earthweal open link weekend #159



Greetings, and welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #159. Share a favorite poem and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST.  We’re now doing bi-weekly challenges, so the next challenge will roll out March 13.

Happy linking!

— Brendan



By Sherry Marr

Come take a walk with me into the rainforest. As we move deeper in, the sounds of town fall away. It feels like the trees are watching our entry, listening to our footfalls. The silence here curls around us, sweetly protective. How safe the wild ones must feel in here, when Two-Leggeds are not present.

There is a small pond, with a creek burbling, on the left. The yellow swamp lanterns stand tall and proud. Small mushrooms cluster atop a stump. It is so silent here, the absence of sound can be felt almost as a presence. And there are presences here: the Standing People, the ferns and fronds, and all of the creatures, small and large, who keep themselves hidden when the Two-Leggeds come.

Now we have walked down the steep steps, and have come out of the trees onto the shore. The wind is blowing westerly today, and the waves are wild and joyous, loud, crashing on the rocks with breathtaking sprays of white foam. Brother Eagle soars above, alighting on a scrag, giving his piercing cry. The sound of nature in full roar. There is a small island off to the right. One calm spring evening, I heard a thousand small birds singing there, all at once, as dusk fell. Then a floatplane engine roared and they all fell silent, as one voice, as if their conductor had snapped his baton.

Here is where the wild world and the one humanity has conquered meet. Our kind is noisy, clamorous. The wild ones are wary. They know we are unpredictable, that some of us are dangerous. They have watched us dismantling their world. I feel the weight of that.

I am back home, now, sitting in my yard in the sun. One block up First Street, an entire rocky outcropping, a full half-block deep, is being drilled, loosened, scooped up and carried away in trucks to make way for three homes for the wealthy, since the not-wealthy are barely able to hang onto life in this town any more. (Ironically, the lot belongs to the town planner who is also in charge of drafting a tree protection bylaw for Tofino. It is taking forever. Maybe now this small forest is gone, we will get our bylaw? Will there be many trees left by the time we have one? Stay tuned.)

Kitty-corner, one block in the other direction, where chain saws removed half of Tonquin Forest in the fall, big equipment is busy all day long, scraping, bulldozing, digging, loading what once lived there – entire ecosystems – into trucks sent to the dump. What is left is a scraped-bare moonscape. It hurts my heart.

Where did the owls and bats, raccoons, wolves and bears go, who once lived here? So little forest and habitat are left, so many wild ones displaced. A cougar strolls through town, confused, looking for the forest that once kept him out of sight. Crews cropped the berry bushes that lined paths around town. What will the bears eat, when they soon venture out after their uneasy, hungry winter sleep? They were already so thin last fall.

Float planes and small boats are busy in the harbor where, just this morning, my friend saw orcas passing through. Traffic is everywhere. For such a small village, it is astounding how many cars there are, trying to find places to park, lined up behind each other on the road into town, where hydro crews are savagely ripping and tearing at the trees lining the highway. They are not just trimming or limbing directly under the hydro lines – they are leaving behind skinned poles, looking like a line of chopsticks with a bit of frothy top. They are cutting far more, and deeper into the bush, than is needed to keep the hydro lines clear. Trees are coming down everywhere, at a pace I have not seen before.

Is no where safe from us? Why do we think that our voracious needs are all that matters, as we clearcut and pave the world to live like kings?

Should we visit the city now, where the traffic roars louder than the waves, skytrains zoom back and forth, and the crush of humanity can be felt on every city block? We are so many, the noisiest species on the planet, which is being devoured to keep us alive. Industry needs to gobble. Profit before planet. It is a beast whose appetite can only be satisfied by feeding it pieces of the earth.

The Conversation at PBS explains, “As transportation networks expand and urban areas grow, noise from sources such as vehicle engines is spreading into remote places. Human-caused noise has consequences for wildlife, entire ecosystems and people. It reduces the ability to hear natural sounds, which can mean the difference between life and death for many animals, and degrade the calming effect that we feel when we spend time in wild places.” I think of whales, who communicate underwater, impacted by our many boat engines. Of elephants, who communicate with infrasound, stalked by poachers for their tusks.





