Monday, May 24, 2010

Mountain Path

The path is cut in the foliage, a brown band of dry compact soil that stands out clearly in some places only to taper off and disappear completely in others. Around the bend, behind a cluster of boulders, or dipping down a shelf beside tree roots that dangle out of the cliff face like long splintered fangs, it twists and evaporates and re-emerges with the same disregard for logic displayed by a photon fired through a screen with two slits. In the silver moonlight, it assumes a lackluster roll, out shone by the pale boulders that seem to bubble up from the darkness of the earth like matte pearls. A fine gauze of mist slowly chases its own tail around the trunks of deeply grooved and twisting trees and the lazy lumps and ridges of the mountainside, content to swallow the path here and spit it out there along its way. The moonlight’s reach is stunted and muted by the mist’s slippery moist hide. In the patches where it hangs thickest like the swollen length of an albino anaconda squeezing a live hippo into extinction, the moon’s soft glow is entirely denied admittance. In these places where the light fails to penetrate, the darkness steals around unhindered, like a purple stain oozing over rocks and soil and ragged tufts of bracken. It has a life of its own, wriggling beyond the moon’s impertinent gaze. The dark green of the undergrowth is blackened and forms amorphous conglomerations that bear resemblance to sinister animals crouched over their quarry. Real beasts play their dire games amid these imposters, hiding beneath the bony branches and brittle leaves. The waxen flash of a rabbit darting from one lump of foliage to the next punctuates the slow slinking of a scrawny coyote who would be invisible except for the sheen of his eyes. A startled faun streaks over the path and bounds away, again and again, imitating the delirious loop of a skipping record.
The fresh scent of juniper hangs in the air after it has been wetted under the mists crawling belly, along with that of sage, and something faintly evocative of licorice. The musky odor of dirt is also detectable after it has been excited by such a close encounter with this moist serpentine body of vapor.
The steep cliff side drops away completely into an abyss of shaggy greenery in some places and offers the path an opportunity to continue its discordant adventures along narrow slopes. The trees here and there reach their bare riveted arms skyward and seem to hold their clusters of greenery like wispy clouds or steaming platters proffered to the sky. Rather than reaching tall and lean they seem to be stretching horizontally as though they were trying to catch their balance along the rolling slopes and keep their platters from slipping away. In these endeavors they stand apart from one another, each aware of the others’ awkward situation and the need for space, each so absorbed with their own dilemma of equilibrium that they disdain to join the crowd.
Up above them the distant round moon watches their slow negotiations with the earth’s gravity. Her dark dimples and lines form the outline of the hare, betraying her personal sympathies in regard to the desperate games of the furry creatures scrambling around among the exposed tree roots and stark boulders. The path, inspired by the moon’s attention for exhibitionism, spreads wide in the high flat places so that she can get a good look at its perfect nakedness while the mist jealously keeps its secrets and conducts its private swirling search for its self, hungrily squeezing off little quadrants of earth and engendering darkness in the process.

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