LET THE MOUNTAINS CARVE ME

9BA08CE9-76B2-4008-A63F-4E6AB3BCB683I. SEVERANCE

Commodities, cold machine.

Scandals and plastic and all
the Gottahaves.

Virtually there. The Chase
and The Shining Hamster Wheel.

Too full but empty.

Duller than a balmy day
sharper than a winter gale
this slow and sucking dry.

All the lies will die.

II. THRESHOLD

With wind and water
carry my discourse
up and over

letting the mountain carve
monuments out of me
epiphytic and free.

With river itself take my counsel.

With mud and mushroom heed
the wondrous whispers.

My tail prefers a winding path
and my face found itself
in that ancient blessed lake.

III. RETURN

I’d rather eat beetles,
do you understand?

Once I knocked on the wrong moon
but then hitched with a wild wind

finding that belonging
is not a place,
but a skill
honed with a fierce heart.

I shift shapes from mountain pass to alley way.

What is hidden remains my treasure

what is visible a sword
and flute

an offering
to the woven ones.

And when I say my preposterous names
risible and rooted

Oh how it ripples on and on.

—Ryan Van Lenning

From a new collection, No Lies on the Mountain, forthcoming 2020

All Manner of River

20197C5F-7096-4B50-9A5F-461E80A5BF5EDedicated to  my buddy Walt.

You bold cedar,
nourished by the river,
the river nourished by you,
fed by and are no less the river.

Your undying roots,
the strength of your limbs
living the athletic purpose of your trunk
saying, “To the sky!”
as much as your lover river says, “To the sea!”

Your needles and the sheen of your needles
you bark and the thickness and hardness of your bark
your manly cones erected skyward
in purpose and pleasure.

Yes, you too enjoy things.

You rocks grey and white, blue-grey
and all manner of red, rose, salmon, crimson
without which you would be incomplete
bringing every bold ray into yourself.

You lichen in manifold delight
gold and orange, all manner of green–
dark green, light green, grey-green, lime green
brown and silver,
and because you long for every hue
you draft yourself the inky absence of color, night black
against your grainy lover rocks.

You wet and soaring river,
your shape, texture, weight,
your undulating curves
and sumptuous taste.

Your prodigious femininity
and smooth fluid shapeliness of your giving in
your belonging to everything
your unbound generosity
your gigantic urge towards your lover sea.

The thousand faces of you:
rippled and roaring,
uncontrolled and uncontrollable,
misted and mysteried,
calm and quiet,
trickled and tranquil.

The flow of you I shall assume
each drop belonging to you
is as good belongs to me.

At the Trailhead

14CEDB17-03F8-4212-9BBE-F35F6239BF01The trailhead can be a magnificent moment. It is a threshold of sorts—the threshold into the unknown. A crossing from one world to another. An excitement and curiosity runs the blood hot regardless of the weather. What beauties and mysteries does the trail hold? How will this rewild me, what aspects of myself will the mountain help me re-member, re-claim?

The threshold also marks our trepidations, our fears, for we know we will be changed by the trail, by the mountain—we will return a different person. With new gifts, new perspectives, yes, but also perhaps new scratches and bruises. The trail may stretch us into a different shape. Truth be told, it is a risk to set off into the unknown. Am I up for climbing this mountain? Is my body capable? Am I prepared? What about my old life, habits, patterns—which of those will the mountain kill off? They may be silly habits and patterns and ways of seeing, but they are my silly habits and patterns and ways of seeing. They are comfortable.

But you cross anyway, because you’re not going for just comfort, but for the Big Life, your Whole Self, because your whole life up to this point has prepared you for the journey. You may not know what is around the next switchback, but you know you will greet it with all you have—you are on the right path. It might not be THEIR path, but it is YOURS. You step from the trailhead onto the trail, with dedicated feet and an eager heart.

SWEET BEAUTY IN THE BREAKDOWN

3A5E33B5-6B66-4E46-B63F-66BE47646957National Writing Month DAY 29
SWEET BEAUTY IN THE BREAKDOWN
(Word Count: 645)

The mountain is calling me. It is calling me naked into the exposed light, where the vast heat beckons me to crack like scorched soil ready to receive.

I myself must be empty of everything first—Empty of food, empty of distraction, empty of ego, empty of story.

Something in me gives assent. Ok—I’ll dive into the Great Inyo Sea, my name for this strange hybrid mountain-high desert-ocean labyrinth. Ok—I’ll stretch myself from horizon to horizon, until my soul image pops out in high relief, like shards of obsidian from the dry earth floor.

Somehow I already know: all the worlds to which I don’t belong will die in this high desert. I know I will leave them as offerings to the land.

