A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

A Questionably Lodgepole Pine: Lodgepole Pine stand Yellowstone Collection Courtesy US National Parks Service, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer October 27, 1988
Lodgepole Pine stand
Yellowstone Collection
Courtesy US National Parks Service,
Bob Stevensoon, Photographer
October 27, 1988
Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with fun or fancy things to say for the radio. It’s just a thing that happens. A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

When that happens, sometimes I’ll just go outside and pick something happening around me, or something I think of when outside and write about that. Sometimes or almost always, creativity for me is not clean-cut. It can be kinda formulaic: talk about things you see, feel, and think in a way that hopefully helps folks balance listening, their imagination, and hopefully hope all at the same time. It’s at least an ideal.

But sometimes instead what comes out when you’re outdoors, is stuff that is kinda dumb and pretty funny. Truth be told, I prefer dumb funny things. I think stuff that is funny is better than stuff that isn’t funny. Funny stuff is fun.

And so, here’s me sitting in a big gold puffy coat and well-napkined Carhartts in a foldable lawn chair under gray winter sky, and jack is happening around me. No birds tweeting. No fresh tracks. Not even no dim ray of sunshine. Just hands as cold as cold hands can be. Then I see a dead skyward and questionably lodgepole pine. I thought it could maybe have a second life as a flagpole, the name I thought it could be and all. And then I wondered…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly
Regardless I doubt they’d much care if it was green
Beings they’ve got no eyes

No eyes no ears no tongue no nose
Not even fully developed human hands which spring from their roots so

And then I thought…

If ducks could sing opera
Like dark Verdi arias
I think they’d quack less good
But dig in no less mud

No lips no fur lays eggs webbed toes
Brains like walnuts, only knows where south goes

And then…

If clouds could pick
What unit of measure that they preferred
I’d reckon volume’d be tricky
Be hard to pin down where the mass does now occur

No lungs no feet bring snow turns sleet
Don’t even got clocks to keep time.

And that’s where it ended. Stream ran Utah dry. And that’s ok.

And even though when I read what I wrote to my partner she gave me that look of, “you sure?” I couldn’t help but think, “yup!” so I laughed and smiled wide.

So here’s me saying to you that sometimes, when you go looking for inspiration about the world from that old all-about-us well that is the world, don’t turn up your nose on silly things. Funny things that pop into your mind, even if they are dumb. Because once, someone probably thought something wild and dumb that ended up being kind of neat. Or something that they thought about. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll have to ask ourselves again…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly?
Would they measure it in cubits,
Or some other unit from the sky?

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy US National Park Service, Yellowstone Collection, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/conifers/pine/Page-3.htm
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

McNally, Catherine, How to Cure Writer’s Block: Go Green, Medium, October 7, 2019, https://medium.com/@catherine.mcnally/how-to-cure-writers-block-go-green-e0c00e8e614

Lodgepole Pine, Range Plants of Utah, Utah State University Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/LodgepolePine



Up a Fork in the Cache National Forest

Up a Fork in the Cache National Forest: Cache National Forest Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Stokes Nature Center https://logannature.org
Cache National Forest
Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Stokes Nature Center
https://logannature.org
There’s a place I like to walk, when I don’t know where else to go, up a Fork in the Cache National Forest.
It’s got all that I want, and all my dog needs: good views and plenty of fast clear water.Up a Fork in the Cache National Forest

It starts off hot and dry, breaks you in quick, but soon the sun’s not so bad.
Walking along the way, helps my mind stray, and soak up right where I am.

The office, the traffic, the honey-dos and the chores all slip freely from my mind,
As I watch my dog sprint, over gentian and mint, and love being as free as the wild.

Being out there and free, helps me think and see, that I’m a part of instead of apart from,
This beautiful world, full of imperfect others, that with time are revealed as imperfect Thous.

This world, this here, this beautiful now, I choose and choose nowhen else,
Because today I see beavers, and grasshoppers, and eagles, and get to wonder when the ducks will again fly south.

My dog and I continue, to hike along the trail, until we come to the Cottonwood Graveyard,
There we stop, maybe stay, for a while and a bit, and she swims after sticks thrown in ponds.

After she’s had a cooldown, we keep hiking uptrail, into the thick of evergreen scents,
My calves start mooing, and my dog she keeps zooming, a bobsledder hot in the chute.

When the trees do break, and the land opens again, we cross the river one last time,
It brings us into a place, folks once knew back in the day, as the sawmill with the best oxen in town.

Me and my dog, we’ll linger there for a minute, and I’ll think how happy we are,
That this place was here, but isn’t any longer, or else the boon would not be worth the trial.

On our way back to the car, it’s hard work to keep your mind far, from the valley to-dos in the not far ahead,
But I remember why, I take the time to get out under the sky, in the wild to clear my over-civilized head:

You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, but he also can’t drink unless he’s at that trough.
So even if today’s got you feeling astray, remember there’s good liquid if you’d like it not too far off.

So go out today, or tomorrow or Thursday, make it a formal appointment if it’ll keep you true,
Doesn’t matter the place, as long as there’s space, to keep an eye out for the moments which pull the awe to you.

And when you find them, because if you look hard you will, take a minute and breathe in the crackling air’s hum.
And remember that smell, and keep it deep in your heart, because that’s the wild wind that makes all it and us one.

