just past sunrise I leave the parking area.
small loose rocks crunch beneath my boots.
my legs brush against the tall grass.
trail turns up the mountain at the fork.
small pebbles give way to small rocks
give way to little boulders
give way to big boulders
give way to near vertical rock faces.
I carefully search for footholds and finger holds
as I climb toward the top.
past scrub brush inching upward
I follow red blazes painted on the rock face.
hand over hand I reach the pinnacle
climb out onto a ledge and sit
dangling my legs over the edge.
a cold breeze swishes past.
trees sway in the valley below.
clouds hug the peaks along the distant horizon.
after an hour or so I scramble down the mountain
just in time to see the sunset.

I wake with the rising sun
and build a fire in the open pit.
I warm by the blaze,
heat water for coffee and oatmeal.
I trek down the blue trail to an ice cold spring
to fill water bottles.
a doe wanders down to the stream.
I sit quietly and watch until she walks away.
I break camp and hit the trail;
twelve miles today along the ridge;
twenty-eight-pound pack;
destination green bells bald.
mountain laurel lines the trail.
the only sounds are my boots tracking
sierra cup clanging on a pack hook,
rhythmic breathing,
a breeze in the trees.
I break out the forest into the clear,
hoist down the pack and take a
long drink of lukewarm water.
I take off my boots and socks
and enjoy the grass on the bald.


that wasn't so scary now....was it!?!

I can speak to large groups of scouts about wilderness survival, or Native American heritage, or rocks and minerals. I can read to groups of school children or teach large groups of senior citizens how to use a digital camera. I can explain fluorescence to hundreds of people at a rock and mineral show. I can teach small groups of 5 or 6 people how to design better newsletters. I can lead expeditions through the wilderness. I take night classes at the local university and lead discussions on topics I never thought I knew anything about, like anthropology or weather patterns, but this past week was the biggest challenge of my 40+ year career as a graphic designer.

I am the senior graphic designer for a Fortune 100 company and I am part of a large communications group for the company. Our local group has monthly Comm calls where we all get together [some by LiveWeb and some in person] to talk about the accomplishments we have made and the challenges we face. A couple of Comm calls ago we began planning for a communications conference. Each of us was asked what we thought should be covered in the conference. My suggestion was: a workshop on brand standards and tips and techniques for creating better materials like newsletters and presentations. My boss said, "Are you saying you want to put that together?" Without hesitation I said yes. What was I thinking?

As plans for the conference developed, the structure of the agenda changed from break-outs to general sessions, which meant that my workshop would now be an hour-long general session for the entire audience. The audience would consist of communicators from around the globe . . . North America, Brazil, Belgium, China and Russia. The working title of my presentation was "Tips and Techniques for Creating Better Newsletters and Powerpoints." With the change in agenda structure, my manager changed the title to "Developing Creative Based on Brand Values."

The more I thought about that title, the more I realized this was much more than designing a newsletter. In the past three years we have gone through a re-branding: not a re-branding of our logo, but a re-branding of how the world views our company and our brands. I became very excited about the possibilities and my thought process changed. I wondered how this group could relate to the title of the presentation if many of them didn't know the details of our re-branding and how could they relate to the re-branding if many of them didn't know the history of our logo.

I knew quite a bit about the history of our logo and the re-branding strategy so I began to dig deeper into it. I spent more than a hundred hours of reading, compiling information and putting it all together in a 75-page presentation. Most of that time was after hours, reading and designing in the quiet atmosphere of home. I incorporated the tips and techniques of better design into the presentation itself. What better way to show someone how to use images and less-text effectively in a presentation could there be? I collected sample materials from many of the people who would be in the audience so I could see any habits or issues that needed to be addressed. I enlisted the help of my graphic design intern to create a newsletter with a fake name and fake information, using all the untidy habits we had found. She would then reconstruct the newsletter with proper techniques and show what a difference a little attention to detail can make.

