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A particularly happy kind of life March 6, 2014

Posted by Jenny in Lifestyle, nature, poetry.
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Kalaloch beachI want to share a short poem by Gary Snyder.

THE NORTH COAST

Those picnics covered with sand

No money made them more gay

We passed over hills in the night

And walked along beaches by day.

Sage in the rain, or the sand

Spattered by new-falling rain.

That ocean was too cold to swim

But we did it again and again

I especially like the way there is no period at the end. That allows “again and again” to keep going onward into a cycle of happiness.

Think of the simplicity of this life. Think of all the things people think they need in their lives, and how those things are not present here.

This poem is more structured than most of Snyder’s work. It has a consistent three-beat pattern, and the second and fourth lines of the stanzas rhyme.   Many of his poems play with blank space on the page, odd typography. You could say they are free-range poems.

At the age of 83, he can look back on an extraordinarily adventurous and interesting life. Grew up on a farm, worked on a trail crew in Yosemite, studied Zen Buddhism in Japan in the Fifties before Zen became part of the counterculture, worked in the engine room of a Pacific tanker, went to India with Allen Ginsberg, and on and on.

In his poems you find the shadows of junipers, men chopping wood, a typhoon in a bamboo grove, truckloads of hay, a roadhouse in Alaska, sky over endless mountains

Cedar Creek Abbey Island Ruby Beach

The wild tree April 27, 2013

Posted by Jenny in hiking, memoir, nature, poetry.
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"In theWoods," Paul Cezanne, 1899. He was a favorite painter of my mother.

“In the Woods,” Paul Cezanne, 1899. He was a favorite painter of my mother.

My mother loved to take walks in the woods. But she was not a bushwhacker. I always wonder what she would have thought about the remote places I’ve explored in the mountains. I wish she could have visited the hidden valleys and seen the secret waterfalls tucked away in the fastnesses of the forest, perpetually flowing into their deep and solitary pools, their churning white foam ceaselessly absorbed into the powerful clarity of the stream.

I wish she could have seen the scribblings of light on the pools, where the water steals colors from the bordering forest and stirs them in swirling patterns that never stop changing.

She would have appreciated those places better than anyone exactly because she believed in the otherness of nature. On her walks in the woods she knew that she herself created the magic that filtered down gently through the branches and onto the mossy pathways.

“Deep in the woods” was a favorite expression. She wasn’t “far into the woods” or “a long ways into the woods” but deep in them the same way she might have been deep in thought. She’d find her way into the maze of shadow and light, and once she’d arrived in those deepest glades, it wasn’t all that easy to get back out. And that was as it should be.

Her poem titled “The Wild Tree” speaks of a tree in the woods with no history, no symbolism, no human purpose. Its wildness comes from its perfect separation from human concerns.

The Wild Tree

“We have never seen an unobserved tree.” —Hans Reichenbach

Deep in a woods without edge or path stands a tree like all other trees.

It rests on the earth with only the weight of its shadow.

Its roots push into the ground just as the ground makes room for them.

It takes up space that is exactly the size and shape of itself.

It takes up time, one moment after another, and

It is the same color night and day. It rustles soundlessly.

And the shape of its leaves has never been drawn.

Birds alight in its branches and sing because they are birds, resting their wings.

It has no jinns or genies, no dryads or hamadryads.

It has no myth and no botany,

And in spite of its great age it has no history.

Its life is neither willed nor destined; nor is it accidental.

It is itself only.

—Barbara J. Bennett

Barbara Bennett, 1922 - 2007

Barbara Bennett, 1922 – 2007

Africa November 17, 2012

Posted by Jenny in history, poetry.
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This poem is a pantoum.

Africa

Deep in the interior, lines of smoke hung over the jungle.

Civilization came in a volley of gunfire.

Our steamer glided past the enigma of the coast,

past a black fringe of trees. Flags flapped above the settlement.

Civilization came in a volley of gunfire.

He marked the location of a wide, silent lake.

Past a black fringe of trees, flags flapped above the settlement.

Nowadays, of course, the hotel boasts a generator.

He marked the location of a wide, silent lake.

Violent lightning cleaves the skies over Juba.

Nowadays, of course, the hotel boasts a generator.

In the Nuba Mountains, families crouch in rock caves.

Violent lightning cleaves the skies over Juba.

Swarms of zebra ebbed and flowed across the blue plains.

In the Nuba Mountains, families crouch in rock caves.

The animals succumb to the nightmare of history.

Swarms of zebra ebbed and flowed across the blue plains.

King Leopold ignored reports of rubber slaves.

The animals succumb to the nightmare of history.

Company agents sliced off the rebels’ hands.

King Leopold ignored reports of rubber slaves.

Deep in the interior, lines of smoke hung over the jungle.

Company agents sliced off the rebels’ hands.

Our steamer glided past the enigma of the coast.

— Jenny Bennett

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