The Path

The pathThe path is short and from the road comes down
a shallow incline to a slim clearing. There are songs here
of black-capped chickadees and then, far off,
domestic sounds of a grass cutter and human chatter.
Like all paths, distance varies by day and season,
by the colour of sky, the scent of wind, the cant of light.
If a squirrel lights on hazelnut and pauses, her cheeks full,
then time on the path lengthens like an evening shadow.
If it’s been a wet spring dogwoods recline and cross the path.
Stepping over you hear last fall’s loose leaves muffle underfoot.

The path is long in late July if you carry your books and glasses
and a cup of tea with honey to the clearing. There is rhythm here:
the jazz snare-brush stir of coal-black beetles under bits of balsam.
If your nose is good you can smell the fox den under the rotting poplar.
Forty years ago a man rose to make something of the path and the clearing,
cut down dozens of trees and rolled them into a pile.
The path has taken its seasonal stride past all that planning.
The logs now are covered with lichen, bracket fungus and moss,
and on an April evening a fox is sighted running above the aspen.

The path goes on without end, a slow curve to the clearing
and then down to a summer-dry ravine. The silence here
is the weight of bees tipping round heads of red clover,
the sway of rose hips, the glide of a goshawk,
and butterflies drawn into the net of your thought.
You can throw your very best self at the path and it will respond
to your kindness. An orange admiral will come and lift you
and the angel of the turning earth will say your name.


  1. We should all be able to describe our life paths as you do Stephen. There are so many lovely lines in this. One of my favorites: “There is rhythm here: the jazz snare-brush stir of coal-black beetles under bits of balsam.” The syncopation of this with the sounds of the grass cutter and human chatter would provide a wonderful backdrop as you read that book and sip your tea. Tonight, I am listening to the marimba-like sounds of the various cicada species. They are particularly loud, as if they know that summer is coming to a close (too soon, I may add) and have urgent messages to relay.

    I had to smile when I saw that you used the phrase “grass cutter” instead of “lawn mower”. Growing up in upper Michigan, we said grass cutter too and it still slips out sometimes in Pennsylvania and people look at me as if I am so uneducated! :*)

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