words for the solstice . 18 dec 2021

it is sunrise on the mountain in the short days. 
December proceeds apace, crawling and running,
in only a fortnight the days will turn, begin
the quiet shift toward brilliance
it is almost solstice.

the light colors the sky slowly, 
I watch from my bed as pinks and yellows replace 
deep lavender, grey, black
it has been snowing since midnight

it is a calm snow, the night is chill but not bitter
ice kaleidoscopes the steps
they have been disintegrating slowly, it is a cabin in the mountain
made from the ruins of old cabins, by hippies
they were not skilled craftspeople

the snow still brings magic, stillness that 
stands underneath the fir trees
for a time the sun shines through the 
snowflakes falling like petals in the spring
these disappear, here and then gone

all will become richness
the soil shows life even here in
the winter’s apex, crawling with spiders,
the husks of fir cones looted by squirrels
lie in tangled heaps with needles shed alongside

the fire is going again in the stove,
I wander from cold to warm, make coffee
listen to the wind pick up, fill the branches
above me. for now this cabin, roughly built,
is warm enough, is dry enough, is all we need.

I whisper a mantra, a cheer to the hippies,
and then a longer one that remembers
once there were people here who lived 
like this but better, craftspeople, hunters, gatherers
I wonder how they spent their winters

what rituals they performed here, in the place
where the bigger, headstrong mountain
looms in the distance, keeps watch on clear days
what stories they told by firelight
what their name for this place was

I know a little, only, how they felt
when their waterfall was destroyed, drowned
their sacred burial ground dug up, moved
to make way for what the government calls
“necessary infrastructure”

I listened to a video in a museum
the people who were there, children 
at the time, cry still 60 years later
the commander of the army corps smiles
as he says the waterfall will come back

“but not in our lifetime no no 
not in any of our lifetimes”
“this is good news”

now, for the solstice, thanks
to the hippies who with their privilege
inherited this place from the forces
that stole the waterfall
thank you for leaving it

so that I could properly fill this
mountain, with its winter elegance,
with the powerful sorrow sung by the trees,
with the owls at night barking and
the coyotes too,

with curses

long may the people who took this place
who destroyed rivers and mountains
who silenced the waterfall
lie in dishonor
in ruin

I sing this song to the trees
to the now-fading winter light
to the crows and chickadees
to the stars and planets

it is almost solstice.

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