Ellen Bass

I try to look at the big picture.
The sun, ardent tongue
licking us like a mother besotted

with her new cub, will wear itself out.
Everything is transitory.
Think of the meteor

that annihilated the dinosaurs.
And before that, the volcanoes
of the Permian period – all those burnt ferns

and reptiles, sharks and bony fish –
that was extinction on a scale
that makes our losses look like a bad day at the slots.

And perhaps we’re slated to ascend
to some kind of intelligence
that doesn’t need bodies, or clean water, or even air.

But I can’t shake my longing
for the last six hundred
Iberian lynx with their tufted ears,

Brazilian guitarfish, the 4
per cent of them still cruising
the seafloor, eyes staring straight up.

And all the newborn marsupials –
red kangaroos, joeys the size of honeybees –
steelhead trout, river dolphins,

so many species of frogs
breathing through their damp
permeable membranes.

Today, on the bus, a woman
in a sweater the exact shade of cardinals,
and her cardinal-colored bra strap, exposed

on her pale shoulder, makes me ache
for those bright flashes in the snow.
And polar bears, the cream and amber

of their fur, the long, hollow
hairs through which the sun slips,
swallowed into their dark skin. When I get home,

my son has a headache and, though he’s
almost grown, asks me to sing him a song.
We lie together on the lumpy couch

and I warble out the old show tunes, “Night and Day”…
“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”… A cheap
silver chain shimmers across his throat

rising and falling with his pulse. There never was
anything else. Only these excruciatingly
insignificant creatures we love.

No one can say it any better than that. Sigh. When I look at the big picture, it is hard to hold onto hope. Yet how can we live without it? We live the day we are given. And when times get harder, we will live those, too. The only certainty, during this accelerating climate crisis, is that our turn will come. Extreme weather events (caused by our remorseless emissions) play no favourites.

We become accustomed to the noise: the roar of traffic, seaplanes, heavy machinery, the cacophony of cities. We only have to step into the forest, to have our stress fall away, to feel the enduring peace of the patient trees, who are trying so hard to stay alive to save us. They speak to us without words, teaching us peacefulness. We need this Deep Peace as much as we need oxygen.

Bernie Krause is a soundscape ecologist, as well as a musician. Krause has concentrated on the recording and archiving of wild natural soundscapes from around the world. Interestingly, using synthesizer sounds he had recorded, Krause helped lure Humphrey the Whale, a migrating female humpback that had wandered into Sacramento River Delta and apparently got lost, back to the Pacific Ocean.

“Every natural soundscape,” he explains, “generates its own unique signature, one that contains incredible amounts of information. When we listen closely, it gives us valuable tools by which to evaluate the health of a habitat across the entire spectrum of life.” Indigenous people have always known that the soundscape of a place can indicate when an ecosystem has been unsettled by human encroachment.

“When we recognize the personhood of beings,” writes Sherri Mitchell in Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth,

we start to recognize that they have something valuable to teach us…Every plant, tree and animal carries its own unique wisdom and can teach us how to live harmoniously with one another and in relationship to Mother Earth. When we extend our view of kinship beyond our anthropocentric view, a whole new world of knowledge becomes available to us…When we love, we treat the beloved with reverence and respect. Indigenous peoples living in accordance with these beliefs have lived in loving relationship with the beings in the natural world for millennia.

In order to survive, we must all come to realize that we do not exist solely for the benefit and development of our individual lives as human beings. Rather, our role as human beings is to evolve into a state of interbeing with the rest of life so that we may join the universal flow that is ever moving toward harmony and balance. This is the only way life on Mother Earth will remain viable into the future.

I am weary, friends – from watching the news, from watching the trees fall, from watching leaders who are either preferring the “alternate reality” of denial, or are wilfully ignoring the climate crisis in hopes of being re-elected. Either way, it is self-interest governing those who should be putting the survival of their constituents before their own love of power. I am weary from watching hungry, displaced animals, the first climate refugees, wandering the earth, along with human refugees, now numbering in the millions, displaced by extreme climate events, (un)“natural” disaster and war.

