Is context everything? Where my son and I were yesterday the context
was pretty big,
the tall spruce and hemlock surrounding us, some ancient,
a reminder of just where we were, in a recreation area on the edge of
the Tongass National Forest,
The largest temperate rainforest in the world!

We weren’t thinking about that as we walked, content, as we were,
to enjoy the sun’s welcome fling into the gray afternoon.
Looping our way over the estuary,
we were impressed with the sturdy boardwalk, wide, flat and even,
built to withstand the tide’s comings and goings, its rushes and pulls.

We thought about the context a little more, as we walked into many
of the spacious campsites, lauding their size, and ease of access,
admiring as well, the thick iron fire grates
and planked picnic tables, too heavy to lift.

We imagined ourselves, our families, camping there, turned us
a little more toward the bigger picture
in unspoken gratitude for a system of recreational areas
like Starrigavan
where families can play and stay in touch with nature and themselves.

As I sat at the one of the sturdy picnic tables to take it all in,
with my son wandering close-by, it, suddenly, started to rain again.
So there I was,
both the warm sun and cool rain in my face.
To tell the truth, I didn’t care. I could have stayed there forever,
soaking it in.

If I’d been younger, I would have run for cover. But not now.
Being older, I have no such compunction.
I learned long ago, had to learn, to handle both at the same time,
the wet and dry,
the hot and cold, the light and the dark, love and fear, sadness
and joy, living with questions I may never know
the answer to.

All tolerable, acceptable now, in my 90’s, welcomed in fact,
and the reason’s pretty simple:
my context has widened. It has become bigger than the Tongass.
National Forest.
My context may not have 11,000 miles of shoreline
or be 500 miles long.
It may not be as big as the state of West Virginia.

But its’ got all the breadth and width I need to express
my overriding joy,
a source of truth and goodness, it sheer beauty, drawing me,
ever inspiring me
to sing “Hallelujah” with Leonard Cohen,
to fiddle my way across “The Bridge Over Troubled Waters”
And to dance to “Dance Me To the End of Love”.


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