In Memoriam: Backpacking the Trinity Alps by Gayle Madden

Welcome back to Member Monday.  It’s with heavy hearts that we feature a piece by Gayle Madden.  She recently passed away and we offer our sincere condolences to her husband, Michael.  While we mourn Gayle’s passing, we celebrate her life, a life well-lived indeed.  We’ll be featuring another of Gayle’s pieces next week and we encourage you to read more of her body of work at her blog, aptly titled The Sweet Life: La Dolce Vita. -Writers Forum Board of Directors

Photo courtesy of Gayle Madden

In what poets refer to as the dead of night, poets who obviously have never slept beside an alpine lake in the high country during a warm summer night, I got up and stepped out of the tent.  I gazed skyward, looking into the purple-black heavens in absolute awe, breathing out slowly, imperceptibly.

Stars hung low, big, bright, too bright to even twinkle, more like a glow.  Silent stars tinkling their songs over the millenniums like sirens, luring, rendering one powerless yet powerful at the same time.  I called softly to awaken my husband, luring him out to see the starlit sky.

He stepped into the night and scanned the sky with the practiced eye of a pilot and the heart of a mystic.  “Look,” he whispered, then nodded.  “The Big Dipper.”

There it was.  Not only huge in the sky but closer than I have ever seen it, dipping perfectly into the outline of the black-inked mountaintops, cradled like a babe held tenderly in arms, resting before resuming its eternal journey in the sky.  It was in that moment that I saw what I had never seen before.

The smooth black water of the lake transformed into sky.  The Big Dipper, along with hundreds of other stars, glowed golden white in the watery sky.  A perfect mirror image of the lights rose from the bottom of the liquid blackness, mysteriously dancing.  I stood frozen in time, gazing into the bigness of nature that man has gazed into since the beginning of man, the Bigness that fills man with a sense of being a part of something greater than himself. There I stood, with ancient man, with every man, filling myself, feeling myself.  More than myself.  Alive.

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