My poet friend asks, What is a mountain?


            —for my daughter Krista

You are bone marrow
for the world. You

give your blood
to dead bones.

Bones walk away,
you too, transplanted.

18 April 2010


            —para Leah Meiser, maestra

Seis mesas y seis estudiantes
sentado a cada mesa, azul, verde
amarillo y rojo—25 niños en kinder
saliendo la escuela
caminando al super
la clase de nuestra hija—
Karen y yo, esposa/o
abuelitos llevando
chalecos de amarillo
y naranja para cruzando
la calle, escuchando
m’ija, cuidado
con los perritos
agarrando las manos
los niños llamando Karen
mi novia, tomando mi mano
caminando en una fila
cada estudiante con su compañero
calles peligrosas
podemos, queremos, tenemos

Llegando el super
vamos a probar las frutas
un paseo al parque después
¿Cual es su primer comida?
Presten atención
Comida a veces, comida siempre
¿Porque? Porque  tiene azucar
El panadero Rubén
Hago pastelitos, hago bolillos
Es muy rico aquí
Hey guys want to see something cool?
¡Hace frio! Ha, ha, ha
Prueba la chocolate de soya
Pasan después
Estamos hablando de comida saludable
Medicina importante
Bocas cerradas aquí
la ultima parada
lapiz, agua, arregla
Seguimos caminando
al parque a comer
y jugar
caminantes somos
No estamos cansado
Sí estamos cansado
No estamos cansado
Sí estamos cansado

Su papa, Jim
17 de abril 2010

You’re carving ham on Easter
when I ask you that question on Willie.
James Hirsch says he sits right next to Ruth
and I wanted your thoughts before

putting a 600-page book in your hands.
Your careful answer runs the list of names
through all possibilities, Pujols and Griffey,
before circling back to Say Hey Mays.

Mays had no interest in toppling sacred records,
like the way you coach fastpitch,
Chuck. I love to watch you work—
practice more than games. You’re conditioned

for joy to this play. Mays outperforms Ruth
at the same age. Mays defies his biology
when he doesn’t retire. You take another life
in an alternative universe, show how

many ways to win exist in a single game,
breaking innings into pieces as small
as the next pitch. Hope as fact,
basket catches made running away.

Your brother, Jim
16 April 2010


            —for Tim Bodeen

As the farthest point North,
Jasper has one place to buy diesel, 
so diesel’s on our minds. We want
to find Maligne Canyon, too. The man
at the pump next to me tells us how.
He’s local. Yes, Maligne Canyon.
It’s not really a cave, but the river’s frozen,
you can walk it, be careful,
the man from Jasper tells me.
It’s close, you don’t need a guide.
I put sand in my pockets
and spread it on the ice
as I walked. It’s at the 5th bridge
out of town. You’ll see where
people duck under the fence
and walk to the river.
I ended up breaking my arm
doing things I shouldn’t
have been doing. It’s after 5
when we get out of the truck
and begin walking. I’m beat
but the ranger says there’s time
and it will be light until after 7.
In a couple of months there won’t
be anything but light, he says.
My son and I, man and man,
on the Ice Field Parkway.
Now if I can make it to the ice.
Tim, energized by the drive
and ice on frozen rivers,
carries the camera working the documentary
in the same way he’s taken care
of the mothership. I slip,
ducking under the fence,
making my first fall. Mud
before ice, I say to myself.
Where the Maligne River runs frozen
I step towards a rock and sit.
In silence I say the names
of my friends. I don’t need to go
any farther. The young man goes
farther than the old man. For the first
time, I feel old. Tim guides me across ice
from rock to rock, much as the way
he skied me down
Double Black Diamond runs
at Kicking Horse, as though
cornices weren’t cornices. Past
frozen falls, into caves with running water.
Step in there, Tim says, and I say OK,
taking off my hat, washing
head and face, a ritual bath.
We find a natural hole in the ice
and lean together with our heads,
listening to music of water below.
Slip the camera in, I say,
all the way into the ice, record the music
of the water. Ice light
surprises even the camera, side-
lighting the under-river in reflection.
Now I’m done, I say. I let you go.
You let me go a long time ago, he says.
No, I didn’t, I say.
I’m dizzy by the frozen moments.
Crossing water gives me vertigo.
You go, I say. Turn around so that
you get us back to the truck
in good light. Record what you find.
This is the farthest point North for me.
30 minutes on this rock
turns into 30 minutes of sleep.
I’ll fall on the way back, but won’t get hurt.
Tim’s eyes will guide my feet.
Walking north into his own truths,
the guide isn’t young in his confidence.

