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Been Thinkin' About...Side of mountain, end of day

Jet contrails trace the path of the sun, a sun that now dips inexorably lower. Cloud oceans balloon westward, darkening the blue horizon. The sun is a disc of gold. Passage of time becomes exquisitely, painfully immediate. The soul of the mountain has a voice this sunset, here in the blush, orange sky glow. Tree frogs begin their twilight piping, joined by the sounds of Native American flute.


There is magic in the mountains. Magic at the end of day. And magic when souls come together. The sound of voices and soft laughter drifts through the woods. The Ozarks are enigmatic, a crossroads since time immemorial. Bison trails, sacred paths-turned wagon roads carting precious cargo — St. Louis glass and the promise of future generations — across wooded limestone ridges. Uncountable people have traversed these hills, even as the ruggedness staved out a modern world. 


Staved out, or just staved off? Modernity has a wily way of never ceasing, never halting, never changing its need to erase that which is in its way. The Ozarks' anachronistic pioneer mountain ways lasted longer here than elsewhere, first because it was expensive to build railroads and highways to places nobody cared about, and second because an unexpected cottage tourism grew to satiate a then-modern world's need to see a "real hillbilly," to touch a comforting past in an unanticipated atomic age.


The moon rises into an evening nest in the oaks and the ridge cools. Soft valley breezes work their way up to the fire. The sun is gone, lost behind a westward ocean of cloud line. The fire is bright, held in by the bones and teeth of the mountains, limestone shards, ancient and immortal. The pyre grows, sparks showering skyward, flaming, incandescent stars at arms-length. There are faces in this fire, faces of the past, faces of the earth, spirits of the mountain.


West wind voices cry silently to the east. Day wheels into night, life into death, light into shadow. The flute music begins anew. These are the moments we resist, intrusive thoughts wiling their way into the soul, reminders of mortality. Our lives, so important in the moment, only momentary sparks of an eternal flame, showering high in a night full of stars.

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