No Turning Back

Turn back, he said, it’s all fogged in, 

you can’t see a thing up top –

We waited half an hour,  he went on – 

pressing his frustration on us,

then gave up.

We paused listening

wondering if we should go with his experience

or make our own

wondering if this weather report was relevant

to what brought us here to climb the peak

this Monday afternoon

this last day of vacation

before turning to home.

Do you come for the view or to make the climb?

Come to get out in the woods or reach your destination?

Come because you know where you are going or to find out where it all leads?

Thanks, but we need the exercise, my nephew offered.

We turned, moved on.

Kept on climbing the rutted trail

over gnarled roots,

granite rocks covered with green moss,

trillium and alderberry,

the river far below – until the trail turned from the river,

leading us off further

deeper into the woods,

steadily higher, higher

climbing on to the summit

where we stepped out of the trees, and the wall of white lifted before us

revealing the valley below, the lake, and road from which we came, the railroad line

this great crest of a green valley the memory of which

brought us here.

If he’d waited another minute, he would have seen it,

the man at the rock outcropping says, stirring his pot of brown soup,

the raven circling above.

I don’t know where it all leads – or what the summit will reveal —

and sometimes, have no need

but to keep on climbing in anticipation of whatever’s there –

the fog, the clearing,

the what might be and what might come next.

Peter Ilgenfritz

August 16, 2018