DRINKING THE LIGHT ON SOLSTICE
Josh, my grandson, is seven,
and today we sweep the mountain
with Ski Patrol at White Pass.
What is sweeping, Grandpa?
Josh asks. You know, what a broom does.
That's what we do. Sweep, looking for anyone
lost, stuck, or just fooling around.
We help get the mountain ready for sleep.
But first, let's look at this light.
Josh is the unexpected gift of solstice.
I know what time it is, and where we are.
White Pass is where I come on this day
to be in the light, with the light,
to watch it go, too, to be a silent part
of this mountain returning to mountain.
With grandkids, our first job is to get to High Camp,
one of the backcountry treasures permitted
in the wilderness, what Goat Rocks gave us
when we promised consciousness.
Josh loves to say, Let's go to Hogback.
Taken by skis and lifts, through Doug Firs
with long hanging strands of Old Man's Beard,
where I first packed in 40 years ago.
We make waffles, loading them with berries and cream.
We take each other's pictures with our phones.
We call and tell parents where we are,
that we're here, and we're all right, at High Camp.
Sweeping the mountain, the work of Ski Patrol,
ends the day in ritual and security.
Working our way back to Pigtail,
we kick off our skis beside toboggans.
Red toboggans, ambulances on the mountain
stacked in readiness by a metal-hatched hut
where black & white crosses huddle in warmth.
So you're Josh, the crew captain says.
You and your Grandpa are going to help us sweep?
Your job will be on Paradise.
Can you ski that run?
Look in the trees, ski slow, look for anything
that doesn't look like it belongs in wilderness.
If you meet any skiers, be nice, but encourage them
to get off the mountain now, and go home.
We'll meet up again at the second pole
above Chair Four and say Good night.
The mountain is the temple in contemplation.
May we open the season closing us down in darkness.
Each one in the mountain hut feeling something new.
Joshua's soft face sweeping the room in quiet smiles.
Craggy faces suggest rescues made, rescues attempted.
Walkie Talkies communicate unimagined trails.
Maybe there is too much tobacco.
For the men in this hut, Joshua is every child at seven.
This hut contains the dangers brought up from town.
A child's joy-face frozen at Solstice.
14 December-22 December, 2012