Notches to the North


Notches to the North   Pastel  12x18 

(View is from “The Moats.”)

Notches to the North

At first they’re only names

     Pinkham Notch, Crawford Notch

Carter Notch, Franconian Notch,

places of  waterfalls, cliffs, and mountain tops.

Tourist bait!

We come to get away from whatever,

our  “vacate-tion,”

but we are drawn in.

We came for the leaf peeping

      the skiing

                the hiking.

Slow process, the dawning.


            * * * * *

I’m invited

by the winding roads through the notches,

by the trails to those cliffs.

Slow process, the dawning.

I walk the paths to admire the waterfalls,

I follow the trails to the ledges

growing stronger,

and hike to the mountain tops and back.

What wonders to feel from above...

Slow process, the dawning.

Mountains look different from the top.

Their sides swell and bulge

and somewhere on the way up

the trees shrink and find solace

in rock coves and cracks and little soil,

flattening themselves against the rock slabs,

and each other

(krummholz it’s called, crooked wood)

until they disappear.


I stand on rock,

the bones and heft of these great bulges,

the better to grasp the strength and size.

Slow process, the dawning.

For these are the old worn down mountains

of fifth grade geography.

I climb other ridges, further south

and see the expanse at a distance.

A Pattern,

A line

East to West, West to East

with notches...

the mountains have faded in the mists of distance

to ocean blue,

as if they are great waves

frozen into swoops and swells and peaks.

And there stand the land locked notches

in the stretch of wide blue horizon

Slow process, the dawning.

A storm coming in from the north

dark clouds, dark mountains

and now fifth grade geography

rumbles in my head

like the great cataclysm

that carved these notches,


coming like the clouds

but not clouds...

The Great Ice Sheet

moving over the land,

glaciers preceding,

putting out their searching feet

pushing and scouring the land beneath

nudging against that ridge,

finding the weak spots, and moving through,

ultimately covering the peaks

and continuing the southward journey,

creeping, grinding, but not leveling.

Think the size, a mile high

water, but frozen, moving as water

creating shapes as water.

Think the silence,

except for the cracking thundering of ice,

not silence, but who’s to hear?

Who’s to really know?

Finally, eventually, over eons

the retreat, so slow

leaving the notches as evidence.

And I wonder,

do the mountains in their quiet beauty

do the notches with their distinctive shapes

think of their pasts,

their greater parts worn down,

or do they glory in how they have survived

and how they are serving all creatures that have moved north

repopulating those once barren slopes and summits,

to come to their present state of aging splendor.

Slow process, the dawning...

so much to ponder

as I drive the notch roads,

South to North and back

as I walk the notch trails,

from road to ridge, 

and the ridges from summit to summit.

Endless wonder, evolving...

Tourist bait? Perhaps for some,

Perhaps for many...

but for those who take the time?

For those who are drawn in

to the slow dawning?

The notches...

Visual troubadours,

inviting entry into a new universe.


Franconian Ridge Trail, Lincoln to Lafayette

Frankenstein Cliff    Pastel   9X12

(seen from 302 near Crawford Notch)

Franconia  Ridge: Lincoln to Little Haystack

Pastel 12x18

Mount Washington

from Liberty Peak

Pastel  12X18

Liberty Peak

on the Franconia Ridge Trail

Pastel 18 x 12

Thanks to Tin Mountain Conservation Center for their excellent workshop series on the White Mountain Alpine Zone, particularly

Brian Fowler and Dyk Eusden for the Geologic Components and Mount Washington Observatory for the Weather Component.