Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Wichita Mountains

Oklahoma doesn't boast many mountains--not loudly anyway--but those we have are glorious enough for me, since I'm more of a clamberer than a climber.

About an hour from my house,
a wildlife refuge nestles quietly into a little range of understated granite mountains.

It's an area where the Wichita tribe used to winter, and if you know what you're seeking, you might find one of their hand carved water bowls or even a lookout cave with a hidden entrance.
Elijah and Marie live close to these mountains and have been taking hikes there whenever the weather was at all mild. They brought these pictures back to my computer--all taken since she got her new camera for Christmas. If you click on the pictures to enlarge them, you can see intricate detail.

The refuge harbors many different native plants and animals, the most obvious of which are buffalo.

In fact, sometimes they stand in the road and have to be gently persuaded to seek the softer meadows on either side of the pavement.

There are also deer and elk. Usually these animals are seen from a distance, but Marie managed to get close enough for several shots of these normally timid beasts.

The prairie dogs, on the other hand, are not at all timid, and will stand at the little round doors of their dens scolding any intruders and preaching like prophets.

There is a museum--a large, well-kept one, and a ranger station where day-hikers can check in for weather and trail news. Over-night campers can rent a site for their tent or request a three day stint in the wilderness area so they can chase lizards over the rocks, fish in the lakes, or clamber to the top of a peak to look down on a lake below ...or up to a wild eagle soaring.

Sunsets in this area are beautiful; the stillness is sublime.

Then there are trails, snaky, hard-packed byways which crest the hills and wind through wispy little woods alongside creeks and dried-up beds where flowers sleep til spring.

In the evening, with sunlight on the tips of last year's darkening stems and tufts, these paths make a mystery of every destination...even the parking lot just beyond the footbridge.

It's not easy to say goodbye to these humble riches, and head back toward the screechy noise of nearby cities.

Not far from the refuge lies Medicine Park, a humble village recently decided by art and music lovers to be a noteworthy arena. Real estate followed their lead, and a lost hideaway was discovered by suburbanites, who proved very persuasive in converting the town into an "unspoiled" attraction.

Ah well, it still has plenty of charm, but a more expensive charm than what is offered for free by the refuge. It's a perfect place for a hot meal cooked and served in a restaurant with "atmosphere"; and after taking an eight-mile hike in the wilderness, who doesn't deserve to sit back and enjoy a plateful of calories with cream and sugar?

Pictures by Elijah and Marie

Our Three Word Wednesday prompt was:
Loud; adjective: (Of sound) strongly audible; having exceptional volume or intensity
Persuasive; adjective: Able, fitted, or intended to persuade; noun: Something that persuades.
Riches; plural noun: Abundant and valuable possessions; wealth.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nearly They Stood...

This is one of my favorite C.S. Lewis poems. First he talks about those who lost a race, or even the race of their own existence, by one tiny mishap, one slip. Then he discusses those who by a thread, or by a small event saved something large, perhaps even their lives.

   Nearly they stood who fall.
   Themselves, when they look back,
   See always in the track
   One torturing spot where all
   By a possible quick swerve
   Of will yet unenslaved–
By the infinitesimal twitching of a nerve–
   Might have been saved.

  Nearly they fell who stand.
   These with cold after-fear
   Look back and note how near
   They grazed the Siren’s land,
   Wondering to think that fate,
   By threads so spidery-fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great,
   Should thus entwine.

If we take the poem out of the realm of life and death, and into that of mere success and failure, we see that there are many such times as this: times when a decision, sometimes a split-second decision, determines the future for us in a huge way. We look back and say: It was that second, that momentous choice, or effort, that deposited me on this path or that one. Loyalty/betrayal. Obedience/rebellion. Decision/hesitation:  Some things are worth our extra resolve.

And how are we so quick to judge the "nearly stood"s? We, ourselves, only made it by an inch--that's no wide, flat ground for boasting!

  Therefore I sometimes fear
   Lest oldest fears prove true,
   Lest, when no bugle blew
   My mort, when skies looked clear,
   I may have stepped one hair’s
   Breadth past the hair-breadth bourn
  Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
   Forbids return.

 In the third verse, Lewis ponders how, on some perfectly normal day, though far removed from the threat of disaster, he too may step over that edge and not return.

We live on the brink of our eternity.