12 July 2015

beech leaves
cottonwood leaves
flashing in the sun and wind
suddenly shatter my heart
I'll miss you so terribly
your brilliant blue eyes 
through the grass are
now indelibly part of this place
that already held my heart with ferocity
Pyramid Peak
Sourdough Mountain
Diablo Dam
are my anchors
the cords that reach
through my heart to
my hips
and braid the roots
from my feet through
this soil and rock

leaving again
I haven't figured out
how to stay


12 June 2015

South Fork

last summer 
our love spooled down
as easily + joyously
as the green-brown river
that rolled by in dappled sunlight
outside the window
while my fingertips washed over your back 
and our lips met
like how bright water unendingly
meets the river stones 
for the first time

we floated our bodies in that river
just our smiling faces above the surface
two salmon lazily drifting + finning 
in a deep curve of the flow
the crinkle of your crow's feet when
your eyes smiled at me
could stop my heart's crashing
for two seconds, next
rebounding with a burst of
joy + gratitude

and there was the beauty of standing
in your arms      in the dusk
on the suspension bridge
across the glinting dark current
brilliant white stars in liquid black blue
blinked between fire-scarred limbs 
of ponderosa above us
we talked like thirst that
took a long time to quench
your skin tasted like Payette summer
and the air was full of warm bark vanilla
sun-browned crackling hillsides and
the scent of your tender soft hair

my heart was cracked open so wide


now it's December, and we have no river 
between us to connect the flow
and the land is frozen, anyway. The sun's 
spare angled rays haven't thawed the grass
for weeks
I yearn + ache for you; I want to forge 
a new riverbed that inexplicably runs
between the Nooksack and the Weber
But I can't push water, it only
swirls back behind my arms, no matter
how hard I try
So I get creative, freeze one icicle to another
to another:
try to create a frozen streamlet
to reach out across the landscape 
but I can't tell if you're reaching too
this chain of icicles is damn fragile
(and no fish could swim in it anyway
which makes it feel even less alive)

and so I'm trying to set it down
leave it be
wait until the earth warms
and we are both back on the banks 
of the Salmon's South Fork
to see if it still sings for us
the same way

I'm homesick for the life 
I want to have
as I wait out winter


25 March 2015

...And Then A Few Years Passed...

Talking with an old friend recently, I got fired up--about a lot of things really--among them, writing again. But first I feel that it's only right to do a catch up as to what has occurred since the summer of 2012(!) So here goes a scrolling highlight tour of the life of Betsy Delph.

Along about the time I was finishing up that post about my experience fishing on the Nerka, I was simultaneously beginning to prepare for another summer on a lookout, back in Idaho, this time on the Payette National Forest on the Krassel Ranger District. Williams Peak is a relatively short knob above the confluence of the South Fork Salmon, East Fork of the South Fork Salmon, and Secesh Rivers. I had a handful of smokes, and fell in love hard with the South Fork country.

Following my season at Williams, my friend Krisi convinced me to go to Nepal with her, to do a trek in the Annapurna region. So I did. 

After I returned, I went back to work at the North Cascades Institute (where I worked from 2007-2009), to fill in until a new sous chef could be hired. I had an excellent time. 
 Back in the saddle.

 It snowed a ton in March, and a small avalanche in the gorge closed the highway for a few days. It was like being on lookout time--nowhere to go and nothing to do but Be Here Now.

 I made a scat-shaped cookie for my beloved roommate-coworker and left it on her desk.  

The sense of community I was surrounded by during those 3 1/2 months surpassed any I had had in my original 3 years. So very lucky and blessed!

I finally invested in my interest in plant medicine during the spring, and spent time in an herbal apprenticeship in the Skagit Valley and also in one in McCall. Plant medicine isn't something I talk about a lot, but hopefully I will begin to figure out how, as it has been an increasingly large part of my existence for years now.

In May I left for Idaho again, back to McCall and the beloved South Fork for the pre-lookout season, and then on up to yet another lookout, Sheepeater.
 Williams Peak was staffed this summer by a most excellent fellow, Logan, and his sister's dog, Milo. Logan just happens to be from Packwood WA too. I got to go up and help open the LO with him, on an absolute beauty of a day.

 So Sheepeater LO is out in the Frank Church Wilderness, the same wilderness as Sheep Hill. Just like Sheep Hill, it's good and remote. Elli and I (and all my gear) were flown to Chamberlain Guard station in the heart of the wilderness, and then hiked the 12 miles in to the LO, all the gear being brought later by the packmules. The beargrass was erupting for the first few weeks, absolutely everywhere.

 Elli got to hide from a good number of thunderstorms

 And gaze thoughtfully into the distance above the lakes

 For the first time in four LO years, I had pints and pints of huckleberries, instead of tablespoons and tablespoons.

 There were marvelous options for long hikes: down to Chamberlain to see the trail crew and drink their beer, adjoining ridges and bushwhacking unmaintained trails, and old lookouts like Chicken Peak, above.

Sometimes those hikes freaking whupped me by the time I got back.

 More than once Elli and I found ourselves hiking in a storm. Missing strikes while on a day off is always a bummer.

 Robin the (Awesomest) Packer (Ever).

 One of the fancy meals, with venison provided by my good friend Chris, whom I worked with at Red River.

The neighbors: the Chamberlain trail crew, who visited me and hosted me when I visited. An excellent, intelligent and HARDworking group of folks. (Photo credit: Gabe Goff)

I spent the fall and early winter living in a sweet little mother-in-law shack in Sedro-Woolley, working at the Woolley Market, a new community market with all sorts of aspirations of goodness. 

And then I came back to NCI. Again. It's great to be here, and I'll be here until early June, when it's back to Idaho and Sheepeater again.
The family was reunited.

 Daily dog walks again feature Pyramid Peak from the town of Diablo.

 My trusty commuter steed, Bikey, upon whom I partially separated my shoulder while commuting in 2008, is back in action.

 My Ma turned 70. I made her a cake. 

 The beloved coworker-roommate-friend-little sister I never had left to work for an NPR station. I made her more scat. See how diverse my culinary skills are? 

 We tried to keep her from leaving by throwing ourselves on the hood of her car. It worked, for about 30 minutes.

And Spring has come to Diablo. 

(Almost) the whole NCI family.