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The Stillness of Summer

The Sourdough Mountain Lookout, a fire lookout built in 1933, North Cascades National Park, Washington. 
Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout
By Gary Snyder

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

From Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems
Copyright © 2003 by Gary Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press.

Here is summer. It’s mid-July and it feels like we’ve had more rain than sun on Pender. And cooler temperatures. It’s just over 20ºC as I type, but still cool in the evenings and mornings.

Mixing bread dough in the kitchen, I look out on Boundary Pass and see motorboats, kayaks, sailboats, paddleboards. People are playing at summer, but wearing sweaters, long pants.

Sourdough Mountain from Diablo Lake

Many summers ago, Jennifer and I went camping in the Cascade Mountains in Northern Washington state. We rode our bikes along Highway 20 through towns named Birdsview and Concrete. Camped beside a roaring river. We never made it to Sourdough Mountain, but the trail to the lookout was not far down the road.

Sourdough Mountain is due east from Pender Island, on the far side of Mt. Baker. It’s in high country. The highway meanders around the base of Cascades mountains beside rivers and long, crystal lakes.

The name is mostly irrelevant

Sourdough Mountain seems a rich name for a mountain. For a bread baker there’s a romantic ring to it, but to the U.S. poet and author of the poem, Gary Snyder 1, the name is mostly irrelevant.

I picture Snyder sitting in the old fire lookout on the peak. The vast panorama slowing the flow of words, slowing thought, even, as he beholds the land below, the sky above.

How strange to be drinking “cold snow-water” from a cup in August, pitch glowing on the fir-cones, “swarms of new flies.” Looking down on the shapes of lakes and forests below.

The flow of words slows

Daily life falls away. Time stands still. Received wisdom from books can’t describe what he experiences on the peak of Sourdough Mountain. There are friends, he knows, somewhere, but they are far, far away. They too have fallen away.

Perhaps he feels as if he’s intruded on a lookout of gods, a hallowed space, silent. The only response is silence, reverence, “Looking down for miles / Through the high still air.”

That speechlessness comes over me, too, in the pink-tinged evenings of summer. The stillness, the gentle sound of waves lapping the beach, the closeness of the evening warmth. The sound of distant people conversing, laughing.

Summer is here, unmistakably. It just takes a moment to see it.


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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
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Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven.
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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  1. Gary Snyder is an American poet, most often associated with the Beat Generation, also an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist. His 1974 book, Turtle Island, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

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