Category for love poems to the world

Trail signs along the PCT: Section Q

Just have to say that the trail signs in Section Q — the Marble Mountains — in the far north of California were the best (that is, most Zen) that I have seen along the length of California. They deserve remembering in their own right, so here goes:

Marble MoCame untain Wilderness sign IMG_2590

Next day I after about 5 or so miles I came to what turned out to be a superb water source, the sort of place I should have camped near, but oh well. Lovely place for a second breakfast.

Water sign IMG_2620

It’s a gorgeous area, which the signs hint in their own quiet way. If you look very closely you can see a grasshopper crouched in a nick in the sign above tghe “I.”

Sky High Lakes IMG_2728

This isn’t exactly a sign but it’s emblematic as hell of the area.

log waterfall IMG_2754

Wasn’t all beautiful: substantial burns to walk through at times, and the sky was smoky, from fires burning to the north and west.

PCT burn sign

This sign, at the base of the gorgeous trail along Grider Creek; well, if you look closely you will see it has some occult aspects. On the top post is written “State of Jefferson” with its rebel XX symbol, but below the post is written State of Mind. Pretty cool.

Cliff creek sign

Entering the tiny town of Seiad Valley, one sees these “No Monument” signs everywhere…though this one simplified the question impressively.

No Monument sign IMG_2918

Even the official signs in this area (Section R now) are most interesting than most.

Snag signs IMG_2929

I love the way signs in this section live past their legibility.

Zen sign IMG_2998

Or are taken into the landscape via trees:

Echo Lake IMG_3021

But this was my all-time fave:

PCT in tree IMG_3050

Full Story »

The genius of a place: Vaclav Cilek

Mesmerized to have stumbled upon a Czech geologist/climatologist/essayist/philosopher of place, via the great Robert MacFarlane, quoted here.

Vaclav Cilek sees the spirit of landscapes, or rather, sees the possibility of seeing the spirit, the true nature, the inner workings of landscapes (an idea with which he’s comfortable, having spent years cataloguing caves in and around Prague). One can’t summarize in a line or two the depth of his thought, one can only quote a bit, to which one wishes to return, as we return to poetry.

The Rule of Slow Approaching
The thought that you can arrive by a car, stay for a while and understand is in most places merely an illusion. Some places are shy, other places behave like a director in chief – they accept you, but you will need to wait. I know of one place (I am sure there are many, but I didn’t have enough time for them), where it is necessary to approach for three days. We never arrive to unknown sacred spaces directly, it is much better to walk slowly, to hesitate, to circle the place first and only then to approach. An unknown place is not only one that we do not know, but also one which doesn’t know us. Some places demand a great respect, but sometimes respect is in the way, and we achieve more with a smile.

And perhaps most exciting of all, Cilek although well aware of the changes to come in climate, does not appear to be a catastrophist.

My message is simple: the gods of the earth are awakening, the time of change is here, I say to myself with joy and apprehension.

memoryscape3

Full Story »

The Lions of Ventura County

Let me post (with some pride) my cover story this week in the Ventura County Reporter, on mountain lions, which benefitted enormously from pictures donated to the cause of the cougar by the National Park Service.

Here’s the cover:

P-19 cover

How could you not love P-19? And here’s the story.

THE TRUTH ABOUT BIG CATS | Saving the wild lions of Ventura County 

A small but important fact, gathered at the last possible moment, that sticks in the memory: “The California Department of Fish and Wildlife records show no mountain lion attacks on humans in the history of Ventura County, according to department spokesperson Kirsten MacIntyre.”

Full Story »

David Foster Wallace thinks about nature

In his classic (and often hilarious) essay for Harpers on the Illinois State Fair from l993, Ticket to the Fair, David Foster Wallace ruminated on many questions, including how people see nature in the MidWest.

He wrote:

Rural Midwesterners live surrounded by unpopulated land, marooned in a space whose emptiness starts to become both physical and spiritual. It’s not just people you get lonely for. You’re alienated from the very space around you, in a way, because out here the land’s less an environment than a commodity. The land’s basically a factory. You live in the same factory you work in. You spend an enormous amount of time with the land, but you’re still alienated from it in some way. It’s probably hard to feel any sort of Romantic spiritual connection to nature when you somehow have to make your living from it. 

To concentrate this thought: because rural Midwesterners can’t escape nature, they can’t romanticize it either. By contrast — he theorizes later in the piece — Easterners can see going to nature as getting away from it all because they don’t have much of it in their life.

A theory: Megalopolitan East-Coasters; summer vacations are literally getaways, flights-from — from crowds, noise, heat, dirt, the neural wear of too many stimuli. Thus ecstatic escapes to mountains, glassy lakes, cabins, hikes in silent woods. Getting Away From It All. Most East-Coasters see more than enough stimulating people and sights M-F, thank you; they stand in enough lines, buy enough stuff, elbow through crowds, see enough spectacles. Neon skylines. Convertibles with 110-watt sound systems. Grotesques on public transport. Spectacles at every urban corner practically grabbing you by the lapels, commanding confines and stimuli — silence, rustic vistas that hold still, a turning inward: Away. 

Here’s an example of an “Away” in Wallace terms: Half Dome last week from over its back (Eastern) shoulder, or officially, the “subdomes.

And as a Westerner it’s true for me too — I believe in “Away.”

HalfDomefromthesubdomes

Full Story »

Stay on Trail: Jordan Fisher Smith on our Nat’l Parks Bday

Jordan Fisher Smith, who has an excellent new book out called Engineering Eden, (on the challenge of managing wild bears in places like Yellowstone and Yosemite), brings his experience as a naturalist, a ranger, and a writer to bear on the meaning of our parks in an essay in the author’s on-line magazine Signature Reads.