Jim Bodeen
14 April 2010


I didn't know if I still
wanted the job, but I do.

Overalls, boots, hat,
and a morning's work

with music, walking
with my rake,

pruners holstered
on my hip. I stop

my neighbor, the new guy
from Texas, and he rolls down

his window. I am the sheriff,
I say. You're FBI,

but I'm local authority.
My job is wood smoke,

music on three corners,
and slowing traffic.

Jim Bodeen
13 April 2010


            —for Amy Huacani

Unwrapping the surprise carefully,
(What would a potter send but a pot?),
I take the first cup and place it
inside my arthritic left hand,

sacred outsider who cares for me,
saying to myself, This is morning
pleasure medicine for daily use.
Yunomi cups from Amy in North Carolina.

Japanese teacup with no handle.
I’ve been using a cup whose handle broke
when Sadie’s tail took it off the table.
Best way to hold it, Amy says,

is at the top rim, and bottom
so you don’t burn yourself.
Yesterday my granddaughter
burned herself drinking China

green tea from the metal cup.
Now I can show her how.
The cup will cool fast.
The cups come in pairs,

called meoto yunomi,
meoto means married couple.
Same pattern, one slightly larger,
in similar, but different, shape—

husband, wife cups. We’ll
call them Grandpa/Katie cups,
or Grandpa/Josh cups. For green tea,
daily use, comfort ceremony.

Jim Bodeen
12 April 2010


—for Lucille Bodeen at 86

Nine of your great grandchildren
huddle around you at the kitchen table,
Mom. Josh holds your cupcake
with the lit candle close.
Evelyn smiles from her open book.
Your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren
gather around you. We sing,
and you make a wish. When the candle
goes out and we cheer, we look
around the table and glimpse
your creation once again.

11 April 2010


            —for Nelson Bennett

Nelson walks through the lodge
like he did then, when he ran this place.
Nelson’s 95 and 3 months.
Nelson Bennett came to White Pass
in 1960, from Sun Valley,
a few years after they cut Highway 12
across the summit. 10,000 bucks a year.
Nelson said stumps were six feet tall
and you had to have eight feet of snow
to ski. Old baseball cap and sweater,
blue vest, red suspenders, mussed hair.
Nelson’s here to take questions.

I’m here to thank him for Tom Mullen
who isn’t here, and hundreds of kids
from the alternative school who skied free
when Tom told him their story. I still see
those lives you saved with Tom. Thanks.
I taught with Tom and school
was on this mountain every Friday for ten years.
Tom died, but it sure seems he’s here with us.
Nelson smiles. It’s a selfish sport,
he says. You don’t need a team
to change your ways on a mountain.

Before you cut a new trail,
Nelson says, walk it for three years.
Build it narrow. Widen it later
if you need to. His best day of skiing?
Two weeks ago in New Hampshire.
He still races. 10th Mountain Division
Ski Team—two runs, slalom.
I will not bore the hell out of you,
Nelson says looking around,
but 95% of you are overbooted—
the bar is open.

Jim Bodeen
10 April 2010

             —for Leah

I'm not going crazy
and I'm not going to die.

Jim Bodeen
9 April 2010


Leaving the launchpad, I hand Tim the keys. He’s a man as much as he’s a son. He shows me this. He’ll show it for the next ten days. Pulling out onto Bell Avenue, the power of the Dodge with its marriage to the Lance Camper all lifted by the air bags underneath, takes his breath away, as it does mine. This is the maiden voyage, the winter practice after the winter practice. We’ve made ritual, burned sage, blessed the ship and did what we could to purify our hearts. Before driving the Columbia Icefields Parkway on this 10-day alpine skiing journey north. I’d cut some sage for the Smudge Ceremony, and I’d bundled some to make some smoke to purify the mothership of any negative energy that might be brought into it, or left over, for that matter. Dan saw the sage I'd cut and didn't like it. He cuts his own and brings it wrapped in ribbon. I wrote friends who knew about journeys and asked for their advice. I have those kinds of friends.