The cracking begins. The mud lake. The mud at the bottom of my being. The shell of my false identities. My fortressed heart.

Oh it hurts—what gorgeous pain is this?

Oh, why is there such sweet beauty in the breakdown?

(Vulnerable Mountain Heart)
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For #NaNoWriMo2018, we (Katie and Ryan @wildnatureheart) are each writing our memoirs, our Wild Nature Heart stories so-to-speak, sharing a glimpse of our progress throughout November. We really believe what the organization says: the world needs your story! Everyone has a story to tell—What’s your Wild Nature Heart? We look forward to sharing this journey of vulnerability and self-discovery.
Ryan and Katie
#mywildnatureheartsto

THE WOUND AND NOT THE STORY OF THE WOUND

desert2National Writing Month DAY 28: THE WOUND AND NOT THE STORY OF THE WOUND
(Word Count: 1435)

From that high place it appeared a lake, pinkish-white and round with promise—a beautiful mark on the land walled in by red rock and a giant sky.

It asserted itself on me, drew me like a fish fishing the man thrashing.

You’d think a part of me would know about mirages in the desert.

But I needed to touch the wound and not the story of the wound.

So I began the descent. With no dragons or wizards, no wise old ones or magic amulets. Only lizards and a relentless voice that carried my heart ahead of my legs.

My sole companions: Death and all my loves. In our work it is called a Death Lodge, a self-ceremony created to have those final conversations as if you really were dying.

Mine took the form of a walking death lodge. We said the unspoken things that needed to find a purchase in the open air, so it could finally float on up and meet the sun.

“To far, too far.”

“No. Go the distance. This is what you came for.”

“This is foolish.”

“This is the end. This is the beginning.”

Which powers in me were having this debate?

I climbed down, sliding over sandstone, through shadows and old stories, found and gave forgiveness, empty of stomach but full of purpose.

It was too late to turn back now—I must touch the wound, not the story of the wound. I must find the gift inside its pain.

I arrived at noon, my thirst stretched out like dune devils as the sun hovered an inch from my forehead like a rune foretelling troubling things.

My feet found cracked mud—it was no lake. It was not pink, but white like a skeleton—dusty evidence of the gash.

The only water came from my face, forced by the startling realization: the stories, my god how much I’d wasted with stories of the wound, and not the wound itself.

I blessed it with the final tear. I blessed it!! Thank you sacred wound.

Dry and new, I turned towards the arduous ascent with a swollen tongue and a swollen heart.

And I ascended hand over fist with my companions: Death and all my loves, including myself.
(Vulnerable Mountain Heart)

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For #NaNoWriMo2018, we (Katie and Ryan @wildnatureheart) are each writing our memoirs, our Wild Nature Heart stories so-to-speak, sharing a glimpse of our progress throughout November. We really believe what the organization says: the world needs your story! Everyone has a story to tell—What’s your Wild Nature Heart? We look forward to sharing this journey of vulnerability and self-discovery.
Ryan and Katie
#mywildnatureheartstory

STEPPING INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE

002C9459-1B00-4313-BB70-5A4C5219010ANational Writing Month DAY 16:
STEPPING INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE

“I can’t really count the times I’ve stood at the base of a mountain and thought, “How in the hell am I going to do this?! It’s impossible.” And then I go forward anyway, step by step, sometimes with much pain, often with unexpected joys. And I somehow find myself at the top, overlooking the verdant valley I was once in, looking to the next stage of the journey, asking, “how in the hell did I do that?”

The answer of course is step by step, sometimes hand over fist, sometimes face-planting with tears, but all the time, trust after trust.

This lesson has found its voice in many other circumstances. Yes I walked the entire range of the Sierra mountains, west to east and south to north, I’ve climbed hand over fist up out of a desert canyon, near death with exhaustion and dehydration, I’ve burrowed through dense forest and thorny vines and mud bogs, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY I’ve met the big projects, I’ve dropped into that dark well of deep grief and the black holes, I’ve explored connections, and I’ve struggled with that enigma, my own powers, and I used to tremble with doubt and fear and resisted each stage of the journey, but then something shifted and I finally learned—it’s the step by step, it’s the Big Trust, it’s the self-love, it’s the being done with self-abandonment, it’s the forward motion of my longing, my vulnerable mountain heart, my true belonging.”
(Total Word Count so far: 16,455)
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For #NaNoWriMo2018, we (Katie and Ryan @wildnatureheart) are each writing our memoirs, our Wild Nature Heart stories so-to-speak, sharing a glimpse of our progress throughout November. We really believe what the organization says: the world needs your story! Everyone has a story to tell—What’s your Wild Nature Heart? We look forward to sharing this journey of vulnerability and self-discovery.

#mywildnatureheartstory