[POEM] Van Gogh in the trees

Van Gogh in the trees
inspired by the children’s book Daniel Finds a Poem

salt on my lips after an early morning workout
mapping out my run between
sips of hot coffee against heavy eyelids
deciding how many miles
which trails to venture along
which mountains to climb

fighting back the negative self-talk
“you can’t” “what’s wrong with you” “you’re so slow”
especially these days when I have
no voice other than my own
to accompany me on the trails

seeing Van Gogh in the trees
the early season horse fly that follows waiting for a bite
the tick I have yet to discover finding warmth on my skin
chirping birds drowned out by a relentless wind
a mountain breeze thick with threats of rain
new growth on the pine trees juxtaposed against a dying limb

saplings sprouting from the ground
heavy with fallen leaves from last autumn
the skinny pines playing host to fungus
peppered on the west side only
fallen trees after a storm
the end of living the beginning of decay
the beginning of life for others
the morels and insects and animals
seeking shelter and warmth among the fallen beasts

there’s poetry to be found out here
if you know where to look
if you know how to let yourself go
if you don’t push back against nature
instead let it vibrate through all of you
feel the fog creep along your skin
the sharp rock beneath your foot
in those moments you are the poem
you’re so desperately trying to write
so others can understand why
you sometimes cry in the forest
because the beauty is too much
and you can’t find any other way
to express how madly in love you are
with every single piece of it

/ / /

Gina Thompson
6 May 2017
Bellefonte PA

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[POEM] root beer and wings 

root beer and wings
for Jason

After my run, that familiar sweat and smell lingering
Three words in a text: I’m so hungry
I suggest an old favorite tune of ours
and we sat at the bar
ordered root beer and wings
I guess it would be a day of familiar for me

Our conversations have shifted lately
It used to be all talk of our Shakespearean tragedy
and witty, somewhat caustic banter
But these days we share our interests
you tell me of the urban garden you and your partner are growing
the birds you’ve seen outside your window
the latest in your newish journey in religion

These days I’m more likely to pull out from my bag a map of my favorite forest
Show you which trails I ran that week
Talk about technical terrain and how the forest changes each time I’m out there

During lunch, you laughed and said:
“You just told me two names of people who have broken records running the Appalachian Trail.”
an observation we both lingered in quietly

I guess you could say things have changed
But there we were drinking root beer and sharing wings
With that old familiar laughter and that old familiar ease
So some things change but some things don’t and somehow
This is all becoming a new familiar to me

/ / /

Gina Thompson
5 May 2017
Bellefonte PA

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[POEM] hops and melon

hops and melon

my morning workout left me sweaty

that kind of sweat I remember from long summer runs in the forest 

so I took a shower to wash it away 

The smell, the memory of summer sun and humidity

But it followed me that day 

Lingered in the air around me 

I tried to hide it with the smell of hops and melon

Hops and melon

I visited a friend and I could still smell 

the summer runs and hot sun and humidity and sweat 

I apologized for my stench 

My friend reminded me that he was in no way surprised by the odor

“You’re always smelly” 

It’s true I emit a unique odor  

It’s not off-putting so much as it’s 


But this smell I never knew until 

Last summer’s sun and humidity and long miles in the forest 

And that day it lingered through the visit with my friend 

While I searched for mushrooms under a hot sun 

Through an old orchard I’ve only ever run past

This smell won’t wash off 

No matter how hard I scrub 

It lingers around me

Its strength waxes and wanes 

Is sometimes masked by the smell of 

Hops and melon 

But it never completely goes away 

Which is good, I suppose 

I suppose 

/ / / 

Gina Thompson
29 April 2017
Bellefonte PA

Free write based on the WordPress daily prompt: Perfume 

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[POEM] relentless 


Tonight the weather was relentless 

All thunder claps and lightning strikes and rain 

Oh the rain 

I walked thirty feet

It might as well have been thirty miles

I was soaked when I got to my car 

I sat inside and watched as the storm lit up the darkened sky 

It was magnificent 

It was relentless 

All thunder claps and lightning strikes and the rain 

Oh the rain 

When my little red car finally reached home

I was greeted with a smile and an umbrella

“You missed a great storm!”

