This is my work: to sit quietly in the open air and watch a grosbeak walk sideways along the thinnest branches of the longest limbs of the tallest oak tree, his throat a crimson banner blazing in the afternoon sun. It is also my peace. © stephanie g pepper, 2023
Stones River, December 23
Tonight it will rain and grow colder still,
but this morning is clear and bright.
The early sun is alive, awake behind the treeline,
its beams dancing like fairies on the water,
and casting long shadows on
blue-green glass, to the glory of naked trees.
The river exhales into the chill winter air;
its breath rises in smokey ribbons
through the stillness, like faintly whispered
secrets of its own soul’s longing.
Resting against an old sweet gum,
I sit on its knotted roots, unearthed, exposed
to light by untold years of the river
flooding and flowing and falling.
My gloved fingers lace around a
stainless steel mug of tea;
my restless mind works
the endless questions, asked–never answered–
time and time again.
Out of the hush, a voice breaks the
disquiet in my spirit, and maybe I heard
what the river spoke:
Let it feed you.
Let this be only what it is: a quiet morning beside the river
two days before Christmas.
So I lean back into the rough trunk of the
time weathered tree, whisper the words of the
Irish poet across the water in thanks, and
swallow the sunshine with my tea.
©stephanie g pepper, 2021
a singular performance
Because the wind will never pass in just this way again, and stir the chimes to this same song— listen well for what is sung out of silence and of breath; for that which comes from stillness to stillness does return. ©stephanie g pepper, 2021