Cascade Valley

Look, my daughter, the pine tree
dropped its seeds, and here
a fragile sapling braves the forest floor.
This used to be a birch tree
but maybe lightning sliced it,
wind heaved its heavy breath against it
and now the trunk is rust.
Sticks used to flirt, flare
their skirts of springtime buds,

but now we throw the broken limbs
into the rushing floodwaters to see
how quickly we could be carried away.
We are always a hair too close
to the edge, send pebbles skittering
into the river. Let’s find our way back
from this spring rage, out of the valley
that catches what used to cling above.

Climb this mountain with its muddy paths,
deer trails, tread marks, hoof prints,
decomposing oaks – we are not the first
to grow and fall. But see the way the leaves
return to earth, the way the dust collects.
Crocus blades emerge from crumbling stumps
as if this growth does not take more than soil,
light, and rain. Reach down, my child,
bring a pine cone home to show
how miraculously we are carried.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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