Walk with me back into the forest. Let’s find some peace. Breathe in – how sweet the air is in here, away from car exhaust. Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that the trees are watching us? Are they trying to tell us something about peace, about how it is a choice that we can make, as a species? Thankfully, it is a choice we can make personally, when the world weighs on us. I am grateful there are places near me, still, where I can go to commune with the natural world.

May this always be so, for all who follow after.



Anne Haven McDonnell

She said it softly, without a need
for conviction or romance.
After everything? I asked, ashamed.

That’s not the kind of love she meant.
She walked through a field of gray
beetle-bored pine, snags branching

like polished bone. I forget sometimes
how trees look at me with the generosity
of water. I forget all the other

breath I’m breathing in.
Today I learned that trees can’t sleep
with our lights on. That they knit

a forest in their language, their feelings.
This is not a metaphor.
Like seeing a face across a crowd,

we are learning all the old things,
newly shined and numbered.
I’m always looking

for a place to lie down
and cry. Green, mossed, shaded.
Or rock-quiet, empty. Somewhere

to hush and start over.
I put on my antlers in the sun.
I walk through the dark gate of the trees.

Grief waters my footsteps, leaving
a trail that glistens. 

— Poems and essay excerpts are from the anthology All We Can Save, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson.

For our challenge this week, let’s write about soundscapes, loud or quiet. Where do you find relief, for your beleaguered spirit? What are the sounds of the place where you live? What is happening to the natural world and the creatures near you? I look forward to reading your replies.

— Sherry

earthweal open link weekend #158


Greetings, and welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #158. Share a favorite poem and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST when the next bi-weekly challenge rolls out. Sherry Marr takes up the reins again with a prompt titled “Soundscapes.” You won’t want to miss it!

Happy linking —


earthweal open link weekend #157


Greetings, and welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #157. Share a favorite poem and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST.  We’re now doing bi-weekly challenges, so the next challenge will roll out Feb. 27.

Happy linking!

— Brendan


Entrance to the Findhorn garden


Greetings all, hope the new year is unfolding with fresh poems and germinating work.

Recently I’ve been delving back into some classic New Age literature as part of a book project about my father’s work founding what he called the “megalithic park” of Columcille. Back in the mid-70s our talk was fertile with the idea that a New Age of cooperation between human and non-human entities would result in florid communities — gardens growing in the snow and good things made manifest by great thought.

I lost track of most of it decades ago but as I summon my father from his grave, I have been able to use history as a litmus for some of his mysteries. (As I heard someone in AA say once, “God’s will is what happened.”) It’s an ongoing assessment — just beginning, really — but it has warbled into in my dreamscape and returns my thought here to earthweal and what it is we are trying to offer through our daily lives and work here to the time.

Most poignantly for me, the New Age (rather dated after 50 years) put forth the idea that the natural commons is one of humans and non-humans like, be they animal, vegetal, mineral or stellar. A cosmos of We. Poetry for me is the angelic language of that communion, ours to channel and reflect back to the world.

When I read of the Findhorn community still growing today, it is faithful to its New Age origins yet is ever growing and evolving. It’s three guiding practices — inner listening, work as love in action and co-creation with the intelligence in nature —attune to manifest creation and the inner world alike, alive in and through each other, the way the Celtic Otherworld was the spectral reality for pagan and early Christian Celt.

Findhorn Ecovillage is a thriving experiment in sustainable community and has been designated as a UN-Habitat model of best practice in such living arrangements. My father’s community struggles far short of the successes at Findhorn, but there is a deep and resonant love of the land there which deeply affects all who visit there — a vibe of living eternity. It’s rare and precious and must find means to survive and thrive in this century. (No small challenge.) I’m hoping the book, if its greenlit, will keep my father’s better angels at work in that.

Anyway, this week let’s  shine a light on the universal commons we live in, as human, animal, vegetable, mineral or stellar co-participants. My father took to stone; I favor wood; others love the wind or the sea, cats or fireflies, wheat or whales, hummingbird hearts and sprawling constellations in the night sky.

For this challenge Honor an element and invite it to our poetry commons.

Here’s to the dance!

