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Midway Through the Hike : International edition : Saturday, 23 February 2019 12:51 ST : a service of The Public Press
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Midway Through the Hike

     by Karina Lutz

by Karina Lutz quiet zone
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They had hiked so long they knew not whether
   to take off their boots to save their blisters
   or keep them on to save their soles.
   Joking of such things had hit a peak three ridges back,
   luscious silences ensued.
   The colors of forest, boulder field, flower, and sky
   imperceptibly grew more rich and lucid,
   until a depth of light never before seen emanated from all objects
   within their gaze, whether shadowed or blazing in sunlight
   yet not psychedelic, no movie effects, nothing surreal
   only the realer reality of the simply seen
   by the open eyes of a healthy body,
   a body fully oxygenated, fully circulating,
   its center of gravity slung low and strong
   and moving steadily forward.

The three hikers stopped to tend their feet brookside,
   splashing, wetting, wringing,
   hanging clean socks to dry from the backs of their packs.
   They drank water from plastic bottles while longing
   for the days of open mouths in streams, imagined pouring all the dead water out
   and returning it to the living, imagined a life without fear or willfulness.
   The ambition of their 70-pound packs, now strewn on the creek bank,
   seemed suddenly absurd, made them want to get naked,
   (a nakedness hard to broach, since they were three,
   harder even than if they had been an uncoupled couple),
   but what the hell, a giddy gratitude began to glimmer up their throats
   for the silliness that had brought them to this place
   and beyond the pain and beyond the tiredness,
   beyond the talking and virtually every desire but the desire
   to trek the full distance
   (and even that they had taken turns talking each other back into),
   and the gratitude made it safer to undress than to do anything else,
   the only sensible thing to do, to bring them
   fully here at rest, in the creek beside the trail,
   muscles cooling and toes happily spread and skin wrapped in the silk of water.

By dusk they found themselves fully alive:
   surrendered, unremembering, readying for slumber
    in skins as fresh as a pool beside a sweat lodge,
   with hearts relentlessly beating,
   the way water flows under the apparent stillness of the pool,
   their destination as yet unknown.

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