As showtime approached I was so nervous; more nervous than I had been about any other presentation in memory. What if the graphics failed? What if my Mac-designed slides didn't work on the PC-based equipment being used at the conference? What if I forgot everything I wanted to say to my peers and leaders? What if I didn't speak loud enough? What if my stomach growled in the middle of the presentation? I tested my slides on a PC every time I made a change. I made a back-up copy of the Powerpoint and a PDF copy of the presentation, just in case. I printed out the speaker notes in large type, just in case the speaker notes didn't show up on the laptop at the podium. I practiced the presentation over and over. I ate a light breakfast and drank just enough water. The last thing I wanted was an urge to go to the bathroom before my hour was up!

The sound man placed the lavalier mic on my shirt and I took a deep breathe. As I was walking to the front of the room, a statement I had heard just days earlier came to my mind: "If you are nervous, that means you care about it." Huh. I do care about this! I surveyed the audience. I couldn't see them all that well because the lights were low. Awesome! I introduced myself and my intern and the show began. Amazingly, all my nervousness disappeared. I love quotes, so a quote opened each section of the presentation. I introduced the audience to the graphic designer who created our logo 55 years ago. I showed them some of his work, talked about his philosophy, how our logo had been received by the audience of the 1960s and how it is viewed today. I shared our branding guidelines with them as they relate to usage of the logo. I talked about our re-branding, the strategy behind it and how it has been received across the globe. I shared examples of the re-branding in action. My intern took over and presented her before-and-after newsletter. We ended the presentation with a Q&A session and everything went PERFECT! We received huge applause and the presentation sparked many conversations and questions during the rest of that day and the next.

Looking back, it really wasn't that scary. It was, in fact, a lot of fun.


year end is here

2014 has not been my favorite of years. My mother-in-law passed away in the spring after a long battle with colon cancer. She was a sweetheart. I had the best conversation with her the night before she died . . . just her and me. I miss her. Since her passing, my wife and I have been caring for myfather-in-law. That could easily be a full-time job. He's not in good health and very demanding. We're all he has. We have to be there for him . . . as it should be.

My nephew [who was more like a brother when we were growing up] passed away about a month ago. I didn't see him often, but I miss him. He was a rough character until recent months. He mellowed a lot after he met his one-and-only. She kept him in line [which was a difficult task I am sure].

There have been other trying times throughout the year. Such is life. Some years are awesome, some years as time-fillers, and some years are difficult. To me the most important things in any year are God, family and friends. Good health, good job, and fun times all contribute to one's well-being also, but I think one of the things that brought joy to me the most this year was volunteering, helping others. My purpose in life is help make other people's lives better. In that respect, this has been a great year.

I wish you peace and joy and happiness and a spirit of giving in 2015.


Some things I've done...or not

Here's a list of questions that someone sent me. If you're interested, answer and post to your own blog.