— Brendan



William Wordsworth

The stars are mansions built by Nature’s hand,
And, haply, there the spirits of the blest
Dwell, clothed in radiance, their immortal vest;
Huge Ocean shows, within his yellow strand,
A habitation marvelously planned,
For life to occupy in love and rest;
All that we see – is dome, or vault, or nest,
Or fortress, reared at Nature’s sage command.
Glad thought for every season! but the Spring
Gave it while cares were weighing on my heart,
’Mid song of birds, and insects murmuring;
And while the youthful year’s prolific art –
Of bud, leaf, blade, and flower – was fashioning
Abodes where self-disturbance hath no part.



Diane Seuss

The danger of memory is going
to it for respite. Respite risks
entrapment. Don’t debauch
yourself by living
in some former version of yourself
that was more or less naked. Maybe
it felt better then, but you were
not better. You were smaller, as the rain
gauge must fill to the brim
with its full portion of suffering.

What can memory be in these terrible times?
Only instruction. Not a dwelling.

Or if you must dwell:
The sweet smell of weeds then.
The sweet smell of weeds now.
An endurance. A standoff. A rest.



Robinson Jeffers

We stayed the night in the pathless gorge of Ventana Creek, up the east fork.
The rock walls and the mountain ridges hung forest on forest above our heads, maple and redwood,
Laurel, oak, madrone, up to the high and slender Santa Lucian firs that stare up the cataracts
Of slide-rock to the star-color precipices.

We lay on gravel and kept a little camp-fire for warmth.
Past midnight only two or three coals glowed red in the cooling darkness; I laid a clutch of dead bay-leaves
On the ember ends and felted dry sticks across them and lay down again. The revived flame
Lighted my sleeping son’s face and his companion’s, and the vertical face of the great gorge-wall
Across the stream. Light leaves overhead danced in the fire’s breath, tree-trunks were seen: it was the rock wall
That fascinated my eyes and mind. Nothing strange: light-gray diorite with two or three slanting seams in it,
Smooth-polished by the endless attrition of slides and floods; no fern nor lichen, pure naked rock…as if I were
Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the flame-lit surface into the real and bodily
And living rock. Nothing strange…I cannot
Tell you how strange: the silent passion, the deep nobility and childlike loveliness: this fate going on
Outside our fates. It is here in the mountain like a grave smiling child. I shall die, and my boys
Will live and die, our world will go on through its rapid agonies of change and discovery; this age will die,
And wolves have howled in the snow around a new Bethlehem: this rock will be here, grave, earnest, not passive: the energies
That are its atoms will still be bearing the whole mountain above: and I, many packed centuries ago,
Felt its intense reality with love and wonder, this lonely rock.



Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.



Emily Dickinson

As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea—
And that—a further—and the Three
But a presumption be—

Of Periods of Seas—
Unvisited of Shores—
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be—
Eternity—is Those—



Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?



William Stafford

A sky so blue it hurts frames
all else, and in silence this oldest thing
alive clenches on edges if found
long ago and began to grow.

Almost freed of life, this tree
weathers nobly, yielding back nine thousand
growth rings to the bracing air that
hums with sunlight even when it freezes.

A raven shadow touches us;
we get stronger, just by being
here, almost freed by the sun.



Pablo Neruda

This salt
in the salt cellar
I once saw in the salt mines.
I know
you won’t
believe me
it sings
salt sings, the skin
of the salt mines
with a mouth smothered
by the earth.
I shivered in those
when I heard
the voice
the salt
in the desert.
Near Antofagasta
the nitrous
v oice,
a mournful

In its caves
the salt moans, mountain
of buried light,
translucent cathedral,
crystal of the sea, oblivion
of the waves.
And then on every table
in the world,
we see your piquant
vital light
our food.
of the ancient
holds of ships,
the high seas,
of the unknown, shifting
byways of the foam.
Dust of the sea, in you
the tongue receives a kiss
from ocean night:
taste imparts to every seasoned
dish your ocean essence;
the smallest,
wave from the saltcellar
reveals to us
more than domestic whiteness;
in it, we taste infinitude.



Seamus Heaney


Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint’s kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters’
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.


I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Stockinged corpses
Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.


Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,

Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.