Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 20, 2012

Oh, Emily D!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:44 pm
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"Yellow she affords only scantly and selectly..." (see text)
February sunset from my front porch in Canyonlands National Park
Note extravagant use of scarlet (see text)

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.”                                                                    
–       (Ralph Waldo Emerson)


A library book from the “D” poetry shelf is now my constant companion. I don’t know what it is: her unexpected word usage? Her metaphors that make me blink, and think? Her courageous unconventional style? Her profound nature observation? Emily Dickinson‘s skilfulness with the English language, with conveying deep thoughts in few words, has stolen my breath away.

Her mind startles me. The “Belle of Amherst” uses words like an artisan uses tools. Brace yourself for the two arresting similes in this short poem:


Nature rarer uses yellow  / Than another hue; / Saves she all of that for sunsets, — / Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman, / Yellow she affords / Only scantly and selectly, / like a lover’s words.  

                                                                                                                                                                                         Oh my. Oh my. In a mere eight lines of verse, the color yellow has just been elevated from mundane to sublime. Suddenly I have an appetite for more — more of whatever she has written. Nature? Life? Love? Eternity? I’ll devour it all.

Please, go to your local library. Find a book of poems by anybody. Anthologies, selected poems, favorites, doesn’t matter. Carry it around with you and read it on your lunch hour for a week. Find one that resonates deep in your soul. Read it to someone on the bus. Perhaps the mail carrier or FedEx deliverer would like some verse, or your boss or your cubicle-mate. Phone a friend and read a poem aloud. It’s delightfully Bohemian if you add brie, a bottle of wine and a guitar, collecting a few friends to share their favorites one evening; you’ll all be richer for the effort. Do it.


(Brought to you by the entirely fictitious Council for the Promotion of Ranger Literacy. Next post returns us to our regularly-scheduled programming.)

October 18, 2010

The anticipated identity crisis


“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” — Benjamin Franklin


The blank before me asks my occupation; I swallow hard. “Former park ranger” is too painful, but “park ranger” isn’t exactly true, so I settle on “seasonal park ranger.” I suppose I could write “substitute teacher” or “motivational speaker,” but I haven’t quite jumped into those roles yet. “Park ambassador” is fun to ponder; I’d love to figure out how to make that one earn a salary. Bottom line: who am I?


A lovely autumn day in the front yard in Minnesota (said with a very round 'o')


My Facebook profile pic, a lively head shot of me in ranger hat and garb, had to be updated; every time I looked at it I gulped and thought, “That was then. I need a ‘now’ photo.” (Again: who am I?) Selecting a new one was an important part of acknowledging that I’m moving forward after one of the most marvelous summers of my life. Many changes accompany the transition.

I no longer reflexively upend my shoes before slipping my feet in, as scorpions don’t live in Minnesota. I drink the tap water instead of filling my 5-gallon jug at Matrimony Springs or Gearheads. My hat is for warmth instead of solar protection. The environment is all green instead of all red. Lizards are strangely absent. My wardrobe is no longer for outdoor activities, but for “hanging out.” Glorious sunsets are non-existent. I’m mocked by the rock climbing gear sitting on a closet shelf, with nowhere to take it. My ‘snake vigilance’ when walking at night is now zero. The misplacing of my sunscreen is not cause for concern. Olive, my car, doesn’t turn into a giant portable oven. The Milky Way is hardly visible to me. Potlucks here showcase dishes with tater tots and cream of mushroom soup, instead of quinoa or wheat berries. Hey — I can even make a left turn onto Main Street without an interminable wait.

Change, even when positive, is tinged with melancholy. I left a good chunk of my heart in the parks and people and landforms of Utah. In exchange, I have hugged, conversed with, cooked for and played croquet with my children this weekend, the very ones whom “nearest and dearest” describes. I’m not more than a mile from my sweetest girlfriends, the ones who would do anything for me. I’m watching autumn take over my back yard as I make coffee for my brother who comes to bow hunt the deer. I’m once again within driving distance of those who matter most in my life. I feel rich.

Ralph Waldo Emerson sums up this trade-off: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” These are the exchanges that make up my life, your life, each minute and hour. Today I’m cultivating a grateful heart that can celebrate presumed losses and anticipate coming joys.

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