"The trouble with giving away a place name is that then we can guarantee someone else will go there," points out poet, Damon Falke. "No matter how remote the dirt road that winds its way to the overlook where the sunsets are eloquently perfect, someone else will seek and find the same road. When we expedite this process of finding, we (or someone) will begin to advertise our places through a precise network of signs and signals.
"For the ancient Greeks a place was sacred because people came to it with shared memories and stories. The sacred had to be invoked through a variety of rituals. When I first came West there were fewer signs telling me where I was or where I was going. There were fewer places marked on maps and more places protected by local privilege. If the fellow in the cowboy hat who drank his coffee at the morning cafe didn’t want to inform me exactly where a certain creek was then that was his business. But if I were patient enough then I could find the same creek and likely a good deal more when I went looking for it.
That too is a kind of ritual, a kind of effort and an invocation that requires more than a place name. That more, I think, is humility. Certainly we could practice worse."
Falke's poem, "Tracking," asks if the deliberate search for our own sacred spaces can be its own reward:
In a way we measured our seasons by grass growing
Along the creek where we swam in the summer months.
The same season and place where we went with early loves
To learn more of water. The desert kept us ready to swim
But still left us wary of snakes sleeping among stones.
How easy it was to be in love with those we could not keep,—
Then by October they were gone. The grass leaning
Towards winter, leaning over the stream. That’s when
You went fishing and caught the one brook trout
On a Trueblood Nymph. The creek blue as sky then.
The fingers of reeds spreading against autumn
And you, cupping the orange gut of just the one fish.
You wonder now if these were the days when you learned
To smell the wind. Kneeling among the ruins
As you did and over low fires when you cooked
That first breakfast of each new season. Bacon and two eggs.
Stream water to wash them down. You sat and studied
The trail following the stream—how the grass bent
And matted around water. The same trail going
As far as the foothills and the country where winter
Was long in coming and the world you’ll remember
Simmered through a glass.
(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 3/23/16 and 9/28/16. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 4:54 p.m.)