Paperback Perils: Turn Around Time

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Title: Turn Around Time
Author: David Guterson
Publication Date: 2019
Publishing House: Mountaineers Books

If you follow my site you know that I love to read. Stories enchant me. When visiting the Pacific Northwest Keltin and I found our way into a book store. I wanted to find a book that was tied to the region in some way. A guide book to trails or about the local flora and fauna wasn’t what I wanted – although books of that nature were in abundance. I searched the shelves for a long time. There were lots of books on the history of the area, mining and the timber industry primarily. Then tucked on a shelf between to large books was a slim volume with a deep yellow-green cover. The cover reminds me of the moss that hangs off the trees in the Hoh Rainforest. I knew upon seeing that this was the book I’d been searching for.

Goodreads Synopsis

Reflections on life and landscape expressed in elegant verse By the New York Times best-selling author of Snow Falling on Cedars
Beautiful, illustrated package
Most outdoor enthusiasts understand the phrase “turn around time” as that point in an adventure when you must cease heading out in order to have enough time to safely return to camp or home–regardless of whether you have reached your destination. For award-winning novelist David Guterson, it is also a metaphor for where we find ourselves in the middle of our lives, and his new narrative poem explores this idea through a lyrical journey along a trail, much like those in Washington’s mountain ranges he hiked while growing up.

Even outdoor-lovers who are not normally readers of poetry will relate to the physicality of hiking represented here, from endless trail switchbacks to foot and ankle pains. There is a fast-moving, propulsive quality to David’s writing, with lush language, vivid imagery, and pacing that resonates as a journey on foot. His words are brought further to life by the delicate yet mythical illustrations by award-winning artist Justin Gibbens.

I won’t pretend to know all there is about poetry. I like it well enough but to get the cadence right I have to read it aloud to myself, Turn Around Time was no different. This book is separated into two main sections: the ‘Out’ portion of the hike and the ‘Back’ portion. The different sections are separated even more by topics into subsections such as old snow, the odd people sometimes met on hikes and when it is time to turn around and turn back towards home. The stanzas in each subsection is five lines long with the subsection ending in two lines.

Here is one of my favorite bits:

But you’ll have to carry your own load
from one end to the other
and from here to Mount Olympus.
There we’ll step onto a glacier under stars
in summer weather. We’ll pass beneath the icefall

while it’s cold and climb the Snow Dome.
We’ll smell the sea there – salt in mountains.
We’ll rendezvous for first ascents of Circe
and Aphrodite. We’ll stop the sun with zine,
take steps metered to our breath and painted.

After that we’ll travel west to the Valhallas.
We won’t be bothered with the possible today –
we’ll walk away instead, to further peaks,
in search of heaven and ambrosia.
And with our ancient zeal thus restored…

– Guterson –Turn Around Time – pg. 119

I hope you enjoyed this small dive into poetry. I won’t pretend to understand all of it but I do think that we all get something a bit different out of the poems we read. Here is to poetry and to each of us finding our path. Have a good week.

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