A lichen host
guides our trail upward,
moving us closer to the sun.
The snow climbs with us
as we cross the divide,
and reach the rim of this world.
On the mountain, all spirits gather,
without any god.
This is no heaven, and we are no closer to it.
Here are the blessed limits of earth:
The aspen frayed threadbare by the elk,
The snow padded black by the marmot.
All that we smell, sense, fear–
these are of rock, water, beast.
Earth, never heaven.
The melt off the mountain that transforms into river–
It will flood or sustain.
A bear that ranges into our yard–
It will devour or guard.
At night we dream of elk
that loom outside our window,
and we turn in our sleep
to welcome them in.