The Counsel of Pines

When I'm weighted down with the futility
of trying to change anything,
I seek the high ridges
and good counsel of whitebark pines.

Gnarled and wind-blasted,
they spread wide, long-limbed crowns
and stiff tufts of needles
among the slender spires
of mountain hemlock and subalpine fir.

They welcome the full pitch of wind,
needle-blast of ice, slow broil
of summer sun.
They embrace their mountain world full-on.

At the highest reaches
even they are brought to their knees,
and storm-hobbled, crawl shrublike
along ridge crests, limbs
unfurled in tattered banners
against the cobalt sky.

Every now and then
I need to see that.

Along a ridge on the Cascades crest
I find the charred hulk
of a lightning-struck pine.
Its trunk shattered on talus,
its broken-off base silver-brown,
sunbaked amber, flecked
with delicate furls of wolf lichen.

But inside the charred hollow,
is the deep green of boxwood leaves,
and beside them, a single sprig
of whitebark
scrabbling up
through a rubble of ash and duff.


From Ascendance: Poems by Tim McNulty, ©2013, Pleasure Boat Studio, New York