Lifting the Mist

It’s early but it’s light.
Kind of light, that is.
It would be lighter if the world were not enveloped in mist and fog.
But that seems perfect
at Glacier Basin Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park.
It gives our little party of the hearty
cover under which to walk the path through the woods to Sprague Lake.

Sensei said not to bring anything with us.
But of course he brought us all wooden jo's.
2000 cuts! We should have known.
He always takes such good care of our muscles.

Here we are, at the lake.
It’s small, incredibly still.
Ringed with trees, and a path all the way around.
We find a little clearing,
grass and boulders underfoot.

In a practice room
you would close your eyes
and put yourself in a wonderful place.
But here
I can’t close my eyes.
In front of me is the glass-still dark lake.
The trees close by are visible
but the trees across the lake are gone,
shrouded in the grey mist that reaches down
and touches the water.
The air is cool, feels clean.
There is space and freedom and friendship all around.

And begin.
1-2-3-4, I’ll count to myself,
to see if Sensei makes us do extra.
Don’t choke up on that jo!
Made that mistake last year
standing on a giant boulder
not far from here.

248, 249, 250 – and switch.
Early morning bird calls
ring clear across the water.
The silent rhythm,
the cut of the jo.

655, 666 – the mist is lifting,
just a little,
with our collective lifts of the jo.
The trees on the far side
of the lake
are reflected in the perfect mirror of water.
How can it be
so still?

1008, 1009 – or was it 1108, 1109?
What are you supposed to say
when Sensei says “A count please?”
Say something.
We heard about
what Jones Sensei does if you don’t.

1336, 1337 – the grey seems lighter now.
A lone duck
swims diagonally across the glass lake,
an ever-spreading V of ripples trailing behind.

And switch.
1501, 1502, 1503.
Is Sensei swatting at a grasshopper?
He must have forgotten
about his tender shoulder
when he planned this.

1750, good side, bad side.
More birds are chirping
as the mist continues to pull up.
Glorious mountains and glaciers
reveal themselves above the trees.

1945, 1946.
A brilliant ray of high-altitude sunshine
breaks through the mist,
sparkling onto the water.
1999, 2000. We did it!
Lifted the mist from the land.

We stand
each on a rock
our jos perched high above our heads.
The wood feels weightless
as though drawn upward
into the aching blueness
above the last of the fog.

There are misogis,
and then,
there are misogis.

-Wynne Palmer

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