For those who don’t know, Oregon is on fire.
So is Montana. And California. And all this while Texas reels from Harvey, the Caribbean is being hit by Irma (and Florida is bracing herself) and a thousand people just died in a monsoon in India.
And my own Oregon, including my beautiful Columbia River Gorge, just outside Portland. There is a fire ravaging over 30,000 acres right now, at 0% containment and spreading, just over 20 miles from my home. The ash is covering the city, and we are all choking and nauseous from the smoke.
I have thoughts on capitalism and climate change and environmental racism and all kinds of other ugly shit that I helped lay out on Socialist Worker. But I’m also grieving.
So I thought I’d share some of the love poems I’ve written to this beautiful place over the years. They’re not all my best poems, some of them I haven’t even shared before. But now is the time.
I wrote this poem when I was living in Virginia, spending a lot of time in Shenandoah National Park (which is amazing, by the way) and desperately missing my own mountains.
Was I made for these woods?
No, I was made for woods of pine; woods of fog and evergreen as ancient as the mountains.
I was made to sing praises to a snow-pointed majesty from the depths of her valleys.
I was made to hear native song as sacred earthliness; to feel the fragile blueness of a seagull’s call.
I was made to dance between mountains, as my glittering mother does.
I was made to revel in the cool, light touch of the sky when she sends all her fingers down to feel me; to smell the new life her touch brings.
I was made to glory in such a place, yet I find myself in tired, gentle forests of rabbit and white-tailed deer; of mountain laurel and oakfern.
These woods sense I am sick for a different mountain wilderness. They open mossy arms and rocky cliffs and embrace me.
I was not made for these woods, but in them, I don’t have to be.
My love songs to the mountains
are swept up
by a southeastern wind, coming off the ocean to bring my lyrics
to where they belong–
the echoes and valleys of the Columbia majesties.
But no sooner does that wind pick up my voice than it is
in a vehicular rush,
that millions of people in living machines
My voice is lost, and my praises unheard,
continue to sing.
This poem was written shortly after I moved back home to Portland.
The loneliness of my soul is no match
for this kind of belonging.
Where high rises commune with pine and maple,
there is a pentacle floating just above,
a tribute to oneness
and to the two million souls entangled, like Northwest vines, with the limbs of their forested mother.
Peace, she whispers. There is hope.
I breathe. I am home.