Saturday, October 9, 2010

In Praise, Awe of the Mountains

Poetic inspiration comes from outside - the world - and inside - reflections and emotions. For me, being very sensitive to shapes and colors and the beauty of nature. California mountains are a major inspiration. I come from Poland which is a flat-country, with a small area of mountains in the south (the Tatras at the northernmost tip of Carpatian Mountains), some hilly terrain in the Foothills, and then flat all the way to the Baltic Sea. Fields, meadows and copses have their allure, the bigness of the sky above, if you walk out away from buildings, is astounding. The skylark's song falls on the ground like a rain of little bells. You do not even see the singer so high above your head...

But to live in California means to live in the mountains. Los Angeles has a bad rap internationally, as the city of crime, car chases, barbed wire, and graffiti. Nobody tells us before we come here of the amazing gardens, hills and mountains: San Gabriels, Santa Monica, Verdugo Hills... They criss-cross the terrain, so that everywhere we go we'd see something beautiful and breathtaking.

I live in the foothills, watch the mountains from my kitchen window, go for long walks in the dry river-bed of Tujunga Wash admiring the ever-changing colors and shapes of the mountains. Being aware that there are no cities for a while and they stretch for miles into the desert is a part of the allure of our little hermitage.

Interlude – Of the Mountains


I love you, my mountains,
oranged into sunset
of embarrassment.

Your cheeks aglow –
what sin you’re hiding,
in waterless creases,
what guilt?

Or is it first love
that makes you shine
with such glory?

The sunlight in California is so different from northern areas of Canada, or Poland. There it is pale, often grayish, frail. Here it brings a rainbow of colors to everything it touches. Everything is more vivid, more intense, under the bright rays, in summer or winter...


Bare mountains –
no – old grassy hills
worn out by wind
and torrential rains
shine in stark morning light
like exquisite folds
of red-brown velvet
covered with stardust.

Snow whitens the slopes
sculpted by crevices.

The earth sighs
in her sleep.

When my mother came to visit in 1999, she thought that these mountains, without a protective layer of trees, all exposed to the elements, looked like heaps of dought and still bore imprints of the giants' hands. I liked that image so much, I put it into a poem.


I’ll never tire of these mountains
made from the earth’s dough
by the hands of a giant
who kneaded a cake
that was never finished,
the dough left in piles
on the table of smooth fields
surprised by their sudden end
in rich folds and falls
decorated with the icing of snow
on cloudy winter mornings.

The sunsets are astounding and the skies glow. It is the clearest and the most spectacular in the winter, after the rain washes away the smog. But the fire-season knows its glories, too, the darker, wine-read hues. The next part of my Interlude, from Miriam's Iris (Moonrise Press, 2008), was actually inspired by a memory of looking at a different set of mountains, rocks falling apart in the Monument Valley.

IV. (A Monument of Time)

Submerged in the sand of time,
a continent from beyond
sinks in the last sunset.

Shadows move briskly.
Soon, a gentle coat of oblivion
will cover the ridges.

The desert sleeps
devouring life.
Clocks stop.

The rocks are on fire
boiling over
into the evening sky.

Sand rises slowly.
The mountains drown
in silence.

The pastels can be seen in January, our spring. With clouds, like scarves on the hilltops, with fresh greenery of new grass on the slopes, the mountains are ready for a party. I put that last poem on a postcard I printed, with the photo above, for my participation in the 2010 Fourth of July Parade of Sunland-Tujunga. I gave them out to everyone at the parade and still do giveaways from time to time. A cute little trifle, just to make your day a fresher/newer day....

Interlude - Of Bliss


I’m delighted
with newness of this day –
fresh, new grass and
fresh, new leaves and
fresh, new clouds
in fresh, new sky
Washed clean by rainfall,
colored by ever-brighter light
of green and blue,
hope and innocence,
the hues of my love.
Even the mountains wear
their fresh, new dresses
with pleats of ridges and gullies
waiting to be ironed out
by the breath of wind and time.

But the mountains are temperamental, they shake, they burn, they fall apart. Living in their shadow is like living with an elephant in the room, or a giant rhinoceros in the backyard. The danger and beauty are celebrated in my occasional poem for An Award Ceremony for community volunteers who helped with January floods, organized by City Councilman Paul Krekorian. Called three days before the ceremony, I came up with the following poem. I now adapted it to the fire season, for the nature of the danger may change, but the threat remains.

Mountain Watch

They are a bit vain, aren’t they
these mountains of ours, still young.
They like being washed by the rain,
making themselves pretty for sunset.
Wet soil turns into a mudbath
for these giant beauties.

When they stretch and practice
their dance moves, our houses crumble.
Water jumps out of toilet bowls.
Aunt Rosie’s favorite crystal vase
shatters on the floor. The mountains
shake boulders out of their skirts,
lose weight. Rocks slide into our backyards.

We stand watch. We are ready.
Neighbor calls neighbor: “Are you OK?”
A friend you did not know you had
stops by. The danger looms.

In ancient Rome, guards had to hold
one hand up, with the finger on their lips
in a sign of silence, attention. I read
about it in a book, standing on my shelf,
in a crowded row of treasures
I hauled across the ocean, from the
old country to an unknown world.
I’d hate losing them to mud.

When the mountains dress in red
robes of fire, to dance in the night
rites of destruction, sometimes
it is too late for treasures. An old man
lost a hundred years of memories,
when his family heirlooms –
pictures, tchotchkes – burned to ashes.
His life spared, he still cries for what
he cannot not bring back.

We are lucky. Storms came and went.
The neighbors lived, the houses survived.
We were ready: moved out, moved in,
moved out, moved in, awakened
at midnight, sheltered by the goodwill
of unknown friends. We watched.
The storms passed. This was a good year.
We will watch. The aging beauties
will dance again.

Maja Trochimczyk and Paul Krekorian at the Awards Ceremony, June 2010.


All content, poetry and photos (C) by Maja Trochimczyk, 2010.
Mountain poems were all published in Maja Trochimczyk, Miriam's Iris, or Angels in the Garden, Los Angeles: Moonrise Press, 2008.
Mountain Watch was published in The Voice of the Village, July 2010.

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