Tim is 39. I’m 64. Tim planned the trip last fall. He drove over the mountains from Seattle, and we’re driving north and east to cross the border. Some of you know Tim. Some of you know me. It has taken me a month to arrive at some kind of epiphany on this ritual. I think it’s been given to me. It comes in the form of a poetry reading Richard Hugo gave in the KIVA at Davis High School nearly thirty years ago now. He began reciting a poem and nobody knew that the reading had started until it was over. That’s the kind of ceremony I’d like to have on Friday. Isn’t that what elders do? Wouldn’t they sit around the back porch wondering how to do this? How to cut and bind the sage? Weren’t they, too, trying to wake from a kind of sleep where they’d forgotten the old ways? Ceremony of no ceremony. So wherever you are, and what ever you offer becomes part of the conversation, part of the porch talk, part of the ceremony. Whatever you bring, whatever you say, however you say it, or sing it. It’s time to load the storyship. Basho, Jesus, Cold Mountain. Buffy St. Marie. Crazy Cloud. Neil Young. Skaay, too, translated by Robert Bringhurst. Sitting out back, then, on the porch, with music and talk, briefly. How do we make this smoke?

Marty, Barry, Jody, Jim, Vance, Dan, participated. Karen, of course. Jody sent an order of ceremony followed by an urgent, P.S. Important: I just remembered something very important! I don't know how I could have forgotten it! At the very beginning of the ceremony, before invoking the Spirits of the Four Directions, the first thing you say is: "Grandmothers, Grandfathers"... I have no idea how I left out the ancestors. Maybe I just assumed their attendance. So here it is again, in toto:

First you face the direction you'll be traveling in.
Then you light the sage.
Cleanse yourself with the smoke by passing the sage around you and waving the smoke towards you, with your hand or with a feather.

First you say 'Grandmothers, Grandfathers,'
Then move the sage in the four directions, saying '
Spirits of the Four Directions'
Then move it up and down, saying
'Father Sky and Mother Earth'
Then make a circle above your head, saying '
The Eagle that flies between the realms'
Then make a circle far above your head, saying,
'And the Great Spirit beyond everything,
about whom nothing can be spoken'
Then say, 'Be with us.'

Then make your prayer, whatever it is.

After that, walk around your rig, waving the smoke to it,
then go inside both the camper and the pickup,
waving the smoke in all the corners.

Then you make an offering,
like four bundles of good pipe tobacco wrapped in squares of cloth:
red, yellow, blue and black.
Hang these, in the four corners of the mother ship.
Hang the feather in the cab of the pickup.

Then you give thanks, ending by thanking the spirits above for attending.


That’s how we waved goodbye to Karen. After our ceremony. Karen's camera is ceremony, too. Along with her blankets and quilts inside the housemoving. My work was done. Tim would captain the ship and the map. Dan made a film. We carried another bundle of sage wrapped in red ribbon by Dan. I tucked it behind the barbecue in an outside compartment. For the ceremony when we would turn and start for home. Karen waved with the following words, “At the border declare everything.”

Jim Bodeen
3 March-8 April, 2010


The way to Jasper
began long before you found
it on the map, years before
you proposed this father-son

journey North with skis.
You've given me more than
Sugar Daddy boards,
my son, and this morning

I pause long enough
for this note to place inside
Mountains and Rivers without End,
the way we've made walking,

inside and outside of time.
The mothership is language
I first heard from you
listening to George Clinton.

It's packed and ready to drive
North, a cloud(ship), a dream quilt,
a kind of story-promise, promised
and delivered, sage-sealed.


7 March 2010


  1. Jim - this is all so beautiful. The ceremony, ritual, and deliberateness of life - of YOUR life and YOUR family, is truly inspiring. Thank you for modeling this. I am taking notes.
    Tim in the driver's seat. I like this photo and image. It is, of course, a metaphor. Our children are our teachers. We need to let go and allow them to lead.
    I spent an hour with my daughter on her birthday last week - at Randall Park, in the parking lot. I now wish I had taken along a clump of sage to burn and commemorate the occasion. Sacred moments burn in to our memory bank. What used to be ordinary, has become extraordinary. I am humbled by the most simple pleasure of seeing my daughter after 7 months.

  2. My life just got better. A place to find you, and to enjoy what you find. A lovely addition. kjm

  3. J B
    Thanks for the invitation to honor.
    Thanks for sharing the ritual and ceremony.
    Thanks for the Journey.
    r p

  4. willie mays remains my childhood idol. When I was a ten year old growing up in the foothills of the Central Valley, California, my brother and I huddled over our transistor radio and knew that Willie's bat took us even beyond our own dreams outside the monotony of those endless summer days. Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons announced "bye bye baby" to each one over the fence. I'm glad you're here Jim, reminding me to keep dreaming. Jill ross