Two weekends ago, I led a group of Creative Writing students up to Shenandoah National Park along with Creative Writing Professor John Casteen to partake in a Reflective Writing Retreat.
We stayed in a cabin overlooking the mountains and ate beef stew that we made over the fire. We woke up to watch the sun come up and hiked up to the summit of Hawksbill, the tallest mountain in the park. There, the students partook in a reflective writing session under the tutelage of Professor Casteen.
Ashley Baker of the Class of 2015 has kindly agreed to share her incredible poem with us in the Outdoor Program! Here is it:
Waiting for Sunrise, 3AM Onward
Others sleep inside four old log walls:
Pocosin cabin, built 1937.
They’re much too far away
from the warped and unstained table
for me to understand what they see behind
the rapid flickers of their closed eyelids.
You can come close to knowing someone
you’re brought together in the lamplight,
finding each other in the dark,
astonished at the stars
and the accuracy of metaphor.
Days become long without sleep.
Time disappears on a mountain
and darkness matters little-
it’s impossible to get lost when you’re standing,
still, the night is so black.
Closing your eyes means nothing anyway,
I’ll recall only dreams in the morning
whether or not I rest.
A moth flies into the gas lamp,
breathes kerosene, and falls.
It struggles twenty minutes or more-
half its life, perhaps, for it is small-
lands on its back in the new
indigo blue of dawn
among a poetry reading,
insomniacs, and the cold.
The last sting of warmth,
and its wings stutter
as we bless him with a name
before he exhales an imperceptibly white
The sun pulls itself up.
Blue hills I thought were only clouds
are green and they are mountains.
We watch the pastel strands fade and fade.
Our eyes are never heavy.
It was an illusion,
that blanket of night.
She’s an incredible writer, and I’m glad to see that the Retreat produced some great work. Thanks to Ashley, John Casteen, and everyone else who came on our adventure!