Sunday Poems 44: Why do we climb mountains?

In the hopes of gaining access to the perfect aerial view of the valleys, plains, and lakes which languish adjacent to and below mountains, we summit them. Climbing mountains instinctively seems to me like an activity of almost purely recreational value. Having a lay of the land must have a use for military scouts and cartographers, but hardly seems worth the effort now. Seeing a lake from a kilometre over it is a little bit like going into space and seeing the earth from above. So it’s a sort of spiritual experience which could teach us something. And so we spend half a day hiking up the side of a mountain to summit a peak which conveniently looks away from the nearby town and reminds us of the scale of the world when we are walking instead of driving, where instead of roads we have only paths which have been carved out of forests or the natural routes provided by riverbanks.

We would be better served by mountains standing watch over cities. Summits where we could view and contemplate human geography. My city is desperate for aerial contemplation. Our retired airport was just north of downtown and is being redeveloped into a residential neighbourhood. Our international airport is 30 kilometres south of downtown. Flying in, we see farmland in pleasing rectangles, soaked in a solid pastel, depending on which crop is grown there. A flight to the centre of the city would show the sprawl of the suburbs, more road than dwelling, park, or business. The new ring road wavering around and inside of it all. Planners must sleep more soundly now that the picture of the city as it is, with perspective has been lost, as we outgrew our little airport in more ways than one.

Sundays are good days to wake up early and get on a bus (out of tickets, need to pay with change: a toonie, a loonie, a quarter). Someone with a long chin-beard died platinum blonde headbanging while wearing candy-blue headphones on the front seat. When he gets off he uses a walker. You go to work. You work on Sundays now. You wear your favourite shirt to work and it keeps you in a good mood. At five PM you realize you haven’t eaten all day and lean against a countertop while focus, drink an entire cup of black coffee. You feel much better. Below is a poem. If there’s a line you particularly like, why don’t you send it to a friend? As always, if you need to talk about anything, I’m here. Have a great week, everybody.

a few novelties

opening into another:

the fluttering of leaves overwhelms
your footsteps across the riverbed
which has been drained for a month.

they are building a plastic shell along the banks
to keep the river from changing shape,
the land on either side has a high property value.

a plane flew overhead, buzzing like an aluminum swarm.

ants crawl up your legs as you pose in the grass:
we’ve been nervous about making this sort of art for a while
naked between the sky and the crawling earth.

accusations that we have been made wrongheaded
by our work laugh like the wind on your skin
which has been smoothing mountains.

something is added,
something is taken away.

Originally published August 21, 2016.

Theodore Fox is a poet living on Treaty Six land in Canada.
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