Along the rain-soaked trail 
next to the wild strawberries,

I balance my backpack 
to reach for tasty red fruit, 

each crimson berry 
small as a thimble. 

The act of foraging,
a balancing act:

Next to me: 
fresh bear tracks.

Second Meadow
I don’t know how to distinguish flowers 
by their sweetness 
save by following the bee. 
In a field overflowing 
with flowers, the Indian paintbrush 
grows in shades of scarlet, purple, 
pink, and cream, and I follow 
the bee to the sweet spot: 
the cream-tipped stalks, 
and where the bee sucks, 
there suck I.

Amanita muscaria alongside Elk Creek Trail in Colorado’s San Juan Wilderness
In the tent, chaotic dreams emerge,
like pikas darting from their den.
Was that an airplane flying overhead,
or traffic? I hear a crash. “He’s dead,”
someone cries. Car doors slam. 
Feet scurry down the slope 
from the isolated highway. 

Flashlights shine, illuminating the walls of the tent. 
“Wake up! Wake up!” the voices cry. 
“Can we borrow your phone? 
We need to report an accident.” 
I know we’ve left phones behind in a locked car.
No service here in Colorado’s San Juan Wilderness,
and the nearest road 
is more than 8 miles
from our tent site.

In my dream, I ask my husband
for his phone. I shake his arm.
His eyes open, and I ask:
“Are you okay? 
Did you hear anything? 
See anyone?”

Roused from my dream, awakened from our sleep,
we shed sleeping bags, like cocoons.
We unzip the tent, then step out.
Stars shimmer across the meadow-—
Second Meadow—-as it arches its sinuous back
for two miles alongside Elk Creek Trail.
The stars are luminous and thick
as fireflies from my childhood.

Soon, it’s back to the tent.
We zip closed the screen behind us,
but the moon’s reflected light 
penetrates the opaque fabric
of our tent, thin sail hoisted on a meadow,
like shining from shook foil.

I knew a lady who sat outside
a mut hut concession, opposite 
a marsh where breezes blew 
palm fragrance in her face, 
to wait for alms. She leaned 
against a neem shade tree 
whose roots exhausted soil. 
I think she kept a garden of her own, 
although her fingers may have been 
misshaped for tilling earth. 
At any rate, she needed change 
for pharmacy antibiotics; 
passing on my way to church, 
I’d drop coins into her hands.

I remember Sunday mornings 
spent in a baobab’s shade, 
clapping and signing of converts, 
a young man telling gospel, 
but most of all, a leper-lady 
whose fingers curled with leprosy 
like soft peeled bark. Her 
fingers could not feel my hand 
or anything that came their way. 
I wish I had the healing gift. 
All I could do was spare pennies 
for those outstretched hands, 
roses where no thorns are.

After 15 months’ hibernation, the tents 
put up sail again—quietly at first. Then, 
with weekend’s arrival, wayfarers’ feet 
stir up dust on the disused path. 

Chromatic colors of sneakers, strollers, 
scarves, and baseball caps circulate
around flea market stalls. Even chihuahuas 
appear, resting in the arms of their humans, 
and a young child balances a piglet 
in his arms as he examines handmade beaded jewelry. 

We fist bump. We shake hands. And the conversation 
is all: “You made it! You’re here!”
The smell of roast mutton and roast corn 
wafts between stalls selling acrylic paintings, 
gospel CDs, silver, turquoise, herbal remedies,
flour sack aprons, T-shirts, mugs, fossils, rocks.

At one stall a woman displays a loom 
with her half-finished rug, reminding us, 
perhaps, that the work is done, yet undone.
A stack of baby quilts is testament, not only
to long hours at home under lockdown, 
but testament to hope.

At the Gallup Flea Market, the old blends seamlessly with the new: 
the handwashing station, the newly built stage for country bands. 
I buy baby quilts for two friends and leave before the dance, 
but by day’s end, I scroll through photos of couples, dancing, 
their eyes disclosing hope, the crinkles of their eyes, smiling.

The blue heron lives a solitary life, 
or so it seems, perched on shore,
peering at its reflection, 
like a chess piece pondering checkmate. 

Then, in one swift
movement, swoops, lifts, 
and wings
toward the wood, 
whose silence 
is pierced 
only by the cry 
of hungry beaks.

The weather changes 
by the hour.

The wind changes 
by the minute.

But my heart is Rock—

pierced, split, and cracked

only by the sprouting Seed
planted by your Hand.

On the steppingstones that cross the creek 
your boot left tracks thin as cat whiskers.

“Leave no trace,” they say.
And though, one day, we will leave no trace,

for now, we pack out trash 
and secure our gear on limbs 

sturdy as the saplings 
the beavers gnaw for their lodge.

One day we will leave no trace, 
but even so I like to believe 

we will leave behind
something of who we were,

something of who
we hoped to be.

A flower’s a labyrinth 
for pollinators. 
A sapling’s 
a log for a beaver.
A riverbed’s home 
for the snowmelt.
The belled flower, 
a beacon for the hummingbird—

who jostles among  
uplifted stalks 
but never visits for long, 
who sips while suspended, 
a flurry of wings, 
who resists capture 
even by photograph—

If you have ever sewn a dress—or 
tried—you must be impressed 
with the flower who tailors 
her blossoms seamlessly 
and perfectly proportioned.