top of page


Mountains and Rivers,

Sky and Sea

For Naomi


Even on land, here in the port at the end of the glacial plain, you feel the sway of the sea. The sky doesn’t so much lower to brush the hills like they do in the Ozarks, but crashes down like waves over the bow of a ship in a storm. These waves of rain and sleet and snow recede in countless rivers along streets and form islands of shifting sheet ice across parking lots. They cascade down the slopes and plummet headlong over the cliffs in the countless waterfalls. They fill the tidal flats so full you’re sure they’d erupt in a frigid geyser if you pierced one. There’s a constant rolling motion to the crashing and receding, the steady rhythmic inhale and exhale of titanic lungs. The mountains themselves fill and rise up through the woolen shrouds, hesitate ever so slightly, then release, causing a careening of avalanches and the rush of all things water back to the sea.


They call them “sucker holes,” the small patches of blue sky that poke through the cold molten crust of clouds. They woo you, tempt you to take off the lifevest, to unclip from the stay and venture forth unsecured. Be assured the sky will close, the next swell will crash and you’ll be lucky to escape with only a few scars and a bit of frostbite.


But the valley-scouring clouds are also false in their own way. They act as if they won the war, will be here forever and have killed the sun, that son of a bitch. They want you to believe any light you’ll have will be grudgingly given to you by them—filtered and full of ash, just enough to prolong your life, but never to let it prosper.


You listen, nod and then move on. There’s no use arguing, but you won’t believe them either. You know enough now. You’ve seen their boasting melt with spring’s wiggling and winged return. You’ve watched them repent and turn docile, fluffy and floating in a sun-drenched sky. You’ve fished the lakes, hiked the backcountry and eaten salmon berries ‘til your teeth were stained. You’ve learned to explore even in the winter, to strap on the crampons and take up the ice axe and blossom on the glacier.


You’ve laid out on the deck when all is calm and bathed in the Aurora Borealis. It gifted you with knowledge that immunizes you against the lies.  


So you pay attention and stay alert, learning ever better how to shift your weight with the pitch and roll, ignoring the sucker holes and keeping your rigging in order, knowing when you can stand on deck and when all the hatches need to be double battened.


As you do, you find mountains and rivers, sky and sea in yourself, too. You begin to explore with the observant eye of one who knows what to fear and why, how to take the calculated risk of an experienced reader of the signs, not that of the fool who chases sucker holes. You learn the seasons; that whatever it’s like right now, no matter how the howling storms rage or how utterly peaceful the stillness of the summer day, all is continually in motion. You learn to keep pace with it and are rewarded with riches that shame those who’ve never ventured where the mountains and rivers, sky and sea all crash together.

bottom of page