Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chicago Basin

Years ago I was an assistant scoutmaster to a troop in Tulsa. Although the troop did not have a history of high adventure, I talked, wheedled and browbeat the the other leaders into taking the kids on a backpacking trip. The route I chose went through the the Chicago Basin pictured here. As the slowest hiker in the group (imagine that), I was far behind the group as we went up the basin one afternoon. I stopped for a breather, and looked up, and was struck. The shock and surprise of the light on the mountains and trees hit me with a sort of ecstasy that is impossible to describe, and equally impossible to forget. The moment seemed to last forever, and perhaps did, because I was still standing there who knows how much later when I forest ranger came down the path and asked how I was doing. I haltingly tried to express what I was feeling. She smiled and said "You know when you are away it easy to forget." She then moved on to discuss more mundane matters, like the fire ban in the basin, and the moment passed. A year later I returned to the basin on a solo trip, in part seeking to recreate that moment. Although it was a fine trip, the moment never came. That ranger may have been right, it is easy to forget the magnitude of the scenery, but in a sense she was wrong. I haven't forgotten. These decades later, in the dark of winter, I can close my eyes and see the light on Mount Windom.

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneathe the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodills.

William Wordsworth

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