The lighting striking and thunder roaring simultaneously 

The house shook, the power went out, but the little one, she didn’t make a peep

Slept through it all 

And even though I missed the sounds

I felt it 

in the parking lot at work, driving along the highway

I wouldn’t trade it for any other weather 

Not for southern sun or humidity or clear blue skies 

Because here in Central Pennsylvania, I’ve got a tiny bungalow on top of a mountain

where I can watch the storms roll in 

Relentless as they are 

With their lightning strikes and thunder claps and rain 

/ / / 

Gina Thompson
27 April 2017
Bellefonte PA

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[POEM] among the saplings 

among the saplings

who knows how far I’ll get today
I have a morning coffee date with a beautiful woman
but I just want to explore this area of the forest I’ve never been
except once, a long time ago
I walked through the old growth with a friend
falling in love with each step of our hiking shoes.

now I’m here a decade later
uncertain of most things
but hopeful about it all
the joy I have is relentless
it keeps me going
allows me to stop at the spring
to listen to the water roar under rocks
like a distant highway or plane flying far above the clouds
and the rush of the water emerging from underground
carving its own path down the mountain
a path of least resistance

because the water is wiser than any of us
we hack away at boulders with kitchen knives
dig at the earth with spoons
expecting miraculous discoveries or untold stories
sometimes it’s worth stopping
your forward momentum
to listen to the mountain springs
even if it means less miles
and a slower pace

I love to run in the woods
feet pounding quickly over rocks and tree roots
but I need this too
to sit among the maple sapling and budding ferns
tucked in the side of a mountain

/ / /

Gina Thompson
26 April 2017
Greenwood Spur, SST
Alan Seeger, Rothrock State Forest

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climbing through the ring of clouds on a mountain


This morning my friend talked on his radio show a bit about his own personal religious journey. The metaphor he used to conceptualize this religious journey was a mountain with a ring of clouds around it, at various levels. Here’s how he described it (I’m going to paraphrase his words, but it’s mostly a direct quote):

[this journey is] a mountain that is encircled by clouds at various heights. And when you’re at the base of the mountain there are the clouds right above you and you can’t see anything up the mountain. You can really just see what’s right around you. The totality of possibility is obscured from your view. For a lot of people, they just live at the base of the mountain. It’s a pretty comfortable place, there’s no arduous climbing. But for some folks they want to climb through the clouds, up the mountain, to find something else. And so they start climbing up.

When I heard this analogy I thought it applied also to our general life journey. You may have a specific journey, like my friend’s religious journey. But it also might just be all of the little journeys in your life — the growth (or lack thereof) you allow yourself to experience. Over the years of my adult life, but especially in the last 3+ years, I feel like I’ve really shifted my mindset to sitting comfortably at the base of the mountain to wanting to climb and discover what is beyond each ring of clouds. 

My journey is often difficult — I’ve faced a lot of personal demons and the demons of others. It’s emotionally taxing. It’s heartbreaking. But my journey has also been so overwhelmingly beautiful. There’s been so much that I have discovered about myself, about those that I love or have loved, and about my own inner desires and fulfillment. I’m not afraid to climb the mountain. Well, I take that back. I’m fucking terrified. Each time I climb through another ring I’m absolutely petrified at what I might discover and how I’ll deal with that discovery. I have to convince myself not just to turn around and return to base camp. Like my friend said, it’s pretty comfortable there. But I know there’s nothing down there for me. The base is not where I belong and it’s not what makes me happy and it’s not where I feel as though I’m manifesting my full potential as a human being. So I continue to climb despite the fear of the challenge ahead.

My friend discussed further why it is that, for him, he continues his journey. And I liked what he had to say, so I’m going to quote him here. (Again, I’m cleaning up some dangling “rights” and “you knows”, but it’s pretty much a direct quote.):

“it’s a cool journey…. these questions, these existential questions of who are we and why are we here, that people have been struggling with ever since we’ve been “we” – these questions are fascinating questions. And I think they are also fascinating questions juxtaposed against how we actually live our lives. Just working to make somebody else wealthier and spending our time we wouldn’t do if we didn’t have to. If it didn’t mean we’d otherwise starve we wouldn’t do half the things we do. And when you push that against “what is the purpose of this one shot of being alive that I get?” I think you end up in some really interesting places and a lot of times that place is a dense ring of clouds that you’re not exactly sure how to get out of. But it sure is an interesting trip and I sure am glad that all of you are taking it with me.”