01. Start your own blog -- Yes, several.
02. Sleep under the stars -- Yes, many times. I love to camp and backpack. I recall sleeping under the stars one time in a town park in middle Tennessee and woke up the next morning with frost in my hair and eyebrows.
03. Play in a band -- No, but I managed a Led Zeppelin cover band back in the mid-seventies.
04. Visit Hawaii -- Yes, lived there for two years.
05. Watch a meteor shower -- Yes, several times. My family and I slept out under the stars, so we wouldn't miss a Leonid shower.
06. Give more than you can afford to charity -- Yes, and never looked back.
07. Go to Disney World -- Yes, several times.
08. Climb a mountain -- Yea, many times... in the Appalachians, the Rockies, the Cumberlands and the Ozarks.
09. Hold a praying mantis -- Yes.
10. Sing a solo -- One time when I was 16.
11. Bungee jump -- No. No interest in it either.
12. Visit Paris -- Not yet.
13. Watch a lightning storm at sea -- Not yet.
14. Teach yourself an art technique -- Many times.
15. Adopt a child -- No.
16. Eat sushi -- No.
17. Walk to the top of the Statue of Liberty -- Not yet.
18. Grow your own vegetables -- Yes.
19. See the Mona Lisa in France -- No.
20. Sleep on an overnight train -- No.
21. Have a pillow fight -- Yes.
22. Hitch hike -- Yes, but not in recent years. Times have changed too much.
23. Look at the rings of Saturn through a telescope -- Yes.
24. Build a snow fort -- Yes.
25. Hold a lamb -- No.
26. Climb to the top of a lighthouse -- Yes, several times.
27. Run a Marathon -- No.
28. Ride in a gondola in Venice -- No.
29. See a total eclipse -- Yes.
30. Watch a sunrise or sunset -- Yes.
31. Hit a home run -- No.
32. Go on a cruise -- No.
33. See Niagara Falls in person -- Yes.
34. Visit the birthplace of your ancestors -- Some of them.
35. Visit an Amish community -- No, driven through several but never stopped to visit...yet.
36. Teach yourself a new language -- I tried to teach myself Cherokee. Learned some but not enough.
37. Have enough money to be truly satisfied -- No, but I'm pretty content.
38. See the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person -- No.
39. Go rock climbing -- I've gone rappelling, but not rockclimbing.
40. See Michelangelo's David -- No.
41. Sing karaoke in public -- Yes.
42. See Old Faithful geyser erupt in person -- No.
43. Buy a stranger a meal at a restaurant -- Yes, I used to do that every Thursday. I should start that again.
44. Visit Africa -- No.
45. Walk on a beach by moonlight -- Yes.
46. Ride in a helicopter -- No.
47. Have your portrait painted -- No.
48. Go deep sea fishing -- No.
49. See the Sistine Chapel in person -- No.
50. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris -- No.
51. Go scuba diving or snorkeling -- No.
52. Kiss in the rain -- Yes.
53. Play in the mud -- Yes!
54. Watch a movie at a drive-in theater -- Yes.
55. Be in a movie -- No, but I was in the background of one scene of Hawaii Five-O in the seventies.
56. Visit the Great Wall of China -- Not yet.
57. Start a business -- Yes.
58. Take a martial arts class -- No.
59. Visit Russia -- No.
60. Serve meals at a soup kitchen -- Yes.
61. Sell Girl Scout cookies -- Yes, both my daughters were Girl Scouts and my wife a GS leader.
62. Go whale watching -- Yes.
63. Get or send flowers for no reason -- Yes.
64. Donate blood, platelets or plasma -- No.
65. Go sky diving -- Not yet.
66. Visit a Nazi Concentration Camp -- No.
67. Adopt a pet from a rescue shelter -- Yes.
68. Pilot an airplane -- No, but I did sit in the co-pilot's seat on one small-jet flight from Memphis to Tulsa.
69. Save a favorite childhood toy -- No!
70. Visit the Lincoln Memorial -- Yes.
71. Eat Caviar -- No!
72. Make a quilt -- No.
73. Stand in Times Square -- No.
74. Tour the Everglades -- Yes.
75. Visit the Viet Nam Memorial -- Yes.
76. See the Changing of the Guard in London -- No.
77. Drive a race car -- No.
78. Ride on a speeding motorcycle -- Yes.
79. See the Grand Canyon in person -- Yes.
80. Publish a book -- Yes, sort of. I illustrated a book that was a collaboration between me and one of my high school teachers. It was published, but under his name. I am writing several books that I hope to publish some day.
81. Visit the Vatican -- No.
82. Buy a brand new car -- Yes.
83. Walk in Jerusalem -- Not yet.
84. Have your picture in the newspaper -- Yes.
85. Read the entire Bible -- Not as one continuous goal.
86. Visit the White House -- No.
87. Kill and prepare an animal for eating -- Yes.
88. Hike the Appalachian Trail -- Not all at once, but I have hiked many sections of it on many occasions.
89. Save someone's life -- No.
90. Sit on a jury -- Almost.
91. Meet someone famous -- Yes, Bono, Aerosmith and Nelson Mandela.
92. Join a book club --Yes.
93. Own an iPod -- Yes.
94. Have a Facebook page -- Yes.
95. See the Alamo in person -- Yes.
96. Swim in the Great Salt Lake -- No.
97. Cross country snow ski -- No.
98. Hold a snake -- Yes.
99. See DaVinci’s Starry Night in person -- Yes.
100. Read an entire book in one day -- Yes, I love to read. I've read several books in one day...not all of them in one day, rather several books on different one-days.

