We came to Iron Bog campground because
the name intrigued me. What’s here?
A road angling awkwardly around
rectangular property lines in a
wide cottonwood valley edged with cliffs,
sagebrush covered hills and Smiley Mountain.
Just before the campground there’s a hill
with rock spires and goblins
like a broken wonderland stonehenge.
After we set up camp, I’m back here,
parked off a wide bend of the road,
with paper, colored pencils, and
watercolor set, molding an image.
Then for just a few minutes, two mad clouds,
smeared white crescents with one straight edge,
move behind the tallest, weirdest rock.
The rest is details, sagebrush and shadow.
It looks like somewhere on another world.
Sunlight has reached the picnic tables
of campsite thirteen, where the two creeks
on each side of the campground come together.
I feel so stiff in the morning, even sleeping
on my old four inch foam mattress in the tent.
I’m stuck in slow motion like an old man.
I’m facing the reality of death
years before I thought I would.
People slightly older than me are dying,
not from drug abuse or accidents,
but heart attacks and cancer.
I wonder why there’s no still no sun on top
of Smiley Mountain— perhaps a hidden cloud?
I’m edging the mountain’s shape in pencil,
brushing sky blue and sagebrush green, waiting
for sunlight to define the trees and valleys.
The Idaho winds stop at twilight;
Bayhorse Lake mirrors the trees.
Dragonflies buzz the surface, chasing flies.
Trout splash quietly, also chasing flies.
The old couple in gray and pink
who were fishing on the other dock
call it quits for the day.
Staying somewhere between hopeless gloom
and grouchy rage is very difficult.
There’s some mental state between these two
where I’m happy or at least okay,
but sometimes the good space seems very small,
like a sand bar eroded from both sides.
This is crazy. Sure I can paint
something different on the coast.
The wind rips the paper off the pad,
keeps trying to blow it away.
I’m trying to draw the lantern,
the tapered cylindrical tower,
the octagonal base, all the detail.
I lose patience with the jagged rocks.
I walk back to the car for the paints,
have trouble relocating my view.
Bits of sky paint splash the tower.
I quickly blot them off.
Brush strokes against the breeze
make a clear blue sky look stormy.
I blend gray and peach on the tower,
smear the rust-stain from the lantern,
add river, jetty, and sea behind,
darker gray and black on the rocks.
Peach colored sunlight,
shadows the color of smoke,
dry leaves on the trail.
That big alder trunk on the ground
I’m cutting into firewood.
Little alders sprout from rocks
here by the creek. Only the big pools
still have water and nervous
little fish. The bigger they grow,
the more nervous they become.
I think that old tree’s a bay laurel,
but can’t sort leaves on tangled limbs.
I guess that “chip chip chip” is a bird.
After twenty five years in these woods
I think I should know everything,
but I keep noticing new stuff
and wondering what it is.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller
Painting, “Iron Bog Rocks”: 2002, watercolor and colored pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, detail 7.5 x 9 inches.