A final thought: I think it’s important to find people who are willing to climb the mountain with you. It’s hard to do it alone. In fact, it’s even better if you can find a few people. And there’s nothing like conquering a big-ass mountain when you’ve got someone to share that experience with. Trust me. I know. 

So find your mountain and don’t be afraid of those ring of clouds. Once you burst through you’ll be grateful for the journey and it will give you the strength and courage to break through the next ring.

I love you keep going,

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[POEM] it’s the ring of clouds around my mountain


it’s the ring of clouds around my mountain

it’s a color mostly used to describe
the expression of emotion
a morning tucked under blankets
the weather right now outside the window
of these Central Pennsylvania valleys
it’s watching my mother in quiet contemplation
it’s the sound of fog on the Mid-State Trail
clouds thick with emotion
rarely it’s a feeling in my heart
but sometimes
like sometimes lately
but there is beauty in it
the sadness, the color
it’s most beautiful in the forest
juxtaposed with the vibrant greens
against the backdrop of blue
it’s in the name of one of my favorite songs
it’s the matter in between what’s black and white
(in theory, because nothing ever is)
it’s me on this day, unsure of what to do next
stay where I am or climb this mountain
it’s knowing I must climb
through this ring of clouds
to discover the new parts of me
and the new parts of you

/ / /

Gina Thompson
25 April 2017
State College

Freewrite based on the WordPress Daily Prompt: Gray

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[PHOTO] backyard discovery!

So this year I’ve been interested in seeking out Morels in the forest since I’m out there so much. I made one attempt to “hunt” for them last week with no luck. Today I hanging out in the backyard, sitting in a chair, looking out over the mountains and what happens to be right below me?


I immediately took a picture and sent it to friends.

I was going to leave it to let it grow bigger, but Little Grubby Hands aka my 5-year-old ended up “accidently picking it” so now we have it in the kitchen, ready for nom noms.

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[POEM] seeking mountains


seeking mountains

after our short walk in the woods
my failed attempt to find Morels
you remarked on how beautiful this forest is
I agreed, mentioned that after traveling and hiking a lot of the continent and other corners of the world

this is the most beautiful

you might not have agreed to that exactly
but said you always preferred the mountains to the valleys 

while most people retreat to beaches for vacation
you and I seek mountains to climb and waters to paddle
in fact, in twelve years I don’t think we’ve ever vacationed at the beach
and our ocean visits have been by-products of other destinations:
the Oregon coast driving from Seattle to San Francisco
Long Island on a weekend in NYC
Rockport on a trip with our Boston friends
Monterey Bay while visiting your sister

there are others I’m certain that I can’t remember
but I do know you and I have never settled our chairs under the shade
sunk our feet into the sand
instead, we’ve laced up our hiking boots
peeled off sweaty socks after each hike
hoisted 40lb packs on our backs
single-portaged a canoe through the Canadian wilderness
pumped water out of glacial streams and northern lakes
we don’t rest on vacation, do we?
we explore and see what new terrain we can find

even now, with the littlest Bit, when adventures are hard to come by, we try
take it down a notch so she can enjoy
the discovery of mountains
the sounds of moving water
the calm of paddling waters

let the others rest
stretch out on blankets and chairs
burn their skin in the unforgiving sun
while we find shade
among the pines and oaks and elms and birch trees
always seeking higher ground
always looking for new mountains to climb
and new waters to paddle

/ / /

Gina Thompson
23 April 2017
Bellefonte PA

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[POEM] when the rain started

when the rain started

yesterday was all headache all day
alternating ice packs
cancelled plans
I went to bed early
awoke from a dream about ticks
but also a flash of lightning
and a very distant rumble
the wind began and that breeze
oh my god that breeze
flowing over my body felt so good
and it started to rain, just a smidge
some more lightning and closer rumbles
and I thought how lucky I was
to be awake to hear the rainstorm begin
the crescendoing of sounds
to lull me back to sleep
to dream of more pleasant things
like running up mountains
and through streams
and bouldering up rocks
laughter and tight hugs
dreams that carry me through

/ / /

Gina Thompson
21 April
Bellefonte PA

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