If any of you should be inspired to answer these questions, copy and paste this into the comments section of this blog or into your own and change my answers to your own and let me know...I'd love to read your answers!


the trail . . .

the hiker slowly falls behind the others
inching his way across the mountain peak
toward the day’s destination
ten miles hence.
it is peaceful here
walking among the blackberries
ripened by the late spring sun
and eaten by hungry black bears.
the hiker stops to adjust his pack
and takes a drink of tepid water
from the nalgene bottle
which hangs at his side.
white blazes mark the trail
beckoning the hiker to follow
as he quietly sings to himself
a song that has been trapped in his head.
over the peak and down
into the gap the hiker travels
greeted by the rushing waters
of a rocky brook,
shaded by a canopy of laurels.
he sits on the edge of the water
to remove his boots and socks
before he fords the stream.
the hiker is compelled
to sit for a while
feet dangling in the icy waters
of this swiftly-moving mountain brook.

-- Mike Baldwin aka:argon[one]


nahum 1:7

The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

New American Standard Bible


are we alone?

This question is as old as humankind itself. For millennia, people have turned their eyes to the stars and wondered if there are others like themselves out there.  

Does life, be it similar to our own or not, exist elsewhere in our Solar System? Our Galaxy? Until 1992, when the first exoplanet was confirmed, it was uncertain whether there were even any planets outside those in our own Solar System. Today we know of over 900 planets around other stars and thousands of planet candidates. Do any of these planets have conditions that would support life? What conditions favor the formation of terrestrial-class planets in developing planetary systems? NASA can help address these questions by developing missions designed to find and characterize extrasolar planetary systems.

Before we can determine if there are other planetary systems capable of supporting life, we must first find them. NASA Science pursues this goal by supporting a focused suite of ground-based observations through the Kepler mission, a space-based observatory which studied the prevalence (how many there are per star) of extrasolar planets, and through the development of the TESS mission which will use an array of telescopes to perform an all-sky survey to discover transiting exoplanets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants.

-- NASA Science [Astrophysics]


the beach . . .

the boy sits on the beach
near the edge of the water
arms on his knees
starring at white caps and puffy clouds

cold salt water
rushing in with the tide
tickling his legs
finding its way back into the ocean

tiny effervescent bubbles
bursting all around his
sand covered feet
inhabited shells burrowing into the wet sand

blazing sun beating down upon his back
sweat glistening on his
golden brown shoulders
as a gentle breeze caresses his face

a single gull drifts by
riding on the wings of the breeze
as the cerulean ocean
blends into the sky at the edge of his vision.

-- Mike Baldwin aka:argon[one]


my mother, bless her heart

Let me start this post by saying . . . if you have been following ArgonOne for a while, you know that I used to actually blog here. Not just a photo and move on, I used to tell you my thoughts for the day. Then life got busy and I stopped posting so much. My favorite time online was the early days of ArgonOne. Well I'm ready to get back to writing. Probably not a daily post, but regular posts at least. I hope you will follow along.

My mother, bless her heart, is 96 years old. She has advanced dementia. On a good day she can remember my sister's name for a while. My oldest sister takes care of her full time. It's a task taking care of my mother. She is quiet and fragile [about 70 pounds]. She gets up in the middle of the night, quiet as a mouse, to go to the bathroom. Sometimes she forgets where the bathroom is, or why she got up in the first place. My sister sleeps lightly. By the time my mother's little feet hit the floor, my sister is there to make sure she doesn't fall and to help her if she gets confused.

I love my mother. She's my hero. I don't get to see her nearly enough. I live 10 hours away. Last weekend my daughters [along with their fellows] and I drove to visit her. On the first day she knew me! She knew my daughters [her granddaughters]! I could tell she really knew us because she was smiling so big. Even here eyes were smiling. She gave us great big hugs and told us how great it was to see us. On the second day she didn't know anyone. She had a far-away look in her eyes when we went in to visit and we knew she didn't have a clue who we were.

