Influence Influence

Thickets grow tightly on slippery banks. The water is cold, the current forceful. I climb mountain shoulders in the fog, listening, but the slopes shift the sound of rushing water below leading to empty ravines, false peaks, with no clearing in the brambles to get my bearings. This much I know—no trail, no map, no guide to lead me up this mountain, and yet I imagine the Lake of Hsien is beautiful because the mountain lifts it up. Mosses, ferns, bamboo, delicate blossoms grow around it, reflect on its surface, float on its water. So our legends say, and I know no better. They say the youngest daughter loves the youngest son. They say the firm loves the flexible, keeping water from draining through the rocks. In the clouds, the lake holds the essence of cloud, high in a place where it’s difficult to climb. Sweating on the slopes, I despair, thinking no one ever reaches it with a life left to live, but I console myself by remembering we get what we need from trying, listening for the direction of rushing water, hoping for the sound of still water.