Ashby

Massachusetts, Circa 1988

I am thinking about the first time 
anyone heard the word computer. Was it like 
when I learned what Windows was?
Or how a GPS could magically take me
anywhere I wanted without getting lost?
No more need to stop in for maps 
I’d never fold back in their envelopes. 
Those required something angular, something orderly, 
nothing like my mind. How I liked those concrete guides, 

though, reveled in running my forefinger
over veiny lines that clearly meant something.
to someone. This one, a river. This one a road. 
All so alive, and yet muddling
when it came down to turning. 
I’d never really learned to follow directions. 
But something about the feel of paper on skin,
the smell of fresh print – so grounding 
when I didn’t know where in the world I was. 

And that one time in Ashby, the road turning 
without warning, my mint green sedan, windows down, 
immediately guarded by fieldstone walls. 
Both sides of that passage just stood there, 
dim lighted, thick with congregating pine, oak, maple, 
the hushing conversation of air. 
I could smell late spring.
Felt it pimple up on my forearms. 

There was a pull-off, and so I did, 
wandered into the woods alone.
And suddenly, a jaw-dropping waterfall, 
tumbling away from itself, 
crashing into separation. 
The way the stream branched, 
running in both directions, 
jumping exhausted shale, 
white capped in its frenzy to get where it wanted.
Where it needed. 

There I stood, stupidly stunned, 
solo with this memory making, 
this story of being lost 
among things that know where to go,
when to go. And that icy water 
I could not resist washing my hands in,
confusion dipping into clarity,
digging into pebbles and sand as I listened in awe
to everything that had power to direct itself. 

It strikes me now
I no longer wander alone like that,
that I’m never really lost anymore. 
And that questioning that lives in the stomach 
of anyone who can’t read a map
has dissolved into static and waves. 

I start thinking again about the computer,
the GPS, how much I love but resent 
these things that tell us where and when to go.
I wonder if I’ve ever touched either 
with that same sense of wonder 
I did when I discovered Ashby. 
I wonder if I don’t wonder enough, 
don’t’ wander enough, 
don’t lose myself in the woods like I ought.

And I don’t think I’ll ever get back to Ashby. 
Will I ever get back to solitude?
I don’t know, but if I go missing, 
please do not try to find me.
I’m logging into the wind.   

- Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, hails from the Northern Virginia/D.C. metro area. She considers herself a writer by nature and by trade, having begun writing for fun as soon as her mother helped teach her to read. An active part of the literary community, Katherine is current co-president and a founding member of Write by the Rails (WbtR), the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Katherine has been a Prince William County Poet Laureate nominee and was the winner of Inside Nova’s 2019 and 2020 Best of Prince William award in the category of author. Her poetry and prose book Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Katherine's children’s book, A Crane Named Steve, hit number one in its category on Amazon in 2019. Katherine then took first place in the free verse category of Loudoun County Library Foundation’s 2020 Rhyme On poetry contest for her piece "Discussion Topic." The Prince William Arts Council and Poet Laureate Circle awarded her the 2020 Outstanding Poetry Project Award for her leadership in Write by the Rails' Poems Around Town poetry installation. In 2021 Katherine earned second place for "Aftermath" in a Poetry Society of Virginia national contest and the regional Seefeldt Award for Arts Excellence in the category of Individual Artist. She won first place in the Virginia Writers Club statewide Golden Nib contest in the poetry category for her poem "Kayak." Katherine was recognized as a PW Perspective 2021 DMV Best Business award winner in the category of author. In April 2023, Katherine’s poem “Now Entering Manassas” was the winner of Manassas, Virginia's adult “time capsule” poetry contest. Katherine read her poem at the 150th anniversary celebration, the translated version by Jorge de Villasante was read in Spanish by Bianca Menendez, her poem was published in Neighbors of Historic Manassas magazine, and it was included in the city’s time capsule. While Katherine is well-known for her poetry, she also has established a solid reputation for writing articles, columns and short fiction. She is published in dozens of journals and anthologies and has authored 12 books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, Late April, A Crane Named Steve, Get Happy, Dammit, D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith, Thirty Years of Cardinals Calling, Get Happier, Dammit and We All Might Be Witches. She uses proceeds from her books to support giving back initiatives.
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