It was good to be with my mother, even when she could not remember me. She seems content and happy. She doesn't have a care in the world. She eats well. She sleeps well. When this whole dementia thing started about five years ago, she lost her short-term memory. She would worry about everything. She worried about losing her purse, even though it would be sitting right beside her. She worried about when she was going to have dinner, even though she had eaten only 10 minutes earlier. It was frightening sad to see her going through so much mental anguish. I wish we had our pre-dementia mother back, but we don't. We never will. Even though she may not know me, I know her. I love her. I miss her. I pray for her every day . . . many times every day. I don't know how long God will allow us to have her with us, but she has been an awesome mother. Strong. Loving. Faithful. Wise. Caring. Our rock. Our fortress. My hero.

I love you mom!


the best prospects for life in our solar system

At the February MAGS meeting, I will be taking you on a journey through our solar system and beyond. The main focus of my presentation, “Hitchhikers Guide to the Solar System”, will be astrogeology–the structure and composition of our closest neighbors in space. During my research for the presentation, I thought a lot about which members of our space community might harbor some form of life. Not life as we know it [breathing, thinking, intelligent, spirit-filled beings], but the building blocks of life. Rudimentary organisms.

Other than our very own blue marble, Earth, the best prospects for life on other heavenly bodies in our solar system might be Mars, Europa, Titan, Enceladus, Io, and Jupiter. Of course life as we know it cannot exist on any of these bodies. Mars is the most Earth-like of all the planets and it was even more Earth-like eons ago. Recent evidence of water on the red planet indicates that it had a very different past than the images and data we have collected in recent years. 

Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, almost certainly has liquid water beneath it’s icy surface. I recently watched an interesting and very speculative movie called “The Europa Report” about a team of astronauts whose mission was to explore the surface of Europa. The film was very reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, evocative of what could be. Who knows what lies beneath the icy surface of Europa. Another moon of Jupiter, Io, has a very complex chemistry, which causes it to be much warmer than most other bodies in the outer solar system. Io is the fourth largest moon in the solar system. With over 400 active volcanoes, it is also the most geologically active object in the solar system. Io’s surface is dotted with more than 100 mountains that have been uplifted from the base of it’s silicate crust. Could there be a unique form of life dwelling on or beneath Io’s silicate rocks and sulfur plains? Jupiter itself might be a long shot candidate for life. It is a warm planet with plenty of organic material. A thick, hydrogen gas atmosphere makes it difficult to determine where atmosphere ends and planet begins. Composition of 78% of the planet is metallic hydrogen. Sandwiched between the hydrogen atmosphere and this molten surface lies a band of clouds, some composed of ammonia and some composed of water. Amino acids, basic building blocks of life, could be part of this cloud layer.

Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, has been described as a planet-like moon. It is primarily composed of water ice and rocky material. In 2004, the Cassini-Huygens probe discovered hydrocarbon lakes in Titan’s polar regions. Climate similar to that on Earth [including wind and rain] create surface features similar to those on our planet, such as dunes, rivers and lakes [although the lakes contain liquid methane and ethane rather than water]. It has been suggested that life on Titan might use liquid hydrocarbon, such as methane or ethane, in much the same way we use liquid water. Perhaps five billion years from now, when our sun becomes a red giant and ultraviolet output decreases, Titan could be transformed into an Earth-like habitat.

Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn seems to have liquid water beneath its icy surface. Cryovolcanoes at the south pole shoot large jets of water vapor and some solid NaCl particles into space. Some of this water falls back to the surface. Some of it becomes part of the rings of Saturn. Because of this apparent water at or near the surface, Enceladus may be the best place for humans to look for extraterrestrial life.None of the planets and moons that I have mentioned here are very good prospects for life and there are great arguments that life cannot exist on any of them. Could there be life on other planets, orbiting other suns, in some far distant corner of the galaxy? Your guess is as good as mine. The only things of which we can be certain are that we don’t know and we need to seek more evidence. 


harbor scene

This is my original recreation of "Harbor Scene", a brush and brown ink drawing, originally done by Richard Parkes Bonington [1802-1828]. The image above is my brush and brown ink drawing, done in 1978.

When I was in college, one of my professors required us to do master copies, which meant we had to choose a number of works by old master painters/artists and recreate them.

gathering of the grapes

This is my original recreation of "Gathering of the Grapes", a pencil drawing, originally done by Rene Auberjonois in 1914. The image above is my pencil drawing, done in 1978.

