Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lost and Found

I was disappointed to find out that a map to my favorite secret place in the Black Hills has been published. It's not a good map. Kind of vague and not very detailed. But, combined with many social media references, as well as some well worn paths, the Poet's Table is not much of a secret any more.

That "leaning birch tree" mentioned in the directions is obviously an outdated reference. Here is what's left of it -

I do remember when it was a significant landmark. Not so much these days.

The pictures I have seen lately show the actual table completely carved up with names and initials of visitors to this unique and contemplative place. So I decided to make another trek up there to see for myself how bad it is. It's bad. Not only is the table itself in terrible condition, so is the cabinet containing all sorts of writings, books, trinkets and various forms of art and personal expression. One of the chairs is broken. The rock walls all around have also been scarred and covered with names. Why? What is it that causes so many people, including Alan, Kip, Paige, Max and Willie G to feel a desire to do such damage? Is it some misguided attempt at immortality? A need to feed the ego? Underlying tendencies toward creating mischief? Whatever the temptations may be, there certainly are a lot of people giving in.

The hike up there still provides many visual delights. Unusual and interesting rock formations -

Twisted and odd shaped trees and remains of trees -

 I always take the long way when I go up. It takes me to this well hidden place about 400 feet away (as the crow flies) from the Poet's Table location but invisible from any trail -

Judging from it's mostly pristine condition, I don't think many people know about it. Yet. Great views. Quiet. A good spot to just be still.

Overall I was slightly disappointed with my recent visit to the Poet's Table. Something has been lost. It could be simply that the mystery is not as deep as before since it has become so well known. And seeing the graffiti and damage was discouraging. But, the day was saved by two was the arrival of two hikers who just seemed happy to be there. Especially the little guy. He couldn't wait to put pen to paper and begin writing. I kind of wish I would have stayed to see what he wrote. 

I do get some enjoyment out of seeing others I encounter here and on the trail smiling and enjoying these Black Hills that I love so much. 
The other positive event was when I found a simple painting buried beneath a pile of random pages. A watercolor that I felt came truly from the heart of the artist. If people can be so inspired by this place, then who am I to complain about its physical appearance?

So, as with life in general...usually when something is lost, something is found. It's a balance. And I guess all we can do is try to maintain that balance, make art in whatever form suits you, take care of each other, do good work and enjoy nature. Wherever and however we find it.

Roger O'Dea     7/13/2017