Not long ago, driving around Arizona
One smoldering afternoon
I came across Gold Canyon
(where there’s no longer any gold)
And, near Top of the World
Drove by the titanic copper mines
That have removed mountains of stone
And deposited mountains of rubble
Extracting what was of value
But now stand largely idle.

The search for what
Men think is important
Leaves its mark upon the land
What back cracking work
The prospectors and miners endured
And even for those few
Who became rich, was it worth it?
How many became like Bogart
In Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Once they smelled riches at hand?

Even the local Indians
Who left the balanced rocks
Still standing in outlandish poses
Have gotten into the act
Building big glitzy casinos
To mine money from tourists
And I can’t blame them
How many ways are there
To make any kind of living
In the middle of this rock and sand?

The desert rusts under a cloudless sky
Haunted by memories of the Lost Dutchman
And his Superstition Mountains hiding place
How could there be gold not illumined
By this intensely molten light?
Shouldn’t some glinting point the way?
What is prospected is hard to find
But I’m not thinking of striking it rich
Or trying to unearth however rich a past
My mind turns to what is truly of value.
The huge thoughts and insatiable desires
That changed this quiet landscape forever
Are as beyond me as the circling buzzards.
So I am left with what seem grains of sand
Beneath the much scoured peaks above me
One is work that must be done and
As my father was so fond of saying
“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
Creating something out of nothing
If only a “mountain out of a molehill”.

We’ve changed the world
Not so much for the almighty dollar
(Though that is true too)
But so we can be more comfortable
So we can live longer
And get to more places faster
So we can have more pretty things
Songs and pictures and movies
Carpets and motorcycles and women
So we can feed the needs of self.

I can remember as an adolescent
During the most ordinary of moments,
Sitting at dinner or walking down the street,
Being powerfully struck by a realization
Of how much I loved everything!
Now that I am more often visited
By feelings of loss and what is gone
I can appreciate even more
Those precious things I most desire
Time and love and those I have lost.

Years ago I had a dream
That has stuck with me ever since
I slept, feeling for some reason
The most intense despair imaginable
A dream of undefined unbridled loss
I trolled the depth of self-created emotion
(Though the reality must be in there somewhere)
Looking for some way out
Finally awakening shaken and crying
Knowing utterly this is where I didn’t want to go.

In all the years since I have been lucky
Somehow never dreaming or waking
Feeling such a powerful despair
But I have been close enough to see
How precious the mere lack
Perhaps I have just grown cold
That my loneliness and rootlessness
Have not made me depressed
Or maybe there is some measure
Of hope left in my heart
The only treasure life cannot be lived without.

This morning, as I walked a warm tropical beach
I realized we are like the breaking waves
We come from an infinite unknowable distance
Before we are seen we start so small then grow
To so much beautiful energy and potential
Then we rush upon the shore white with foam
Some further and higher, some not so far
Then we slide back down the glistening sand
Sucking a little of this precious life with us
Then disappear beneath the next incoming wave.

So before I am gone, I will seek what gold I can
Not that I possess any of these things now
But I’m forever optimistic, trying my very best
To experience all I’ve learned is precious
At one time or another
I can remember the worthwhile clearly
What it was like to be happy
To hug those who are gone
To hear my children laughing
To love and to be loved.

The gold I lust for is in the sky
Or shining in her eyes
The spoken truth
A heartfelt laugh
Hoping there is time
(Even if I know there is not)
Not feeling pain
Being with my friends
The pleasure of beauty
The beauty of pleasure.

Now that I’ve come to the end of the world
Whether that desert or this ocean
What I treasure is not being afraid
Creating something of lasting value
Believing I am good
Having time to think my own thoughts
Not having to live alone
Hearing her voice find me in the dark
So the night is not so long or empty
Because there is love beside me.

Steven W. Baker


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