Why I wrote Switchbacks:
Written during the same period as many of the previous poems, but in an entirely different location, Switchbacks is one of several poems I wrote while traveling to Arizona. The trip took place in the fall, soon after my father passed away, and it was the first time I was away from you since your birth.
I thought of you constantly while on the trip, and although I drew much inspiration from the desert-like surroundings, it was when I returned home that I wrote or completed most of the poems.
How I wrote Switchbacks:
I’m dropped into the canyon
On a steep winding trail
I’m amazed by the splendor
That immensely surrounds me
The title of this poem is a direct reflection of my hike into the Grand Canyon. Awestruck throughout my decent, I set off on my own along the South Kaibab Trail early in the morning and made it to the very bottom well before sunset.
The opening line suggests the steepness of the trail, but obviously, I wasn’t literally dropped into the canyon. If I had been, I likely wouldn’t be here today. Often quite narrow with quick turns switching back and forth, I came across only half a dozen hikers as they headed back up and out of the canyon.
Considering how I had grown to love the mountains, the ocean, and the lush greenery of the west coast, I was surprised how equally I appreciated and enjoyed the arid desert landscape. From succulents and cacti, to deciduous trees and evergreens, the botanical variety, everywhere in sight, changed with every step along the trail and into the canyon.
I step down and the canyon grows bigger and bigger
I step down and the colors shine brighter and brighter
I step down and the cliffs stretch up higher and higher
Wanting to compare how quickly you were growing, I initially struggled between several scenarios before settling with the comparison of the downward hike into the canyon.
The ever-changing landscape, with every step taking me further in, filled with incredible growth that was entirely new to me. This is what led me to compare your birth and growth, and how amazed I was with every new day I shared with you to my experience of this hike.
More on how I wrote Switchbacks:
I’m surrounded by beauty while the wind sings to me
And I think of the beauty with which you surround me
The reoccurring theme of the beauty I’m surrounded by, as well as the beauty of the love you brought into my life, takes on a slightly different turn here by introducing the wind into it.
Much like my sudden awareness of clouds touching mountains when I first moved to the west coast, the air and wind took on a different dimension for me while visiting Arizona.
It was during a stop in Sedona, while I sat on the edge of massive red rocks hanging over a steep drop into a deep verdurous valley. Comfortably settled into a calm, pensive and relaxed state of mind, a sudden gust of wind rushed against me and switched my awareness instantly. The frailty of my being and the expanse below swooshed through me in a gust of fear and felt as though I was being dropped from an elevator. I thought of moving off the precipice, but the fear was momentary and the blowing wind quickly turned into a gentle breeze that felt like a soothing brush against my skin, so I stayed a little longer.
Just a breath and your heart grows bigger and bigger
Just a breath and your mind shines brighter and brighter
Just a breath and your soul stretches higher and higher
The poem quickly switches back to you with this group of lines intentionally mimicking my descent into the canyon.
Every day that went by as you grew from infancy into childhood, I thought to myself, “This is the best age. Everything about you is so amazing and incredible right now, I wish it would stay like this forever.” Then a new day would come where you would learn and do something completely new and different that was always so awesome, which always led me to wish for the same thing all over again and for the day to stay as it was forever.
My life is surrounded with amazement and splendor
From the love that you gently dropped into my heart
My trip to Arizona took place at a time where I enjoyed the creative outlet I had found in writing. It was also in close proximity to my father’s death and I spent a great deal of time reflecting on my relationship with him and the definite loss of any opportunity to ever see him again. That being said, the beauty of the landscape as well as thoughts of you and the incredible joy and love you brought into my life constantly uplifted the sorrow felt by those thoughts.
Drawing from the poem:
I had taken an incredible photo of the canyon while I was there, but I don’t know if I have it anymore. I would have liked to include it with this poem, but instead, I drew an abstract drawing for Switchbacks.
The curved line on the far left is meant as a representation of me being dropped into the canyon, and the straight line across the top is as flat as the earth was at the top of the canyon. The bright morning sun fills the top right of the drawing, and the winding trail leads down into the canyon where at the very bottom, the Colorado River rushes along.
Thank you for inspiring me to create Switchbacks
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