A poem for wilderness souls in big cities

A poem for wilderness souls in big cities

"A Ripple of Deer, A Metamorphosis of Bear, A Metaphor of Mountains" by Margaret Gibson

I dream of mountains repeatedly,
running my fingers over maps where they spine
and cluster. Through valleys of rhododendron
and bear, wild pheasant and deer, I near them,
empty and still, leaning over my walking stick,
my breath easing out, a shrill whistle.
At night I stare at stars, cold and still, peaks
of invisible mountains in a sky steeply pitched.
As for crests, moraines and glaciers, icefalls,
seracs, cornices, spurs—they are psalms
of a wild solitude I am not brave enough to enter.

In the long journey to be other than I am,
I have struggled and not got far. Each day
I roam the fields, and I climb. I watch
from a shiver of aspen steep on a southern exposure
of cleared field. From the ridge rim of trees–
a ripple. A smooth shade of brown comes to merge
in the fern, gathering stillness and weight,
deer intent on the grass. I envy the deer.
Beyond them, the low mountains unroll. Clear nights,
I measure the cave depths of mountains
and their peaks–then in the house between night
and dawn, the darkest, I dream into the mountain,

entering slim as a snake through cold soil
and stone. I wriggle down on my back, my soft parts
exposed, falling through caves rank as bear gut,
crooked as roots. Accept who you are
of my labors the most naked and rigorous.
Mornings, I am what merges in the mist as I rise
from these depths, so attached to my ignorance,
I think I’m exalted, more rare than the seven
wise Hindu that ride in the constellation
we call the Great Bear. Then I envy the Bear.

This poem shakes me out of my mostly-urban life and teleports me out into the open wilderness. The messages here about the smallness of humanity in the vastness of animal life, the world, and the cosmos call out to me from the page. I relate to this poet's yearning.

One line in particular always takes my breath away: "In the long journey to be other than I am, / I have struggled and not got far." There are many levels on which this can be read. As a mother, for example, I sometimes catch myself being hard on myself and wishing to be more than I am – more creative, more patient, more energetic, more this, more that.

But the next stanza rings with a powerful reminder: "Accept who you are– / of my labors the most naked and rigorous." True growth, true transcendence, can only come once we have accepted the truth of ourselves. Envy comes easily, but beyond envy is a "wild solitude," a place of peace with ourselves from which beauty and magic can bloom.

I hope this poem brings you deeper into your truth today. Thank you for reading along with me.

– Anouk 🤍

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