We wait all year to get above the timberline. Last year at this time when we were there, the snow had mostly melted, but the tundra was too wet to hike.

This year? This is a photo my son sent from his phone. You can get there, but you cannot see. Not exactly.

What about the delicate alpine flowers waiting beneath the snow to sprout? If they don’t get their chance this year, what then?

And, I am glad you asked: what about all the poetry and stories buried in our minds (and when I say our, I admit to meaning mine)? In this August heat, the month when all nerve endings wither in my brain, I haven’t a thought left in my head. Which is why getting above the timberline  during the non-snowpack season (which is to say, during the 23 days of summer up there) is important. Contrary Irishwoman that I am, I think better with mittens on my hands.

Writerly friends ask: How is your writing coming? They don’t realize I am propped on my bed, one hand patting the nightstand for a journal, reaching weakly under the bed, pretending there is a journal nearby and that I’ve been writing something other than:  Please let September begin.

Making Good Use of August

She allowed for the roof
to split wide open
in the middle of her summer

nights, not that she might lie
and watch for unglued stars to fall
from their glittered heavens,

but rather to cool down
now that she had no desire
to use the window fan he had

installed before stepping out. In
such ways she’s become
practical, learning not to wait.


If you ever come visit me, I will take you there and tell you where you are. But otherwise, we (and when I say we, I do mean more than me this time) keep the name of this tundra-ed location to ourselves.


Photo credit: Will Faber


Poetry credit: Soundzine.

About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

2 responses to “snowpack

  1. Oh, thank you for cooling me down with that photo, this invitation/secret. Thank you for posting the poem here and for sending me back to Soundzine to hear the both of them!

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