Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

from my booklet “words within 2018”

drive over the aged wooden boards, barely a bridge but working
down then over the loose gravel path
stop for official access pass at the log cabin window,
holding my hat against this blustery early afternoon in early June,
pay your fee to continue raising dust, driving 10 MPH now, 
following a small printed brochure map
trying not to disturb the majority occupants, the birds, raccoons turtles and wildlife,

stop where there appears a dirt path, walk the path through an overgrowth,
willow, and cottonwood in spring foliage,
leading to a hidden bird blind, it is blustery today and no large migrations to view

i do catch a fleeting glimpse of a yellow-throated warbler
as it returns to its nest in an eroded hole in that nearby Ash, 
notice a swath of matted grass crossing the path,
evidence a turtle has treaded toward the wetter part of the wetlands,

the path meanders, each turn exposing peninsulas of grasses between exposed areas of open water,
with simple flat board bridges to navigate between,
this vast acreage to the East of the Columbia River, i turn my head suddenly
to the ear shattering squel as flanges of steel wheels turn
on the rails lining the rivers edge, 
somewhere in the echoing distance, unseen
a bird squawk resounds among a stand of cottonwoods ahead,
the invisible made audible
In the creaking sway of tall thin strand of Pacific Willow trunks,
it is almost summer, this year there is still plenty of melted mountain snow
flooding this lowland,
today there are numerous small, Marsh Wrens that appear and disappear
from within the tall marsh grasses, a few Egrets,
circling in the distance it could be an Eagle, it could be a hawk,
circling over (the refuge grasses)
the rush, the smartweed, the pondweed, the canary grass, the cattail, the coontail,
while hidden within - the painted turtles, red-legged frogs, the raccoons, lizards and garter snakes,

in this clearing, where one stops for a breathe
on this remnant of open land, 
where these overflow ponds flood each year as they have since our ancestors

on this path, in this moment
not knowing anything but this,
just moving my feet forward

feeling the vastness of the view, 
feeling this untouched fullness of life,
feeling my breathe