When I was in college, one of my professors required us to do master copies, which meant we had to choose a number of works by old master painters/artists and recreate them.

drapery study for 'angel of the annunciation'

This is my original recreation of "Drapery Study for 'Angel of the Annunciation' ", a black crayon/white crayon drawing on green paper, originally done by Vincenzo Catena in 1490. The image above is my black and white crayon drawing done in 1978.

When I was in college, one of my professors required us to do master copies, which meant we had to choose a number of works by old master painters/artists and recreate them. 


This is my original recreation of "Apostle", a black crayon drawing originally done by Tiziano Vicellio in 1527. The image above is my black crayon drawing done in 1978.

When I was in college, one of my professors required us to do master copies, which meant we had to choose a number of works by old master painters/artists and recreate them.


peasant boy

When I was in college, one of my professors required us to do master copies, which meant we had to choose a number of works by old master painters/artists and recreate them. I recreated "Peasant Boy", a pencil drawing originally done by Albert Anker in 1880. The image above is my pencil drawing done in 1979.

Albert Samuel Anker (April 1, 1831 – July 16, 1910) was a Swiss painter and illustrator who has been called the "national painter" of Switzerland because of his popular depictions of 19th-century Swiss village life.


woodstock meets river

This is River.  His real name is Ryan and he lives in Miami [normally]. For the past three months and for the next three months he lives somewhere between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mount Katahdin, Maine. River is his trail name. Anyone who hikes or backpacks a lot earns [establishes, determines, adopts, proclaims] a trail name. My trail name is Woodstock.

My wife and I did a 2700+ mile road trip to Boston recently and along the way we spent time driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway [which goes from Cherokee, North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Forest, Virginia [where it becomes Skyline Drive]. The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail [a 2200+ mile footpath from Georgia to Maine] intertwine through Virginia. Every time the parkway crossed the Appalachian Trail [AT] I had to stop and take pictures and hike on the trail. It took us a long time to get through that section because of this. We were near the Harvey's Knob crossing taking pictures and hiking on the AT, talking about past times on the this trail, thinking about future times, and saying how great it would be to talk to a thru-hiker [someone who is hiking the entire trail all at once], when we see this young man coming up over the ridge toward us. He stopped and talked to us for a while. He's right in the middle of his 6-month trek. He started at Springer Mountain on March 31, 2012. What an adventure.

You can follow River's adventure on his blog, takeoffyourshoes


it's time to unlearn

...and learn to see color for the very first time. Forget everything you thought you knew about color. Forget all the meanings you have attached to color. Green isn't envy. Yellow isn't cowardice. White isn't purity. Color has a mind of it's own and it's not what you always thought it was. Color communicates your personality. Without language you connect to yourself through your color choices. Your color preferences and the color combinations you make reveal how you see yourself and a bit of your personality. I took a simple 3-question test and here are my results.

[01] Which do you prefer: yellow, blue or red?
[02] Which do you prefer: green, purple or orange?
[03] Which do you prefer: black, white or brown?

I prefer yellow, green and white.

Yellow: Finding common ground is the game you play best. You calm troubled situations and bridge differences. Your awareness of others' perspectives and points of view is a very powerful tool. It enables you to express contrary, unpopular feelings without offending anyone. People feel they know where they stand with you, and are willing to let you help them. And consequently, you are happy when you are able to give of yourself. By keeping people listening, you establish a forum for solutions and possibilities unfold.

Yellow + Green: You have a realistic perspective on life that creates comfortable and secure environments for yourself and your family and friends. You carefully listen to what others say and try to see things from others' points of view. By questioning what's really needed, others become more realistic and find better ways to manage and direct their day-to-day routines.

Yellow + Green + White: You're the best at recommending how to make products, systems, services, or environments fit others' needs. The suggestions that you tactfully present actually make others feel more comfortable in their own skin. When they hear your concerns, they realize better ways to take care of themselves. Your ability to make fact-based suggestions is your greates talent. Even in the most difficult situations, you enable others to appreciate different perspectives and new approaches.

