Drift Creek Canyon

Written by Gritfish

Drift Creek Canyon
35 Years Later

Sea fog caps the coastal mountain tops,
Then soft and gently, silent drops
Down Drift Creek Canyon.
Thought forms carried on the fog
Seek a desperate dialog:

Admonishment and Query to the Two-leggeds:

Be kind to Creation.
You are the past, the now and the to-come.
Do you not realize that you are co-creators
Of the future Earth?

Be reverent to Life,
The Great Web of which you are a part.
If you intentionally tear the Web of Life,
What perverted canon could justify the outcome of such action?

Heed the prayers of those beings
Whose faces and forms are yet to come out of the ground.

Alien species (strangle-brambles and Scotch broom):
The canyon's hillsides are dense and weedy overgrown.
Native species (alder, fir and Sitka spruce)—
Clear cut and gone (resource abuse)—
Struggle to regain their ancestral home.
A logging road, now long abandoned,
Scalps the scarp at mid-mountain:

Steep-hill deforestation—stumps—
Tombstones on a slanted graveyard—
Mark the site where each ancient giant fell.

Mud-slides the rocky slopes excoriate;
Too steep to climb down to investigate,

So my friend fired his rifle at the canyon floor—
The bullet struck:

Where once had flowed a graceful stream
Now oozed a clot of mucoid slime,
Reduced to that gelatinous state
From which, at evolution's rate,

It has taken four billion years
From blue-green algae-muck to present biodiversity.


We drove up the two-tracked dirt road,
Ending in a meadow of wildflowers, where
Birdfoot buttercups bloomed in the low, moist areas
And Douglas's irises crowned each hummock.
Foxglove demarked the meadow's edge 
And thickets of goatsbeard guarded the canyon upslope.
A short walk through the dew-wet grass to the bank of Drift Creek;
Riffles reflecting the colors of the dawn.
Trout were our goal, 
And at first we fished enthusiastically,
My father and I,
Drifting salmon eggs through each likely-looking slot.
We worked upstream in classic trout-fishing style 
And caught some blue-backed sea run cutthroat trout.
There were gravel bars and beaches to fish from at first,
But as we progressed,
We were confined to a narrow ledge of rock.
The canyon became compressed
Between steep canyon walls and
The creek darkly eddied, much too deep to wade.

"If we can just get through this canyon," we thought,
"We'll enter a paradise—Shangri La—
A verdant valley; meadows waist-deep in flowers—
A clear stream; large trout in deep pools—
Garden of Eden.  Forest primeval."

We worked upstream, lured thus, 
Until the way was blocked (to us)
By insurmountable boulders.
The animals, however, knew the way 
And by hardscrabble ascent of the canyon's scree,
We found their trail: a low tunnel through the brush,
Moist, and tracked by many deer.
The uphill side was a steep slope 
Of rocks, alders, puckerbrush and cedar trees;
The downhill side a dangerous drop.
Low overheads pressed us to our hand and knees.
We crouched and crawled for about a mile, 
Until a sheer rock face forced us to stop.
Disturbed earth and upturned moss
Showed where Drift Creek Canyon's inhabitants had ascended:
Upstream passage—
But we could not climb the wall.

Dead ended in a natural bower;
Perforce, we contemplated each flower:
On the wall before us a living tapestry.
White two-eyed violets and pink calypso orchids
Meditated on the mosses and lichens prayed.
Water, filtered through the moss, 
Pooled on a shelf—
Nature's chapel, natural font.
We stopped for lunch—
Our oranges a sweet Eucharist.

The day more than half gone,
We reluctantly began to retrace our steps.
Deer tracks and our footprints for the first thirty paces—

And then the spoor of

 Felis concolor!

 Mountain Lion!

Gooseflesh!  We were being stalked!
We retreated back upstream
But after fifty yards: 
Fresh cat tracks!

"What is that oval green gleam?
A leaf?"

Cold sweat! Dread!

"What is that that tawny twitching?
A dry fern

Cougars, we had heard, leap upon their prey 
From behind to break their necks!
Yes, we thought that

"At least this would be a good place to die."


An indigo ray shot across our path and burst, 
Flaring the trail—
Or was it a sunbeam shining through blue gentians?

"Perhaps the cougar is a female and has a litter—
I could become warm milk to feed some purring kittens.
I could become cat urine—
Imagine, me, panther piss!—
And fertilize huckleberries 
To feed a black bear.
My skeletal remains could be picked clean
By the ravens that fly up Drift Creek Canyon—
I could not climb the cliff
But bird-spirits could transport me
To the sacred upstream valley, otherwise unreachable.
That rufous-sided towhee,
That varied thrush
Flitting through the underbrush, could carry me upstream.
Now, I am an intrusive alien fisherman; 
Then, through a biotic natural process,
I would become an enduring part of Drift Creek Canyon".

But we safely reached the downstream end of the trail.

A rose light suffused the me-now-meadow.
The atmosphere held a vital aura.

Miwok Salish Mohawk
Great Spirit
All my relations
An awareness of the Great Mystery that removes all doubt.

Or is it the evening sun?

                                                                 Gritfish (c) 2003

                                                                 Epilogue to "Drift Creek Canyon"

 "We had a remarkable sunset one day last November.  I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest evening sunlight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon, and on the leaves of the shrub-oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams.  It was such a light as we could have not imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow.  When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still."

(Excerpt from Walking by Henry David Thoreau)


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