I’m Patrick Kelly and I’m Wild About Utah
 
Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Ohms, Sarah, Bridgerland Audubon Society, Logan Canyon Hiking, https://LoganCanyonHiking.com/

The Allen & Alice Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Kelly, Patrick, In the Eyes of a Bear, Wild About Utah, July 27, 2020 https://wildaboututah.org/in-the-eyes-of-a-bear/

Poetry of the Forest

Poetry of the Forest: Fall Colors along the Nebo Loop between Payson, UT and HWY 132 between Nephi and Fountain Green. Courtesy USDA Forest Service
Fall Colors along the Nebo Loop between Payson, UT and HWY 132 between Nephi and Fountain Green.
Courtesy USDA Forest Service

There are people who can capture beautiful scenery by painting on canvas, using film photography, and with digital technology. And these forms of art can be visually stunning. But there is a unique perspective of visualizing when written words are read, allowing one’s mind to see not only the exterior of a scene, but the interior heart intended by the writer.

What memories does your mind recall as you listen to the words of these renowned authors about the poetry of the forest?

  • Robert Louis Stevenson – …it is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of the air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
  • John Fowles – In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them, yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me.
  • Walt Whitman – Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
  • William Wordsworth – One impulse from a vernal wood may teach you more of man, of moral evil and of good, than all the sages can.
  • Marcel Proust – We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees, that vigorous and Pacific tribe which without stint produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent and intimate hours.
  • Washington Irving – As the leaves of trees are said to absorb all noxious qualities of the air, and to breathe forth a purer atmosphere, so it seems to me as if they drew from us all sordid and angry passions and breathed forth peace and philanthropy. There is a severe and settled majesty in woodland scenery that enters into the soul, and dilates and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.
  • James Henry Leigh Hunt – They refresh the commonplaces of life, shed a harmony through the busy discord, and appeal to those first sources of emotion, which are associated with the remembrance of all that is young and innocent. They seem also to present us with a portion of the tranquility we think we are laboring for.
  • Harold Monro – One summer afternoon, you find some lonely trees. Persuade your mind to drowse. Then, as your eyelids close, and you still hover into those three stages of a darkening doze, this side the barrier of sleep,…..pause. In that last clear moment open quick your sight toward where the green is bright and thick. Be sure that everything you keep to dream with is made out of trees.

    Plantng a Tree Coutesy USDA Forest Service
    Plantng a Tree
    Coutesy USDA Forest Service
    *Lucy Larcom – He who plants a tree plants a hope.

  • Henry David Thoreau – In wildness is the preservation of the world. Silence alone is worthy to be heard.
  • English Proverb – He that plants trees loves others beside himself.

     
    Credits:
    Text: Excerpts from the book, “The Forest”, compiled by Michelle Lovric https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Poetry-Earth-Michelle-Levric/dp/1561385077
    Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service
    Collector & Reader: Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

    Additional Reading

    Lovric, Michelle, The Forest, A Celebration of Nature, In Word and Image, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Poetry-Earth-Michelle-Levric/dp/1561385077

    Poems about Trees, Academy of American Poets, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poems-about-trees

    Search for Poems about Trees, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/search?query=trees

  • May Swenson: Observer of nature and Utah poet

    May Swenson: Observer of nature and Utah poet: Click for larger picture, May Swenson, 1965 in Tucson Copyright  L.H. Clark, Courtesy Utah State University Press
    May Swenson, 1965 in Tucson
    Copyright © L.H. Clark
    Courtesy Utah State University Press

    Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

    In Logan Cemetery a granite bench marks the grave of May Swenson, a native Utahn and eminent poet. She was born in Logan in 1913 and attended Utah State University where she published her first poem. She moved east in 1936, and eventually, she became one of America’s most inventive and recognized poets, She won many awards including Guggenheim and Rockefeller grants, the Yale Bollingen Prize, and the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Utah State University conferred an honorary doctorate on Swenson in 1987. Despite her many achievements and her years living away from Utah, Swenson never forgot her Mormon heritage or her identity as a Westerner.

    Nature played a prominent role in Swenson’s work. In fact, she published a collection of poetry called Nature: Poems Old and New which is brimming with imagery that evokes the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

    Here’s an example: a poem called April Light read by Paul Crumbley, a professor of English at Utah State University who specializes in Swenson’s work.

    April light
    Lined with light
    the twigs are stubby arrows.
    A gilded trunk writhes
    Upward from the roots,
    from the pit of the black tentacles.
    In the book of spring
    a bare-limbed torso
    is the first illustration.
    Light teaches the tree
    to beget leaves,
    to embroider itself all over
    with green reality,
    until summer becomes
    its steady portrait
    and birds bring their lifetime
    to the boughs.
    Then even the corpse
    light copies from below
    may shimmer, dreaming it feels
    the cheeks of blossom.

    Another of Swenson’s poems describes a well-known natural feature in Utah.

    Listen to this excerpt of Above Bear Lake:

    A breeze, and the filtered light makes shine
    A million bristling quills of spruce and fir
    Downslope, where slashes of sky and lake
    Hang blue—windows of intense stain. We take
    The rim trail, crushing bloom of sage,
    Sniffing resinous wind, our boots in the wild,
    Small, everycolored Rocky Mountain flowers.
    Suddenly, a steep drop-off: below we see the whole,
    the whale of it—deep, enormous blue—
    that widens, while the sky slants back to pale

    behind a watercolored mountain.

    Listening to this makes me feel like I’m standing on the scenic outlook at the summit of Logan Canyon. That is, of course, where Swenson wrote it.

    For more on the Utah poet May Swenson, see our website www.wildaboututah.org
    Thanks to Paul Crumbley and Maria Melendez of the English Dept. at Utah State University.
    And thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting the research and development for today’s program.

    For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

    Credits:

    Readings: Paul Crumbley and Maria Melendez of the English Dept, Utah State University

    Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

    Learn More:

    Knudson, R.R. and Suzzanne Bigelow. 1996. May Swenson: A Poet’s Life in Photos. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.