I follow the packed trail others before me have taken. Winding through pine, poplar, and birch, it hugs the rocky shoreline. Up and down over boulders and outcroppings, the trial heads deep into the woods before I stop. An abandoned building overlooks the lake. Trees tower over the skewed roof and poke through glassless windows. Floorboards long ago rotted and disappeared, leaving nothing to prevent the forest from overtaking the cabin on the woods.
I continue north along the same trail which dips into a small frozen valley. In warmer months, a creek would fill this space and empty into Lake Superior. Now it is ice beneath 3 feet of snow. Trees bow in half ellipticals from each side and I pass beneath, careful not to break tree limbs, catch my backpack, or otherwise disturb what is here, and continue up the other side.
With empty and open mind I hear the voiceless tree and gently place my hand on its trunk. Eyes closed. When opened I see the light drawn from before this projections and boundaries existed. I see the nothing that gave birth.
I first learned of John Haines while taking a class at the Loft Literary Center a few years ago. From the first poem I was hooked. I have every book of his, some first editions, and one signed that I was fortunate to find.
Mr. Haines also wrote many essays about nature, the world at large, and his view from a small rustic cabin located outside of Fairbanks, AK.
Mr. Haines was born on June 29, 1924 and passed away on March 2, 2011. I sadly never got the chance to meet him in person, but continue to read his books and write pieces about him and be inspired by the raw, simple, and powerful pieces he created.
I am particularly fond of “Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer” for poetry and “Fables and Distances” for his essays.
Below are his most easily found books on Amazon.
The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaska Wilderness
Graywolf Press (March 1, 2000)
Living Off the Country: Essays on Poetry and Place (Poets on Poetry)
University of Michigan Press (January 1, 1982)
The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems
Graywolf Press; 1st edition (September 1, 1993)
For the Century’s End: Poems 1990-1999 (Pacific Northwest Poetry)