Chasing mystery
Honoring the wild

Standing our ground

Waterfall 1

From Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World by Scott Russell Sanders:

"My friend Richard, who wears a white collar to his job, recently bought forty acres of land that had been worn out by the standard local regimen of chemicals and corn. Evenings and weekends, he has set about restoring the soil by spreading manure, planting clover and rye, and filling the eroded gullies with brush. His pond has gathered geese, his young orchard has tempted deer, and his nesting boxes have attracted swallows and bluebirds. Now he is preparing a field for the wildflowers and prairie grasses that once flourished here. Having contemplated this work since he was a boy, Richard will not be chased away by fashions or dollars or tornadoes. On a recent trip he was distracted from the book he was reading by thoughts of renewing the land. So he sketched on the flyleaf a plan of labor for the next ten years....

Waterfall 2

"I think about Richard's ten-year vision when I read a report chronicling the habits of computer users who, apparently, grow impatient if they have to wait more than a second for their machine to respond. I use a computer, but I am wary of the haste it encourages. Few answers that matter will come to us in a second; some of the most vital answers will not come in a decade, or a century.

Waterfall 3

"When the chiefs of the Iroquois nation sit in council, they are sworn to consider how their decisions will affect their descendants seven generations into the future. Seven generations! Imagine our politicians thinking beyond the next opinion poll, beyond the next election, beyond their own lifetimes, two centuries ahead. Imagine our bankers, our corporate executives, our advertising moguls weighing their judgements on that scale. Looking seven generations into the future, could a developer pave another farm? Could a farmer spray another pound of poison? Could the captain of an oil tanker flush his tanks at sea? Could you or I write checks and throw switches without a much greater concern for what is bought and sold, what is burned?

Waterfall 4

"As I write this, I hear the snarl of earthmovers and chain saws a mile away destroying a farm to make way for another shopping strip. I would rather hear a tornado, whose damage can be undone. The elderly woman who owned the farm had it listed in the National Register, then willed it to her daughters on condition they preserve it. After her death, the daughters, who live out of state, had the will broken, so the land could be turned over to the chain saws and earthmovers. The machines work around the clock. Their noise wakes me at midnight, at three in the morning, at dawn. The roaring abrades my dreams. The sound is a reminder that we are living in the midst of a holocaust. I do not use the word lightly. The earth is being pillaged, and every one of us, willingly or grudgingly, is taking part. We ask how sensible, educated, supposedly moral people could have tolerated slavery or the slaughter of Jews. Similar questions will be asked about us by our descendants, to whom we bequeath an impoverished planet. They will demand to know how we could have been party to such waste and ruin. They will have good reason to curse our memory.

Waterfall 5

"What does it mean to be alive in an era when the earth is being devoured, and in a country that has set the pattern for that devouring? What are we called to do?

Waterfall 6

"I think we are called to the work of healing, both inner and outer: healing of the mind through a change in consciousness, healing of the earth through a change in our lives. We can begin the work by learning how to abide in a place. I am talking about an active commitment, not passive lingering. If you stay with a husband or wife out of laziness rather than love, that is inertia, not marriage. If you stay put through cowardice rather than conviction, you will have no strength to act. Strength comes, healing comes, from aligning yourself with the grain of your place and answering its needs....

Waterfall 7

"In belonging to a landscape, one feels a rightness, at-homeness, a knitting of self and the world. This condition of clarity and focus, this being fully present, is akin to what the Buddhists call mindfulness, what Christian contemplatives refer to as recollection, what Quakers call centering down. I am suspicious of any philosophy that would separate this-worldly from other-worldly commitment. There is only one world, and we participate in it here and now, in our flesh and our place."

Waterfall 8

Staying Put by Scott Russell Sanders

Rock hound

Words: The passage above is from "Settling Down," published in Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World by Scott Russell Sanders (Beacon Press, 1993). The poem in the picture captions is from The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Native America poet Joy Harjo  (WW Norton & Co., 1994). All rights reserved by the authors. Pictures: The waterfall on our hill, swollen with winter rain.

A few related posts: Down by the Riverside, The Dance of Joy and Grief, The Landscape of Story, and, from a slightly different slant, On Loss and Transfiguration.


Being Wary of Haste

We poets know that words,
those strange, estranged
children of another mother,
hide in the mind's bog.
We must wait them out,
dangle our lines
in the stream's rush,
take only the silver home.

I have waited years
for a poem's maturity,
longer than a child's full growth.
Why all mothers
do not write poems
is a mystery to me.
We are the greatest waiters
our bodies making no haste
for the child.
I had three.

Thank God I was no elephant.
Nine months was enough.
We move in nature
for as long as it takes,
nurture even longer.

The land is a poem
of serious length.
Curate it well.

©2019 Jane Yolen all rights removed.

