Giant

Suffer me, my sleeping friend,
  to rest a while in the shadow of your woody nave,
And take sanctuary among the fallen leaves
 
This day, friend (there – I said it again!)
  is too hot for me
And I’ve wandered
  farther up this wild trail than wisdom would counsel
But I wanted to know
  I wanted to see, no – to feel
  the company of giants
And take communion with nature
  in the shadow of their grace
   
So, by what conceit do I claim the title “friend”?
  can I, even in our own way, ever know you,
    or you me?
 
We live in worlds too different,
  each spanning dimensions the other could not dream 
    (and do you dream?)
 
While you have stood here, in place
  for no more than a summer’s reverie
I have circled the globe;
Flung myself above the sky,
  and peered below the ocean’s depths
Stood whispering desert dunes,
  and moaning mountains of arctic ice
How much I have seen of this world,
  while you have tarried here
For nothing more than a moment of your day
 
Then let me tell you those stories:
The tales of a traveler on the broad surface of this earth
  – it won’t take long
 
And then, having again exhausted my shallow breath,
  I’ll sit back, resting against your cool damp bark
And listen
  to the stories I dream you tell – are always telling –
  to those who take the time to hear
Of your travels in this place
  through a time of which I can’t even dream
    (and do I dream?)
 
How, when you were young (as was Justinian, for a moment)
  the rains were good, and sweet,
How the fires came that shaped you
  this fold, that bend
And the fleeting countless
  buzzing, pecking, crawling and burrowing
  you sheltered and nourished without care
 
How our civilizations came, and passed,
  like a summer day
Yes, it was dry for a while, but then…
   …the sweet rains came again
 
And ever you stretched your arms aloft,
  an inexorable sun salutation
Striving only to breathe the air,
  drink the dew,
  and feel the light of the heavens upon you
 
 
Once, many years ago,
  I walked the length of your fallen comrade
Laid low nearby, long before my birth
And marvelled, as I sweated the boggy hillside
  on which he lay,
At how long it took just to reach the crown:
There is more than one way to explore this world
 
 
But here we are: strangers
One moving through time, one through space,
  crossing at this single point
One at home in time, one in space
Meeting in a space and time too narrow
  to happen again by chance
 
And yet, somehow,
  I want to call you “friend”
  though honestly, I have no deeds
    by which to claim that mantle
 
To be fair, we each simply do what is in our nature
  how could it be otherwise?
Is gravity friend to water?
  Only pulling it downward, where it deems best
    according to habit, ritual,
      and the incalculable beauty of equations that order our universe
It is the way, yes,
But “friend”?
 
That jay camping in your boughs,
The downy woodpecker,
  not so easily startled from his work
They each do you more service than could I
Not out of friendship, or love
  (and do they love?)
But again, of their nature,
So – and yet…
 
The rabbi once told me: 
  we do not pray because God needs our prayers;
God needs nothing
We pray, he said, because we need to
 
Placing chapped palms against you as I rise
  to look up once more
    before setting on my inevitable way
I wonder if this is not the answer:
Turning to face the dusty path ahead,
I look back,
And call you “friend”
    one last time,
Because I need to
 
[18 Mar 2009 – On one of the last days of my sabbatical (my grandfather’s birthday!) I was headed back from a morning surfing at Santa Cruz, and decided to take the long way home. Ended up detouring to Big Basin State Park, which is a spectacular expanse of redwoods and deep forest that makes Muir Woods look like a schoolyard. Picked up a map at the ranger station and took a few hours getting lost on the Sky To Sea trail.]

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