Stopping by woods on a summery afternoon

On my day off, I walked up the ranch I took care of for the Girl Scouts, 7,700 feet up the east slope of the Rocky Mountains. The small lake, with granite cliffs rising above it, was as full of water as I'd ever seen it. We'd had a good winter snowpack in the mountains, and we'd had plenty of rain, spring and early summer.

Wild raspberries appreciate abundant moisture, and I appreciate wild raspberries. I scrambled up rocks to scant patches of dirt where raspberry canes grew bright green leaves, green berries, and ripe, red berries. I harvested and ate the ripe, sweet, seedy raspberries.

I climbed higher, on and around jumbled boulders as big as rooms, houses, office buildings; some as big as cities. The boulders and rocks are vast colonies of life. Stone erodes to soil, and in every cavity it supports grass, wildflowers, brush, trees. I picked and ate more raspberries.

Clouds gathered dark above me.

I walked north across flat, exposed granite rock. Lichen grew so densely, in most places, I couldn't see the pink color of the unadorned granite. Green lichen. Black, white, orange, gray lichen.

I chewed some green lichen. Bitter and gritty. I climbed down the north face of the granite formation onto abundant soil, a tiny meadow of grass, wildflowers, cacti; ripe wild strawberries were close against the ground. Such diminutive berries and so few of them, but such penetrating, sweet strawberry taste.

I walked between quiet water and granite stone rising abruptly toward the cloudy sky.

Three yellow boletus mushrooms grew from detritus under small pine trees. I picked one and ate it slowly. Its delicate, fruity lemony taste encouraged carefully considered bites.

Reddish-orange currants grew from tall bushes in front of huge gray granite stone. I admire anyone persistent enough to harvest the tiny wild fruits and make them into jelly. I harvested and ate a few and found them bland compared with the raspberries and strawberries.

Rain began. I entered the open-faced, unfloored shelter built and maintained for Girl Scouts who hiked up the ranch to the lake some weekends. I lay down on granite sand and slept. Rain tapped the wooden roof above me.

Something chewed on the wood of the shelter and woke me. I got up and walked around the shelter, but I didn't see the chewer. Rain had eased and took a while to soak even the surface of my clothes.

I approached juniper trees west of the shelter, just looking at the clean day after a rainstorm. Grouse exploded on thundering wings and flew east, landed, and blended to their background of lichen-mottled rock, trees, and brush.

Clouds blew away and left clean, blue sky full of sunshine.

In granite sand eroding toward the lake, I found white puffballs about the size of baseballs. I picked one, peeled it, and ate it. Delicious; similar to the button mushrooms we buy in grocery stores.

I could have browsed north to Wyoming, eating what I found growing wild, sleeping under a tree, traveling a while every day, and be halfway through Utah, alone and as wild as the mountains by the time the snow began to fall.

This and other dreams of life in summer mountains illuminated my thoughts as the sun lights the day.

Freedom and oneness with the mountains is too lovely a dream to turn abruptly away from, though my feet were already carrying me homeward. I thought: These mountains are lovely, light, and tall, but I have promises to keep before I stop again and sleep, satisfied with the day's abundance.

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