We grew up each Adirondack summer
with a painting by Winslow Homer
called "The Blue Boat".
It was a copy, to be sure,
bought by my parents
in a woodsy art store
for passing tourists.

Two rustic guides, a boy
and Old Mountain Phelps,
(gray as granite -
his clothes grew on him like bark),
paddle, soft as trout leaping
at twilight,
down a clear Ausable stream
in a slender blue boat.

Our picture hung
over the stony fireplace
like an open window,
a love-song
to the patient mountains
which burrowed in our bones
year by year
like the milk
we gulped before morning hikes.

Guide boats are still made by hand,
though today,
it's a dying woodland art.

The hulls are like hearts,
with well fitted planks and ribs.
The shells, chiseled
then sanded smooth,
bell-shaped like a woman's waist,
sit finely balanced
as a Ming jar.

Strong, swift, tight as trees,
a good guide boat lasts
almost centuries -
longer than Homer himself
or old man Phelps,
who knew his woods
like a lover's hand.

I am that blue boat -
ribbed as Adam's own,
built to be strong,
loving and wise
as the roots of my mountains,
down to the marrow of my bones.
But I have wandered far
in a land that is waste.

I seek the simple headwaters again.
Christ, be in me
like that Adirondack boy,
propped in the prow
of my blue boat,
leaning into the Unknown
with searching eye,
unafraid of hazardous water ahead.

God, guide me,
like Old Mountain Phelps
sitting in my stern,
straight as the Northern Star.
Steer me up this unexplored stream
to the Stillwaters of your Peace
where prayer circles round me
like Marcy's mountains
brooding over a watery vale
nesting below.

Only then can I finally know
Your Wilderness
like a lover's hand
and find myself
home again.

               Pamela Cranston
PAMELA CRANSTON is a frequent contributor to The Adirondack Review.  Read her bio here.