WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES: Elements of nature tie into ‘Staircase’ poem

Sophomore Gabi Alvarado, who enjoys writing, will blog biweekly on the origins of her creativity and artistic vision.

Gabi Alvarado
Sophomore Gabi Alvarado and her family traveled along the coast in 2015 on Christmas.

The poem that this blog is about, titled “Staircase,” alludes to several components of my life that make more sense with some background information.

The first is a description of the sea. Two years ago around Christmas my parents and I went to Southern California, as we always do, and we drove back north along the coast. We’d done that before, but since the route adds a few days to our trip, we don’t do it often.

That trip marked when I really fell in love with the ocean, the coast and, in a broader sense, California. I dreamed of sailing, visiting exotic countries and faraway lands and exploring all the ways humanity is expressed throughout the world. Looking out on the horizon of the ocean brought me that sense of adventure, that sense of freedom.

The next stanza in “Staircase” deals with snow. I love nature and grew up backpacking through many different national and state parks. One year my family and some friends backpacked around 30 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in four days. There’s nothing like the smell of the pines and the view as one finally reaches their destination in the mountains.

My dad and I used to go to hike almost every weekend to Lake Tahoe . We would pass by Kyburz, and every time we would comment on the sign that reads “Welcome to Kyburz / Now leaving Kyburz.” The weather didn’t stop us from hiking, and I loved being able to stand in a valley and watch snow fall all around us, seeing the transformation from what the valley had looked like just weeks before. I love the calm that snow can bring to a setting.

The fifth stanza of “Staircase” has to do with oak trees. A few winters ago, my parents and I went with my cousins and their parents to Paso Robles and Napa Valley after we had celebrated Christmas. Once we stopped at a winery, my cousins and I would run inside the wine tasting room to see if there were any snacks. Then, once our parents were sufficiently occupied, we would run around the vineyard, exploring. I have many fond memories from that winter of sneaking around the grapevines and running through parking lots with my cousins .

A favorite memory from that trip is in Paso Robles, which means “passageway of the oaks” in Spanish. At one of our stops there was a small forest of oaks, and I remember that there were so many leaves on the ground walking through them sometimes felt like trudging through snow. My cousins and I ran up a giant hill, weaving through the oaks, until we couldn’t see the bottom any more. Though our sense of adventure was keen, one of my cousins was very little, just trying to keep up with her big sister, and she was scared. So we raced each other down the slippery hillside, laughing and tumbling all the way down.

The penultimate stanza is about my house in Philadelphia, where I grew up. I was born in Philly and lived there until I was 4. Some of my fondest memories of growing up took place there.

Gabi Alvarado
The sun sets on the horizon during the Alvarado family’s trip to the coast on Christmas, 2015.

Our house was two stories high. Our driveway had cobblestones in the front and turned into asphalt when it led to the back of the house. I remember walking along that asphalt in the hot, humid Philly summers and burning my feet though the ground felt cold.

I also remember painting our front door red with my father, but I doubt the truth of this. We did have a bright red front door, but I’m not sure if we helped paint it.

My parents were always fond of gardening, and we had three plants in particular that stand out in my memory. First, a bleeding heart. I loved to play with the little heart-shaped pink buds of the shrub in our backyard – they fascinated me. Second, a blue spruce. I have no idea why it was so special other than I thought it was bizarre that a plant could naturally be blue. Third, a dogwood. My parents planted a dogwood in our front yard for my first birthday. To the best of our knowledge, it’s still there.

This poem is about a staircase: the staircase of my memories, the staircase of my hopes and dreams. Both are very dear to me, and yet I think they’re fragile – for everyone. How we perform can impact our future, but how we interpret our past and how we deal with it is just as important. My past has shaped how I live now; why shouldn’t it also affect my future?




It’s an old staircase.
Every step creaks—
Some more than others.
The wood seems like it could crumble.
The nails are rusted,
The wallpaper is peeling.
The once vibrant color has faded
Beyond recognition.

Sunlight slants in through an open window—
The only window here.
It is beautiful in its simplicity.
The world’s colors seem to glow through
That tiny wooden box,
And sometimes I catch a faint whiff on the wind.

As I take a step, the sunlight disappears.
Instead of golden hills, I see the ocean.
The horizon doesn’t limit
The endlessness of the blue . . .
The possibilities of the vastness . . .

And everything is white.
The mountain is covered in snow,
And the breeze blows in some flakes.
I smile as one floats toward my nose,
And I try to taste it without taking another step.
But I must.
Change is inevitable.
And so I catch myself before I fall.

I take another step and I see the woods,
Beautiful oaks upon oaks.
The ground is padded with dry leaves.
A sense of calm envelops me as I take my next step.

And I am on the road.
Well, I see the road through the window.
That was my house—just there.
That red door—
I painted that door with my father!
I walked along that paved driveway
In the hot summers,
My feet so hot they felt cold.
My parents planted that dogwood when I turned one.
We left when I was four.

I must keep moving, I cannot stay on this stair.
Every night I come here,
In my sleep.
Every night I must find out which way is the past,
Which way is my future:
Up or down?
My memories or my fate?
The change of my past?
Or the change ahead?

By Gabi Alvarado

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