September: Mt. Carrigain

for soprano and string quartet

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Mt. Carrigain is a 4,683-foot peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which I climbed in September 2014. It was my 43rd of New Hampshire’s 48 peaks over 4,000 feet, the last before my worsening health made this kind of hiking no longer possible. This piece will be included in Ill on a Journey, a multilingual opera/oratorio about navigating life with chronic illness.

Hear soprano Abigail Chapman and SORA string quartet performing September: Mt. Carrigain:

I began climbing these mountains as a child
back then I set a goal to one day know them all
when I got sick so many goals had to be abandoned
and yet I held onto this

Signal Ridge Trail is a rocky spine ascending through evergreens
soaked in mist, clothed in moss and mushrooms
although I’ve never been here, somehow I feel at home

today it’s not too difficult to hold my head up straight
today my vision is clear
today the grip of pain is loose enough to move
this is as good as I can feel
as good as I’ll ever feel
Signal Ridge Trail is laced with slippery tree roots
sending me stumbling— ankles twisting—
my body knows I want to leave it and bites the rock in despair

taking a break, out of breath, we tell each other
“The view will be sublime, when the clouds lift!”
but the clouds never lift                           
they swirl around the firetower
in wind threatening to tear us away
refusing to allow even a glimpse of the green beyond

heading down
knees also refuse to obey
blood turned spiky as the trail

paper birch, I am a foreigner in your home now
will you kindly steady me?

—Rebekah Driscoll