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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 11: January 2022
Poem: 319 words
Source Notes: 314 words
“Triple-Q” Challenge
By Susan Hayden

John Muir Warned You
This Could Happen

 

Some things you once read about him in a guidebook 
have steered you to the quandary of this moment, 
like how Muir believed a “forest of wilderness”*
was the Key to the Universe, like how he said 
“one should go to the woods for safety, if nothing else.”* 

Now you are saddled to a glacier of imperfection, 
a cross-section of city and country, field and stream; 
a mountain man with a shelter dream, the quiddity of hubris. 
And you think you belong to someone. 
You write your story in indelible ink. 

John Muir said he wanted to go “anywhere that was wild”* 
and here you are, in this naked sword-fight of a marriage, 
this willingness bond; a magic wand that speaks in tongues 
with a dirty mouth, where sameness is your splintered rock, 
where you unlock the trail map of a lifetime. 

“The mountains are calling,” Muir wrote. “And I must go.”* 
Those very words echo from the one you love 
who resents The Father of National Parks—for sauntering. 
Watch him! as he ambushes nature like a cat on a cricket. 
Watch yourself as you pretend it isn’t happening. 

Remember that primer in your old guidebook, 
The Responsibility Code? 
About cartroads, signage, and deep-snow safety? 
“Always stay in control. Keep away from closed areas.”** 
But when you marry a man who builds quinzies 

with his bare hands: No compass, no beacon, off-piste, 
making first tracks. While ignoring the watches, warnings, 
the weather forecast. You’re signing your life away 
in Invisible Ink. You think you belong to someone. 
You want to belong to someone. 

You tell him, “John Muir walked a thousand miles 
but he always came home.” 
He tells you, “You are not alone in my backcountry ways” 
until he makes the smooth tele turns of his final run 
and you find: You don’t belong to anyone. 

 

 

—One of 12 Finalists in MacQ’s “Triple-Q” Writing Challenge

 

Source notes provided by Susan Hayden:

*“forest of wilderness” is from “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” in John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, edited by Linnie Marsh Wolfe and long out of print (1938), page 313. Republished by University of Wisconsin Press, 1979.

*“one should go to the woods for safety, if nothing else” is from Our National Parks by John Muir (Houghton Mifflin Company: The Riverside Press, Cambridge; 1901).

*“anywhere that was wild” is from Anywhere That Is Wild: John Muir’s First Walk to Yosemite by John Muir, edited by Peter and Donna Thomas (Yosemite Conservancy, 2018). The Yosemite Conservancy website describes the book this way: “In the spring of 1868, a young John Muir first visited California, arriving by sea in San Francisco. He stepped off the boat and soon inquired about the quickest way out of town. ‘Where do you want to go?’ he was asked, to which Muir replied, ‘Anywhere that is wild.’ The budding naturalist started walking and did not turn back until he had experienced the wonders of Yosemite.”

*“The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly” as John Muir wrote in a letter to his sister, Sarah Galloway (3 September 1873); from chapter 10 of Life and Letters of John Muir by William Frederic Badè (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston; 1924).

** The Responsibility Code and “Always stay in control. Keep away from closed areas” are adapted from Mountain High: Safety & Conduct: Responsibility Code: Seven Points to Your Responsibility Code: “1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects. 2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them. 3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above....”

Susan Hayden
Issue 11, January 2022

is a multigenre writer whose work explores identity, belonging, the search for home, and love after loss. A fixture in the Los Angeles literary community, she has read her storypoems, essays, and novel excerpts at hundreds of venues for over 35 years. Her plays have been produced at The Met Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre’s LA WinterFest, South Coast Rep’s Nexus Project, Mark Taper Forum’s Other Voices, Padua Playwrights, The Lost Studio, and Ruskin’s Café Plays.

Hayden’s writing has appeared in the bestselling anthology Los Angeles in the 1970s: Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine (Rare Bird Lit), as well as in I Might Be The Person You Are Talking To: Short Plays From The Los Angeles Underground (Padua Playwrights Press), The Black Body (Seven Stories Press), and elsewhere.

She is the Creator/Producer of the monthly literary series Library Girl, now in its 13th year at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, CA. Library Girl was cited as the Best Local Literary Series in The Argonaut’s Best of the Westside: Editor’s Picks 2019. She was recently profiled in Jewish Journal, TribeLA Magazine, ESME.com and “Culture Watch” in Santa Monica Daily Press. In 2015, Hayden was presented with the Bruria Finkel/Artist In The Community Award by the Santa Monica Arts Commission for her “significant contributions to the energetic discourse within Santa Monica’s arts community.”

She is celebrating thirty years of living in Santa Monica and is recently remarried, to music journalist Steve Hochman. Her biggest achievement is being the proud mother of singer-songwriter, Mason Summit.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Susan Hayden: Creator of the Long-Running LA Show “Library Girl” by Kathleen Laccinole (circa 2016) at ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere)

 
 
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