The Elk's Mighty Pull

Time once again emerges the winner in its perennial battle to change our hearts
and minds, ravaging (perhaps, that's too harsh a word) along parameters that
stretch from our youth to our deaths. What are these you ask? Only
the old man himself knows and he's not telling. Winter fades to spring on
the Elk River and the flood waters recede, streaming rivulets of mud and murk.

I pack again for the cabin trip, like every summer since my summers began, excited,
except for those few years in high school, when I fled from my parents, a
high-minded but foolish youth, escaping into books and records, with friends.
We surreptitiously visited the cabin on weekday nights, beers in hand, talk in mind.
I pack and pack some more -- the right records, the right books, the right attitude --
looking forward to seeing the Elk overrun its bed or settle back into its groove,
and anticipating the smell of the forest, the plants, the early summer. 

I make my annual lists and call around to set possible dates. The last few years
Donny has picked the date, revving to go, bolstered by beer and adventure, he
excitedly looks forward to the trip. Some people can't come from year to year,
but we try to make attendance as complete as possible. It has grown as big as
the river, stretching beyond the banks. This year it is smaller, not as large as
the lines of this poem, which stretch like the river uncontainable.

The gentle smell of oak and pine floats in the air
with the crackle of blistering logs, split
like the kindling of time, life, and the grave.
The years melt one into another and more tinder
is fed to the fire; the smoke spreads across the
river like music from speakers, echoing
and humming each moment to the next. And each
year to the next. I testify to the grandeur of the
place. O Elk, we shall return.


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