It’s fascinating. For one, for Smith’s grasp of the parks’ history, and its founders’ thoughtfulness.

In the early 1930’s the Park Service’s George M. Wright noted that it would have been far easier to operate national parks purely as nature reserves, without visitors. But, very presciently, Wright argued that in a time of growing human populations, it was far more interesting to try to meet the needs of people and wildlife in one place. Wright’s world had only two billion inhabitants. Today, with over three times that many, there is much to be learned from how millions of people and irreplaceable wild treasures have been accommodated shoulder-to-shoulder in national parks.

Second, Smith knows how the parks at times have struggled to balance the needs of wildlife versus the needs of its human visitors — but he also knows how much the park service has learned.

…the Park Service [has gotten] much better at managing relations between people and nature. The agency finished installation of animal-proof trash receptacles and food storage vaults at all of its campgrounds, and working with private companies, encouraged the development of portable bear-proof food canisters for backpackers to carry when they were away from fixed facilities. At Sequoia National Park the Park Service demolished hundreds of rental cabins and hotel facilities in the sequoia groves and began allowing natural wildfire to do its necessary work, much to the benefit of the redwoods. The rangers reintroduced missing animals like wolves to Yellowstone and California condors to Pinnacles National Monument. A multi-decade public relations effort promoted “no-trace” or “minimum-impact” camping, resulting in a near-total change in behavior among backpackers, canoeists, and whitewater boaters. In some areas today you can walk or float for miles without seeing so much as a chewing gum wrapper on a busy trail or campsite.

And he calls for a transfer of the leave-no-trace ethic we have learned — or are trying to learn — from the wilderness to the world at large.

The parks have been a teaching institution for a way of looking at our impact on nature. And in my opinion it’s time to take the “no-trace” ethic I taught campers when I worked as a park ranger – in which you endeavor to have the least possible impact on the places you roll out your sleeping bag – out of the campgrounds and into the rest of the world, where climate change and other factors that will ultimately determine the survival of the national parks come from. Are you, the visitor, loving parks to death? No! Go enjoy them. If the oldest, most famous ones are crowded this summer, learn to know and love the lesser-known sites. Take only memories and photographs, leave only footprints, and try to carry this way of studying your relationship with nature back into a world that sorely needs it now. Happy birthday, national parks!

President Obama will visit Yosemite this weekend to commemorate the centennial; may his visit be blessed wth vast appreciation for what Ken Burns aptly called “America’s Best Idea.

DAY_TO_NIGHT_YOSEMITE

Stephen Wilkes photo, made of hundreds of images taken over 24 hours. for National Geographic.

Full Story »

A prayer for the earth: Pope Francis

On Valentine’s Day, one can’t overlook (well, one can, but shouldn’t) love for the earth from which we came.

From “Praise Be” from Pope Francis, a prayer for the earth [passage 178]:

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

h/p: Eric Holthaus

Kennedy Meadows

Kennedy Meadows

 

 

Full Story »

The birds of the Americas, passing thru

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a map of the migration of 118 species of birds in the Western hemisphere:

la-sorte-map-118-spp-64-725

[On this map none of these species have reached Southern California yet; actually, a few have reached Ventura County, I think. Saw some chickadee like birds on a walk. Though I read that this has been a difficult year for migratory birds in California, because in the drought farmers have cut back from soaking their fields.]

Full Story »

painting the desert at night: Eric Merrell

The Los Angeles Review of Books has been an absolute cornucopia of good essay writing as of late: so much so I can’t keep up. But still they outdid themselves last week with a gorgeous portriat of a young artist who likes to paint the desert at night, named Eric Merrell. Great stuff. Picture quality is superb, extraordinary. Can’t recommend it enough, and I don’t much like web videos.

Yet and somehow this is a film, not a video, and it’s cinematically gorgeous. Note: the words and voice come first:

 

“When night falls in the desert, it becomes almost an entirely new world. A lot of the shapes lose their definition, and the edges become blurred together. It becomes a lot more abstract. Sound becomes much more prevalent, and you can hear little things stirred around in the sand. It’s hard to tell where the fact ends and the fiction begins.”

–Eric Merrell

Full Story »

The Lost Brother — Latterly strikes again

To encourage interest and subscription, Latterly magazine, an on-line journal of stories from around the world,  run by the wizardly editor Ben Wolford, released as a “single” a marvelously rich and well-written, well-edited, and well-composed story about life north of the Arctic Circle, on an island off the coast of Iceland. It’s called The Lost Brother. It’s free, and it’s a journey into another world.

Grímsey had built a reputation as an oasis of the north — an island with endless supplies of fish in nearby waters, pleasant weather and peace (to date, there has been no recorded crime on Grímsey, nor has there ever been a local police force).

svafarbjarn-1447264281-45

 

 

Full Story »

NYC writer meets nature: The Great Surrender

A young writer lays out what it is to fall into a relationship with nature — reluctantly.

…if you had told me a decade earlier, when I was living in New York City working as a magazine editor, that I would someday move to Montana—and for a man—I would have scoffed: “What a hilarious idea.” If you had told me that by taking this leap of faith, which could have gone wrong in any number of ways, large or small, I would develop one of the most significant and sustaining, though at times frustrating, relationships of my life—with nature —I would have laughed: “Are you sure you’ve got the right girl?”

It’s nature writing for the impatient 21st century, with great pics. Via Good.

Morgan-Phillips-Photography_4

Full Story »