waking in the middle of the night in an unheated wooden box perched at 10,188′ elevation between the Muir Snowfield and Cowitz Glacier to a symphony of disparate breathing and random snoring; uprooting yourself from eighteen bodies stuffed in sleeping bags, stepping over the unconscious in the dark guided by a mental image of their positions before the sun set, then tiptoeing in the direction the door you entered hours before and feel for a rope handle you vaguely remember. You pull and step outside onto a path illuminated by a moon brighter than any you had ever seen. Every star in the solar system is scattered across the sky. Glaciers sparkle like diamonds. If you step off the side of the mountain you will walk on clouds.

It is the first time in your life you are thankful to awaken in the middle of the night to pee.

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It’s not the altitude, but the attitude.


Trail to the Muir snowfield on the lower mountain of Mount Rainier.

Aim for higher elevation.


View of Mount Adams (center) 100 miles south of Mount Rainier.

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15 Years After

Choice of the Falling Man, a post I wrote to honor those who chose to step off the upper floors of the World Trade Center on 9-11, was the most widely read post on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. To millennials, 9 – 11 is my generation’s Kennedy assassination, or my parent’s Pearl Harbor–everyone remembers where they were the moment the towers were struck.

On Monday, September 10, 2001 I flew to Seattle with a return ticket in my pocket for September 12th that I would never use. I looked at the snowcapped Mount Rainier from the window of my 737 on the flight out not knowing I would hike to nearly 8,000′ elevation that Friday, and never dreaming I would climb to the summit fifteen years later.


Mount Rainier and 9 -11 are inseparable to me. It signifies strength and promise. When air traffic was suspended nationwide after the attacks I was stranded 3,000 miles from my wife and children. Mount Rainier, ninety miles east of Seattle, was visible from just about anywhere I went in and around the city. Every time I looked out my hotel window I felt the mountain was calling me, and after three days on my own I answered the call.

I remember the wildflowers in the foothills when I set out from the visitor center at Paradise, and standing on a glacier, a unique experience for an east coast native and sea level dweller in September. But my most memorable experience was an older gentleman I met near 7,000′ elevation. He pointed south down the Cascade Mountain range and told me he’d climbed the 11,249′ summit of Mount Hood in 1981 at the age of 61.

When I returned home I sent away for a package to climb to the summit of Rainier, but life got in the way; you know, college tuitions, weddings, business travel, that kind of stuff. Now, fifteen years later I pack my gear for the climb and think about all that had occurred since my 9 -11 hike on Mount Rainier–plus five grandchildren, minus too many loved ones to mention–and I realize how fortunate I am after all of these years to have the good fortune to join a team for the summit climb.

Climb to your summit with gratitude. Don’t let life pass you by.


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Words for the Year

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver from “The Summer Day”

Gregory Pardlo’s poem “Written by Himself” from his Pulitzer Prize winning collection Digest recently appeared on the poetry website Words for the Year. “Written by Himself” begins:

I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet
whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;
I was born across the river where I
was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,
broadsides sewn in my shoes. Full poem here.
Words for the Year posts one poem, quote or art selection each day by poets that range from widely-known to obscure. The website is a wonderful resource for poetry lovers, as well as those who’d like to learn about poets and the art itself. Some of the posts include commentary about the poem or the poet.
Christy, who maintains the website, accepts suggestions for poems via her Contact link. Christy makes no money sharing poetry with her readers and asks for no donations. She simply loves sharing poetry and says the best way to help out is to pay it forward. Share a poem.
Try Words for the Year, and if you like what you read, Pay it forward.
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Where do ideas come from? How about stories, poems, songs? And if you don’t jot them down, where do they go?

I listened to an interview with singer/songwriter Jason Isbell about his most recent album and he said the songs came to him in the middle of the night, so he got up, made a pot of coffee and began writing because, “Otherwise, you know, it goes away.” He was referring to the songs, of course. It’s a common observation artists make, whether writers, musicians or poets. Get it down before it disappears.

Where does a poem come from? And where does it go if you don’t get it down?


Never let a line

get by


on scratch paper

computer paper

tissue paper

bond paper

toilet paper


it turns to


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Morning Prayers


Morning Prayers


begin with a reading

not mine

Hoagland, perhaps Pardlo

            no need to rhyme


pick up a pencil

            let your imagination go

scratch out a verse, or five

            until something flows


at times its torture

            borders on tragic

persevere long enough

              you’ll find the magic


like jazz it’s best

to just let it be

words fall into place

that’s poetry


I won’t ask you

            to LIKE me

to SHARE, or even

read my poetry


that would be self-serving

             somewhat unnerving

dare I say pretentious

for all of us


what it comes down to

is this

discover poetry

            and find bliss

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Good Fortune

“Bad luck for the young poet would be a rich father, an early marriage, an early success or the ability to do anything well.” – Charles Bukowski


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