Tag Archives: courage

gone to the printers

I think this might be like arriving at base camp at the foot of Everest

I know its an awful lot like being 37 weeks pregnant.

maybe you dreamed of it

surely you worked for it

but as the time nears

you realize, increasingly

that you have absolutely no idea

what you’ve gotten yourself into


and the dark clouds form and disperse

as you reckon the size of the leap

you have made

peering at the place you think you’re going to land

readying the things you think you’ll need

asking for mentors, safety nets

realizing that when you need financial security more than ever you are sloughing it off

to pit yourself against the challenge

of doing this thing

and doing it well

aprons and layers falling

revealing the dream vulnerable to the raw air:




terrified, quaking, tired and certain

there is no perfect draft, there is no truly ready time

the story is past due


and gone to the printers.

finally finished, and only just begun.

Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West.  November 2014




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When I was young,
you lived with two dogs in a teepee in Eastern Washington
and did tae kwon do

I watched you break boards with your feet and hands
and marvelled that you were not afraid to live in the woods alone

You crewed helicopters that flew into the thick of forest fires
and hiked miles into danger to dig firelines

As a young forest service ranger,
you once spent the night watching over a dead body by a mountain road
a story which sends chills down my spine even now

You took me on my first backpacking trip
and a few miles in, we met some men who warned you
that you ought to have brought a gun
You told them we would be just fine
and confidently led my little brother and i past them and down the trail
and i believed you
although i confess i laid awake to listen for bears

You taught us how to start a fire with one match
and instructed us in the ways of ponderosa pine,
how it smelled like vanilla if you leaned in close.
(which is still the first thing I do when I cross paths with one)
you pointed out how the pieces of bark fit together like a puzzle
forming layers of armor in a forest fire
and I marveled at the wisdom of a living thing that knew hard times would come
a tree that could stand in the midst of an inferno
shed its armor
and survive.

You seemed fearless to me,
a Warrior amongst ordinary people.

Later you built a home with your hands
brought twins into the world
went to grad school
ended a marriage
and found a new home.

I am 31 now, and my son is sleeping in the next room,
and as the coldday afternoon light refracts off the windowsill
I find myself thinking of you.

I know now that fearlessness is not living without fear

but rather:

facing it

and though you are less often on the fireline these days
and spend more time helping someone with their homework than you do
practicing martial arts

you are more Warrior now
than you have ever been
in my eyes


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