Archives for posts with tag: forests

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After the burning
the forest returns
by Kelley White

—for Dr. Al Shigo, May 8, 1930-October 6, 2006

“Trees as a group are intelligent. Intelligence
means the ability to connect information
in ways that assure survival.”

past seared hemlock, split beach, scarred maple,
I am waiting by the damp places for the thick amazement
of berries, brave through the squalling mosquito clouds,
the tearing tartness of red, raspberry, thick confusion, of black,
berry, hard ticking of grasshopper and bee as the sun climbs
noon through new green aspen saplings, moose
maple, stinkwood, black birch cotyledons, choke
cherry, ash, —pushing two-leaved through low growth—
creepers, princess pine, ground pine, mosses, whip fork
and broom, powder gun, hairy cap, succulent snow-
berry, wintergreen, fierce climbing snapdragon,
thrust through fecund droppings, bear, moose, deer
sign, rabbit scat, new green touch-me-not, honeysuckle,
wild grape, strangling bittersweet, and your own, your fungi,
destroying angel, puff ball, witch’s butter, morel,
staghorn, in scrub brush, sumac, elderberry, in liminal
cattail, pussy willow, prickly wild rose; white light
on the ledges, the granite mountain, past tree line,
hot crow call on sun-burned shoulder, cracked paper
birch, wind-burned pine in the place of eagles,
pail thump of rock blueberries in lichen dry desert
(lush moss-worlds after rain,) checkerberries, trillium, Indian
pipe, ladyslipper, one shaft of sunlight, and dark
owl-pellet damp, cool waterfall thrush; trees may not heal,
but the forest does, seeks fingerling strawberries
in low burning grass, sand tunneling bee hiss, skitter
ant, quick knee prickle through juniper sharp branches—
read the runes, beetle-track beneath bark, dragonflies
in coupled flight, ballooning spiders, sugar maples scarred
by drunk sapsuckers, and ashes, noon hot bird sky, you, rising
ash, smoke, pollen, snake in hawkgrasp, seed, falling—my
startled hand seizing all, red tipped and eager, pushing
into the heart of brambles, transfixed by thorns—
almost worth the fire, the blackened stumps

PAINTING: Fires in the Forest by Laszlo Mednyanszky (1910).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Renowned plant pathologist Alex Shigo lived across the street from me as I was growing up in a small New Hampshire town during the 1960s. I remember many hikes with Dr. Shigo and my best friend, his daughter Judy, and learned much about insect life and fungi and something about the many layers of life in a forest. (To quote his story in Wikipedia, he was “a biologist, plant pathologist with the United States Forest Service whose studies of tree decay resulted in many improvements to standard arboricultural practices.”) Judy now oversees his archives and handles requests for his publications, including Modern Arboriculture—Touch Trees. I was very excited to hear him quoted a few years ago in a workshop I attended in Philadelphia about tending “urban trees.” His work, and my remembrance of his teaching, give me some hope for our multi-species planet, even for one of his special areas of expertise, the lowly yet vital fungi. (Let me mention here a book he guided me to: Lucy Kavaler’s 1965 Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles, as fascinating now as when I read it in fourth grade.)

kelley white 1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner-city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle, and JAMA. Her most recent collection is A Field Guide to Northern Tattoos (Main Street Rag Press.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant and is currently Poet in Residence at Drexel University College of Medicine.

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Pacific Yew
by James Ross Kelly

I was once paid
to survey Yew trees
in Old Growth forests
in Oregon near Crater Lake, as
mammoth Douglas fir & White fir
covered the landscape, rolling sides
of Mountains, the Yew were generally
in wet areas, crevices of creeks,
they grew as attendant soldiers to the large conifers
the Yew only fifty to sixty feet the oldest of them
lining the feeder streams that stretched downward
to Creeks that all ran to the Rogue River
the surrounding clearcuts were littered with their
brothers & sisters as they are sexed male & female
loggers put them into large piles
to be burned as unmerchantable

In Canada they made them into beautiful
hardwood flooring, after closing a bar in
British Columbia I was drinking beer
at a timber faller’s home & complimented
him on his floor as it was gorgeous red hues
& blond running throughout the lengths of the boards,
& I asked him what kind of wood
it was, as I had installed wood floors
for about as brief a time as I had logged

“THAT,” he said, with a flourish
as he waved his Molson,
“Is Canadian Yew wood!”
& he said it as if it pronounced from the Queen herself

The females have tiny red berries
but were no different in appearance
than the males, but that they were
dioeciously conifers with separate sexes
was something that seemed an oddity,
yews were generally few & far
between but in the right conditions
they would form stands that followed
the creeks downhill & appeared
as un-uniformed limby
gnarly red barked ever green twisted
with holes & grown
over defects that were as old as
the tall Douglas fir
their large European counterparts were used as chapels
by early Christians
who took them from
Pagan worshipers that found their otherworldly
appearance in deep forest as thin places
to be contingent with other worlds
& I who had formerly spent
my short forestry career in clearcuts
where all this had been raped,
well, the three weeks I spent with
Yews, kind of sealed this notion
They were otherworldly

That, yes, this separate place
was an amalgam
of earth, with a presence
all its own, we were surveying Yew
because its bark had been found
to be a cure for breast & ovarian cancer,
the worry at the time was
that we had cut too much of it
& the need for it for medicine would
be its demise in a few short years
notwithstanding the fact we had burned up
More than was left, calling it “trash wood”
perhaps every incurable disease has
its counterpart, in this manner
the European Yew were almost wiped out because
of its prize as a commodity for long bows,
As a millennium of war raged on that continent.

