Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
    places to play in and pray in, where Nature
    may heal and cheer and give strength to
    body and soul alike.

    John Muir,

    Late afternoons at the ranch, when the heat
    smothered me like a wool blanket, I’d saddle up
    Midnight, put a canteen of iced mint tea and
    peanut butter sandwiches in the worn saddle bags,
    and head up East Canyon, along Indian Creek,
    into the back country.

    In winter, the creek tumbled down like thunder,
    in heaving billows of whitewater and foam,
    but by mid-August, it slowed down to a gentle
    stream, icy and clear, gurgling and dancing
    its way,around granite boulders, and green,
    slippery moss covered rocks.

    Five miles up the trail, there was a cascade
    that dropped down thirty feet, like banners
    of white silk,into a deep pool, where rainbow
    dragonflies skimmed over the water, minnows silvered
    their way in and out of shadows, and frogs
    serenaded each other. Reedeep! Reedeep!

    There was a thin crescent of pale sand, just
    enough to lie down on, and a cool grove
    of creek willows, where I could tie up Midnight
    in the shade, after he drank from the dark pool.

    This is where summer came alive for me,
    on these sweltering canyon afternoons,
    afternoons that smelled of sage, dried grass,
    arnica, sycamores, and damp moss: even
    the rattlesnakes stayed out of the sun.

    I would swim under the waterfall, cool off,
    and then lie on the sand, listening
    to the soothing sounds of falling water,
    buzzing bees, and whirring crickets,
    inhabiting another time and place.

    No one ever came here, even though it
    was National Forest. I liked to think that this
    was my secret waterfall, and that no one
    but me had ever been here, except perhaps
    Indians hundreds of years ago.

    Taking sips of tea from my canteen,
    munching my way through sandwiches,
    I felt primitive and pure, almost aboriginal,
    and I would drift between sandbar and waterfall,
    back and forth, until late afternoon shadows
    started filling the canyon, the surrounding
    heat eased up a bit, and the land breathed.

    Then, back down the trail, and home to the barn.
    This was a ritual, a private time, a communion
    and ceremony of sorts, my private world -
    a feeling of being one with mountains,
    animals, birds, sky, sun, clouds, water.

    It was just a trail, a canyon, a waterfall, the
    smells of summer, and blessing of solitude, and yet
    the memory of all this engraved itself forever
    in my heart, and sustained me again and again
    through the long, cold lonely years,
    and difficult, dark, tempestuous times to come.

    (Photograph by Alex in the virtual 3-D world of Second Life)
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.