Guest poem submitted by Kaustubh Rau:
(Poem #1541) John Muir on Mt. Ritter
After scanning its face again and again, I began to scale it, picking my holds With intense caution. About half-way To the top, I was suddenly brought to A dead stop, with arms outspread Clinging close to the face of the rock Unable to move hand or foot Either up or down. My doom Appeared fixed. I MUST fall. There would be a moment of Bewilderment, and then, A lifeless rumble down the cliff To the glacier below. My mind seemed to fill with a Stifling smoke. This terrible eclipse Lasted only a moment, when life blazed Forth again with preternatural clearness. I seemed suddenly to become possessed Of a new sense. My trembling muscles Became firm again, every rift and flaw in The rock was seen as through a microscope, My limbs moved with a positiveness and precision With which I seemed to have Nothing at all to do.
I recently picked up a wonderful book titled 'The High Sierra of California'. The book contains woodcut prints of the Sierra Nevada by Tom Killion in the manner of the Japanese masters Hokusai and Hiroshige. The beauty of the prints is further brought out by notes, commentaries and poems by Gary Snyder. The poem really brought out for me the fine line between control and diaster that a mountain climber deals with, along with the waves of panic he has to stave off to get to the top. That it is about John Muir's first ascent of Mt Ritter is of added significance. Gary Snyder's biography: Snyder was born in San Francisco, and brought up in Oregon and Washington State. He received his BA in anthropology at Reed College, Portland, in 1951. His subsequent career has been a remarkable combination of the academic and the contemplative, spiritual study and physical labour. Between working as a logger, a trail-crew member, and a seaman on a Pacific tanker, he studied Oriental languages at Berkeley (1953-6), was associated with Beat writers such as Ginsberg and Kerouac, lived in Japan (1956-64), later studied Buddhism there, and won numerous literary prizes, including a Guggenheim fellowship (1968) and the Pulitzer Prize (1975). He now teaches literature and 'wilderness thought' at the University of California at Davis. -- http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/snyder/life.htm Kaustubh Rau.