Down south for winter’s stay,
we’re old, life’s projects but memories,
children left behind for awhile.
We’re snowbirds who flock
to red rock deserts to winter away
the remorseless cold of northern climes.
Here a bright unclouded sun
wants to warm new life into us.
Except in that sleep before dawn,
when, like flies on a corpse, dreams
pester us with life’s mortality,
the regrets of irreparable choices.
We volunteer for day-long hikes
in an old-timers’ hiking club, collecting
experiences of the never-before-seen.
A short thin woman on her seventies
apologetically joins a longer trek.
Alone now, her husband departed into the TV,
she plods, slow, talking non-stop
of her lost life as teacher, ballerina
and grandchildren she rarely sees.
The sun soon declines,
raising shadows high on enclosing cliffs.
She lags, slips on damp stones,
unable to ignore arthritic joints.
One of us goes back to help, to listen
until they reach the leader,
waiting at a difficult uphill turn.
Quiet eyes meet before they ascend,
slow, the steep incline to the trailhead.
As our shadows lengthen, we greet them,
celebrate their appearance with beer and treats.
We’re smiles and gratitude, acknowledging
the courage of the weakest among us.
We’ve flocked south for winter,
connected by that which lasts
until the end of what matters.