"We can begin the work by learning how to abide in a place." Only when we root ourselves in a land, feel its seasons, its moods, observe its creatures with respect, can we begin the task of healing. Thank you for this timely and wise post, Terri.

Oh Jane!

What a powerful and beautiful way of defining how we must care for the earth with patience, insight and respect. Yes, the land, itself, is a poem that creates or stirs poetry within us. As writers and women we know how to plant, nurture and grow an idea, a plant, a dream or goal into something that vibrantly blooms and gives back in return. Your wonderful poem declares and celebrates this.

Amen to these lines --
The land is a poem
of serious length.
Curate it well.

Take care

The Tantrum

I could have warned you.
William Butler Yeats

The early wind turns from gust to ghost
possessing our tree. A child flailing her arms, shaking her head
as the gas mowers start spitting grass, and others prepare
to trim or slash a curbside wilderness.

Pigeons look on from the lamp post
aproned in pale grey. Nannies unwilling to intervene but allow
this wild dance tumbling out her angst, a ruptured grace,

and catkins hang like droplets
from a green roar of ocean silenced. The language of landscape now
a litany of axe, blade, engine.--
a barbarous tongue.


This was not only beautiful but so essential. The wisdom expressed in this essay is right on target. We need to take care of our planet now and prepare for future generations. I believe there the land has its own sense of spirit and is crying out for recognition and help. Thank you for these beautiful pictures and this wondrous perspective.

The above poem was written after tree trimmers and others mercilessly came into our neighborhood, a housing authority development where rules, regulations and frontal property/roads are all under administrative control)and began slashing branches off our trees without proper skill or knowledge. Some were decapitated and others deprived of healthy limbs. They also have no respect for wild flowers, ferns or other things that may grow among the groomed model. I watched the wind kick up and my tree ( which stands in front of our house) rebel, furiously flailing as if to say "I matter", Spare my integrity".

Again, many thanks!

Out of your sickbed and onto this bedrock of beauty you have struck such a pure tone with this post. I just published my own kind of settling of the books, and standing my ground ness here on Haumea one name my Kanaka Maoli Ancestors call Earth.

I nod in recognize at the impatience encouraged by the speed of the tool beneath my finger tips; and have to laugh at my query when my body starts to frazzle like a sparkler at its end.

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquis) do indeed speak of the Seven Generations for which all decisions are made. Robin Wall Kimmerer clarified who these generations are in a talk she gave (2018) entitled "We ..." The talk and Q & A are on YouTube and I link to it below. It is an investment of time worthy of grounding yourself to if you have not yet heard it.

Your post here Teri, and my own recognition of how to stand my ground at this stage of my 71+ years combines our legacies, crossing oceans on a cyberspace of Art. You who I would never have met if it weren't for this tool that can frazzle me like a sparkler and also link me with those Seven Generations in surprising ways.

The link to RWK's "We" is imbedded in how I envision my next 10 years:

Thank you for this!

I hear you, and feel your loss, and anger. We have dealt with a week of slash burn and made our experience a form of activism to take back the right to breathe deeply.
The acid irony for me is to be a daughter of a bulldozer man who suffered such soul and physical loss every day of his working life. For him, my father, and for me and those ancestors who look to me from the earth unturned I remember.
It has been a very, very busy year already.
Take care Wendy!

So beautifully said, Mokihanna,

the land is an extension, I believe, of our own soul. Its temperament mirrors, effects and challenges our own. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective! I deeply appreciate it and can totally relate.

Take care
my best always

Always a pleasure and a reward to read your responses to my poems, Wendy.


History Repeats

"Catkins hang like droplets
--Wendy Howe

There is a moment
when all natures tremble,
when the wind cuts
like a knife in the Revolution,
lightning becomes the executioner,
trees bare their necks to the saws,
and catkins tremble
before the guillotine.
Mercy is a word spoken
at every end, rarely given.

Whoever applauds this chaos
is a fool in the making,
You will be next in line.
The tumbrels, like the ovens,
are always waiting.

©2019 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Hi Jane

This so beautifully written with insight and impact! You show just how terrifying this is and becomes when "history repeats"!

lightning becomes the executioner,
trees bare their necks to the saws,
and catkins tremble
before the guillotine.
Mercy is a word spoken
at every end, rarely given.

Those lines are stunning and startle the reader. I can feel the pulse of them, the tremble, itself. I only wish people would care more about the wild and the gifts they keep trying to give us -- Shelter, growth, hope and knowledge. Thank you for this magnificent poem. It penetrates deeply and I can so deeply relate as well. I am also honored that one of my lines inspired this poem of yours. I deeply appreciate you sharing it with me!

Take care,
my best always

Cute shoes; cuter pup!

Definitely agree with the Iroquois leaders. Thinking about the future generation and about the future in general changes your perspectives about the present.

It reinforces and enriches perspectives. It removes and adds options. I should start doing it myself.

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