Return to a Canyon

Crest Canyon Preserve, San Diego, California


Shouldn’t I be pleased that it’s still here?

The path I walked twenty years ago,

edging my way down the sandstone slope.

Now it’s scaled by steep redwood steps

grey and weathered as my hair, the grain

exposed like many veins on my hand.


With the ease of youth, I walked my dog—

an elegant young hound in search of quail

who sailed over sagebrush like a bird.

Now a smaller dog is at my side,

her licorice nose to the ground low,

briskly sniffing out woodrats and scat.


Shouldn’t I take comfort in this canyon?

And marvel at the unchanged place,

with its familiar glossy toyon leaves

and lemonadeberry bushes grey

blanketing the chaparral slopes.

Puddles gleam in the shallow stretches

where tadpoles hatch in the early spring,

and brown sugar sand leads to the sea,

threaded with the tracks of mule deer.


In the city, wilderness survives

and seems indifferent to the time it took

for wooden steps to fade and start to slump,

for parents to get old, and dogs to die,

for children to get married, and grey hair,

for me to wage a war against disease

while just a hill and three blocks away.


Shouldn’t I be glad that certain things

can carry on well without us?

That really need not lean on us at all,

but continue their unsentimental creep

across a gravel path, a canyon floor—

alongside an ancient sandstone wall.






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