For a millennium, monks guarded the cedar temple,
while thick moss sheltered its roof, its walls.
I skip down its slippery steps to walk along
flattened stones of a weathered footpath.
Dawn light dapples through a conifer canopy.
The scent of resin is softened by mist and dew
in this cool, coastal forest, in the high altitude.
Crystalline water percolates from a karst spring,
breeding more moss along its sloping banks.
My path is blocked by a moldering cypress log,
collapsed from the dried riverbed.
A block of stone beckons: “sit, be calm, and be still.”
All around, chartreuse and emerald patches
carpet ruddy sienna soil; a dense, flowerless colony
drapes the forest floor’s knotty roots.
Beautiful leaf-like lichens weave through
broken striations of the fallen cypress.
The old log is leading me down a new path.
-J. W. Ellis
J. W. Ellis is a freelance writer and illustrator based in Hong Kong, though his roots grow deep into the Gulf Coast of the American South. He feels equally at home in the cedar woodlands of Honshu Japan and in the piney woods of East Texas. His published essays and poems focus on cultural history and our spiritual connections to nature.