Warm Springs Canal Marsh

Life & Light

By Alice Elshoff

Remember that line from the Emily Dickenson poem,
“There is a certain slant of light on winter afternoons”

Well, there is sometimes a certain slant of light at Malheur on summer afternoons that once seen won’t be forgotten.

This is how it happens. It is a late August afternoon.

The nourishing snowmelt from Steens Mountainis long gone,
the shallow marshes dry.
The 
different grasses have turned their various shades of gold.
The cattails, rushes, and tules glow with myriad shades of brilliant copper to rich cinnamon.
Thunder clouds arise from the intense heat, and blanket the sky with fierce, gun-metal-grey clouds.

And then it happens.
Just before the sun disappears over the western ridge
it finds a small opening and beneath the overbearing grey,
throws its golden rays horizontally across the marshes,
burnishing the stalks until they appear lit from within.

In this quiet, unearthly moment,
life seems to stand still,
and one is fortunate indeed to be caught up in such a tableau.