This is really more understandable
rather than the overuse because it was
“just in the way,” of D8 Cats
& the ever-present need to tidy up
& burn the leftovers so we could entertain
the notion of growing back trees like corn that
had in a rather elegant fashion been growing to cure
the beloveds—the grandmothers,
the mothers, the young women whose
lives were to come into an age of
life out of balance

Education formed for reductionist drones
so that in corporate discounting of the lovely,
& the obscure
into spreadsheets & bottom lines
while the checkerboard square clearcuts
of Pacific Northwest took away
the great bands of yew & the spotted
owl—who were never seen
as created harbingers of loveliness,
& health & the sure goodness of
hidden away answers
to all our problems.

PHOTO: Old-growth forest near Crater Lake, Oregon. Photo by Ana Shuda on Unsplash.

EDITOR’S NOTES: Dioecious trees have male or female parts—a male tree has male flowers that produce pollen; a female tree has female flowers that produce fruit. Paclitaxel, derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia), is used in the treatment of breast, lung, and ovarian cancer, as well as Kaposi’s sarcoma.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There is a lot of work in Natural Resources that is about healing the Earth—understanding how wrong we have been is part of healing. This poem is from my book, Black Ice & Fire  (UnCollected Press, 2021).

james ross kelly

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California next to the Sacramento River. He has been a journalist for Gannet, a travel book editor, and had a score of labor jobs—the in-between, jobs you get from being an English major—most of them in Natural Resources of some kind. He started writing poetry and short stories in college on the GI Bill, and after college continued to write and gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s. Kelly worked as an environmental writer for the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon and Southeast Alaska, where he retired in 2012. Born in Kansas, Kelly was a long-time resident of Southern Oregon, where he grew up. His work has been featured in Silver Birch Press (Los Angeles, California), Cargo Literary, (Prince Edward Island, Canada), Fiction Attic, Rock and Sling (Spokane, Washington), Edify (Helena, Alabama), Flash Fiction (San Francisco), Rue Scribe  (New Mexico), True Chili (New Mexico), The RawArt Review (Ellicott City, Maryland), The Purpled Nail (New Mexico), The Galway Review (Ireland), Willows Wept Review (Florida), and Blood and Bourbon (Nova Scotia, Canada). HIs first book of fiction, And the Fires We Talked About, a collection of short stories, was published by Uncollected Press/RawArt Review in 2020. His first book of poetry, Black Ice & Fire, was published in February 2021 by Uncollected Press/RawArt Review.

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Warrior’s Wisdom
by Donna Weems

child warrior, Greta Thunberg, sails into stuffy senate chambers, assemblies and houses of parliament waving hand painted black and white signs Skolstrejk för klimatet and wins

she does not measure the value of the natural world by its sale price

and declares, everything needs to change and it has to start now

they designate the Monongahela National Forest—including knobs, glades, sods, caves, cricks and hollers—an international treasure—to be protected and enjoyed

walking through deep undisturbed forest, visitors revel under the cool of mature chestnut, ash and elm trees and thrill to hear the fluted trill of a thrush

visitors learn the sweet whisper-chatter of a nesting tree swallow

boulders covered with soft green moss and baby birch hide the entrance of a deep bear den where a thick-furred, slumbering mother gave birth to four pocket-sized cubs last winter

a hiker casually walks past the fluid drape of a cougar stretched between maple branches in his mid-afternoon snooze

the dark-green, leathery leaves of rhododendron loaded with pink clusters lean heavily over a narrow cascade of clear, clean water

an unwitting visitor looks at her reflection in a cold mountain pool and sees the golden flash of a torpedo-shaped brook trout curiously staring back

caddisflies shimmer above the bank, hovering above softly rustling grasses and the dank smell of a summer stream

boundary fences are no longer needed and only an occasional black locust post can still be spotted in forests and meadows

running buffalo clover, growing along elk, deer and buffalo paths, wanders into backyard meadows

after being lost for centuries, herds find the ancient migration routes again

young people gather wild chicken-of-the woods, elderberries, ginseng and strawberries and tend small organic gardens

local families and friends frequently hold community feasts when the harvests are abundant

parents call their children in at dusk during the panther’s evening hunt

children spend their afternoons exploring the mysteries of the forest and find deep wisdom

they emerge as child warriors

PHOTO:  In August 2018, outside the Swedish parliament building, Greta Thunberg started a school strike for the climate. Her sign reads “Skolstrejk för klimatet,”meaning, “school strike for climate.” Photo by Anders Hellberg.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Warrior’s Wisdom” was written to give the reader a fanciful glimpse into what a healed forest might look like. It is a poem of hope because of the inherent diversity and resiliency of the Appalachian Forest and the strength, sensitivity, and work of people like Greta Thunberg.

Donna Hugging Tree White Park

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Weems publishes a yearly chapbook. Her poetry has also been published in The Highlands Voice, Women Speak, and Voices from the Attic. She has read her poetry at Arts Monongalia, the Green Man Arts Festival (Elkins, West Virginia), Women Speak readings (Morgantown and Clarksburg, West Virginia), and Marge Piercy’s reading (Wellfleet, Massachusetts). Her poetry won the 2012 Mountaineer Week “Voices of Appalachia” contest and the “Fernow Forest” contest as well as second place in the 2019 emerging poet category of the West Virginia Writer’s contest.