of winter. The sun reflected warmly from the snowless hillsides but the icy ground still resonated from the impact of our walking sticks.
After the hike, I fished a section of the full-flowing creek, but had no luck while casting nymphs in the clear, cold water (43 degrees F.). I wasn’t surprised. This stretch had not been fishing well for the past year or so, compared to some excellent outings there on previous occasions. But so what. It was fun getting loose on my winter legs, getting reacquainted with my brook trout strategies at all the usual hiding places, and getting flies untangled from the unforgiving boughs.
The hike was comfortable and relaxing, although the wind, ripping through the more exposed locations of the narrow valley, showed no mercy on Leighanne, getting into her eyes and beating up her lashes.
Beavers have settled on the headwaters and formed a quarter-mile of dams and ponds that are skirted by the trail. There the windless quietude was punctuated intermittently by the chatter of a chickadee, the chortling of a pileated woodpecker, and the distant call of an owl or coyote.
We observed small brook trout in the beaver ponds, including several that were rising to midges or stoneflies prior to darting out of view. Occasionally we saw a larger trout shoot off into a beaver channel. I had fished this area before, but had found the silty pond conditions very challenging to cast on. Even now I didn’t regret leaving the fly rod at the car for later use downstream.
Driving back home, we made an IPA stop at the Perma-Stone Inn outside of Galeton. The place was busy and, unfortunately, our table was located next to the jukebox speakers. One young lady took a break from her darts game to unload some coins at the music machine. Sympathesizing with the old couple sitting next to her, she asked us what kind of music we wanted to hear… Pop, rock, or how about country?
“Country music is okay,” said Leighanne, “if it’s the old-style country.”
“I got Johnny Cash here. You like him? I’ll play Folsom Prison Blues.”
Leighanne confided later on, saying, “She probably thinks we’re old fuddy-duddies.”
And the string of other jukebox selections that the woman made was one hammer-headed tune after another, the likes of which could make”Big Balls” by ACDC sound half intelligent. The woman had an impeccable taste in music.
I’m not above the salt of the earth who spend a glorious day in the saloon. In fact, among the varied poems of “Earthstars…”, among the poems of mushroom and wildflower, of bird and fisher, of creek and river, of Germany and America, of home place and alienation, etc., the reader might discover sympathetic portraits of man and beast.
There’s the story of a man who actually lived inside a tree. Another poem relates the vision of a young woman picking flowers “In Bavarian Fields.” There’s the artist Albrecht Durer, and a fox trapper, and a drinker with a can of Colt 45 Malt Liquor in each hand, and you won’t forget the true tale of a passionate septic-tank cleaner who claims his… “Mind ain’t sharp as it used to be.”
For more information, please click on my blog roll here, where it says “FootHills Publishing.” This long established and well-respected publisher of poetry books would love to take your book order.
And I would be as pleased as in my Sunday moment when I saw the season’s first male bluebird. My wife and I were crossing a hilltop coming home from the hike when I saw the migrant bird that seemed to carry the late day sky upon its back. It flew from fence post to fence post there beside us, along the sweet and lonely road to spring.