The results of this test for me proved to be spot on. If you would like to find out who you really are, take this test and send me a comment. I'll post your results.


the crossing

We had been walking for hours. An electricity filled the air. My wife saw the flash first. Startled, she grabbed my arm and squeezed. I looked into the sky, just above Burney Mountain as the explosion occurred. Fiery boulders scattered in all directions. Although we were more than five miles away from the blast, we could feel the wave of heat as it screamed past us. The ground beneath our feet trembled and rolled. Our instinct said run but our curiosity said investigate. Without a word between us, we wound our way through the forest toward the blast, making sure to stay on the trail, our only sure means of retreat. The closer we drew to the base of the mountain, the more dense and dark the air became. There was an underlying smell of soot and ashes. We slowed to a snail's pace, covering our noses with our hands, planning each step, surveying the land, listening. The bridge was now the only thing between us and the trail to the top of the mountain. The small stream which normally flowed beneath the bridge was now only a steaming, bubbling trickle of water. This was decision time. Step onto this bridge and there was no turning back. Crouching low, hanging tight to one another we hesitated, but only for a moment. One deep breath, one first cautious step and the die was cast. The earth trembled. The bridge shook. The air crackled. Hair on my arms and neck stood on end. We were almost to the other side. I feared the worst. Whose decision was this anyway, to make the crossing......


the coming light

It was an unusually warm spring day. Almost smothering. The trail traced a serpentine path deep into the forest. The air was devoid of sound. No birds singing. No breeze through the trees. No rustle of leaves. Not a woodland creature in sight. No squirrels scurrying about. No chipmunks. Or lizards. Or beetles. It was so quiet. The only sounds were the accentuated crunch of my footfall and the wavering rhythm of my breathing. It seemed strange to be on this trail alone. This trail which on any other day is crowded with runners. And bikers. And dog-walkers. I slowed my pace. Almost tiptoeing. Trying not to make a sound. Searching for a sound. Wanting to hear something. Wanting to see another person on this trail. The forest seemed heavy. Dark. Menacing. The further into these woods I walked the more ominous were my surroundings. I considered turning back but the halfway point loomed only minutes away. And then... the hot, smothering air began to chill. The wind took my breath away. I shielded my eyes from the debris swirling about. I could see something ahead. A mist. Gaining ground on me. I could see the coming light....


sweet fern

The subtle power in perfume found
Nor priest nor sibyl vainly learned;
On Grecian shrine or Aztec mound
No censer idly burned.

That power the old-time worships knew,
The Corybantes' frenzied dance,
The Pythian priestess swooning through
The wonderland of trance.

And Nature holds, in wood and field,
Her thousand sunlit censers still;
To spells of flower and shrub we yield
Against or with our will.

I climbed a hill path strange and new
With slow feet, pausing at each turn;
A sudden waft of west wind blew
The breath of the sweet fern.

That fragrance from my vision swept
The alien landscape; in its stead,
Up fairer hills of youth I stepped,
As light of heart as tread.

I saw my boyhood's lakelet shine
Once more through rifts of woodland shade;
I knew my river's winding line
By morning mist betrayed.

With me June's freshness, lapsing brook,
Murmurs of leaf and bee, the call
Of birds, and one in voice and look
In keeping with them all.

A fern beside the way we went
She plucked, and, smiling, held it up,
While from her hand the wild, sweet scent
I drank as from a cup.

O potent witchery of smell!
The dust-dry leaves to life return,
And she who plucked them owns the spell
And lifts her ghostly fern.

Or sense or spirit? Who shall say
What touch the chord of memory thrills?
It passed, and left the August day
Ablaze on lonely hills.

John Greenleaf Whittier


i'll build a stairway to paradise

Begin to day!
You'll find it nice,
The quickest way to paradise.
When you practise,
Here's the thing to know,
Simply say as you go...

I'll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step ev'ry day !
I'm gonna get there at any price;
Stand aside, I'm on my way !
I've got the blues
And up above it's so fair.
Shoes ! Go on and carry me there !
I'll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step ev'ry day.

George Gershwin