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Poetry in the Forest

PoetryThese are the poems that we shared in the forest on a wonderful May morning full of wildflowers. Enjoy!

At Blackwater Pond

by Mary Oliver, a poet from Ohio, aged 82

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands.
I drink a long time.
It tastes like stone, leaves, fire.
It falls cold into my body, waking the bones.
I hear them deep inside me, whispering …
Oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?

 

That Patch of Wilderness

by Lacey Clark, a young woman who lives in a tiny home the Cowichan Valley

We are like that patch of wilderness
Though the streets are paved with concrete
I see the vibrant bursts of life push their way through the cracks
with unfaltering determination
Bold in their blatant disregard
At mans attempt to cover their wildness
Though I may shade my softness with downturned lashes
I too
Yearn to push through the cracks of my lids
To share the light of my sameness
To be recognized from under the concrete
Of my expression
As the brambles of the blackberry
I too
Can yield a thorny exterior
Vines of prickles may climb my words
An attempt to protect the sweet fruit that is
Myself
May the birds of truth steal the seeds
of my longing and spread them far
That I may grow
Diversely
Over the earth
I see you, the wilderness
Breathing deep under the city
Your time of hibernation almost up
I feel your listlessness.
Deep in my bones

Prayer of the Woods

By Veiga Simoes, a Portuguese writer, journalist, politician, diplomat and historian. While he was the Portuguese ambassador in Berlin, he signed visas that saved many Jews in World War II. This poem was written in May, 1914.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun,
and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam that holds your house,
the board of your table, the bed on which you lie,
and the timber that builds your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,
the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle,
and the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer:
Harm me not.

My Heart Soars

by Chief Dan George, past chief of the Tsleil-Waututh (slay-wah-tooth) First Nation, an actor, poet and author.

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.

The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me.

And my heart soars.

Trees

By Alfred Joyce Kilmer, American poet. He wrote this poem in 1913; he was killed by a sniper’s bullet in July 1918, while serving in World War One, at the age of 31.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Something About A Forest

By Sophia White, 18 years old; she lives in the Appalachian Mountains in America

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the turbulent soul fall still
And listen to the mournful dirge
Of the solemn whipporwhill.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes closed eyes want to look
At the rippling, tippling kaleidescope
Of the steady-flowing brook.

There’s just something about a forest
Than makes the angry gazes see
The regal and majestic might
Ot the ancient maple tree.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the most stubborn will learn
To praise the bashful beauty
Of the pale green, newborn fern.

There’s just something about a forest
That awakens weary souls
With the fresh rejuvenation
That only a forest holds.

The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers

by Ray Lucero, an American poet

During a spring day walk through a primeval rain forest,
We encountered on a steep hillside two old growth trees,
One a Western Red Cedar the other a Douglas Fir.
Incredibly the two giants seemed joined together near ground level.
How could this be?
After all they were of two different species!

Our minds quickly filled with possibilities;
Were they just fused for mutual support?
Were they some kind of cross breed,
If so could they propagate?

We concluded that they were married.
“For better or worse, in sickness or in health”
Unheard wedding vows save for their tall fellows,
Standing silent witness.

We imagined their roots beneath ground,
Forever entwined in lifelong bliss.

We pondered what might happen when age and disease,
Toppled one of these magnificent lovers?
Would the other grieve?
Would the surviving lover stand witness…
As flora and fauna lay claim to the bountiful offering,
Of the fallen giant sacrificed to them?

Would the surviving lover wither and die or choose life?

We then realized that diversity, cooperation, and love are
Earthly traits celebrated by all living plants and animals.

We left the forest in awe and inspired by,
“The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers”

How Can It Be Time?

By Doug Makaroff, an urban planner and developer who lives in Victoria. Doug founded the Elkington Living Forest Community, a forest ecological hamlet south of Shawnigan Lake, which saved 800 acres of forest by the use of residential clustering on 15% of the land.

How can it be time
for the acorns to bud already?
The summer’s only just begun
and not weeks since the precious
pale leaves of May emerged.
But now the next generation appears
small firm green expressions of fertility
held sunward by dappled waxen leaves
hardening against a backdrop of grizzled bark.
The grass beneath the trees
withers but is not dead.
The camas flower too will see another season.
This landscape unfolds in so many
stages of birth, life, decay, death combined.
Oh, that my heart could grasp and hold the
mystery of the self-addressed envelope of LIFE.

One final paragraph of advice

By Edward Abbey, an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, his criticism of public land policies, and his anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by many environmental groups.

One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out.
Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.
Save the other half for yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.

While you can.

While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizzly, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breath deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely mysterious and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators.

I promise you this: you will out live the bastards.

 

We Heard No Owls

By Richard Arnold, an English prof at VIU, a great environmentalist and a fabulous man who died last year. He led many hikes up Mount Benson for the VIU community. Rachel Cooper, one of our Yellow Point Ecological Society members, says that this poem about the owls became real for her after Wyndlow’s logged 40 acres at the end of Doole Rd.

We did not hear a single owl this winter.
Our neighbor logged his hundred acres clean,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He claims that he’ll make pastureland to rent, or
Turn into trenches sprouting soybeans:
And we heard not a single owl this winter.

Trees gone, the man is not afraid to enter
Where once he heard weird cries and sweeping wings–
The place where midnight wild has lost its splendor.

Always the Great Horned whooped beyond our window,
Bass rhythmic mutters in our December dreams–
But we heard not a single owl this winter.

What fiend would scorch a gorgeous wood to cinders?
Quiet snows bereft of feathered hunters mean
That our deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He goes to church, yet God knows he’s a sinner;
The stars frown down on this diminished scene;
We did not hear a single owl this winter,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

 

A Wolf in the Choir

by Richard Arnold

Although essentially I hated school,
I had one brilliant outlaw for a teacher.
“When it comes to truth, I’m lazy,” he used to say.
“I find it in close-by, ordinary things.”

The Literature he showed us was thunderclouds
Swollen like dark cheeks with a prodigious message
In the fearful moments of silence before they open
With tongues of fire to teach the listening earth.

In Economics he taught us the constant debit
Of forests and rivers, the credit of concrete and greenhouse.

Religion we learned by standing in April rain,
Hats off, in silence, seeing it soak the ground.

Politics, he claimed, would quickly go extinct
If we all simply heard the steady song
Our reason sang, then tuned our living to it.

In Music, he’d talk about the genius of Bach-
But weep for joy when he heard the evening grosbeak.

Our Sociology was dropping to hands and knees
On beaches to watch the yellow sand-verbena
Fling its fragrance of sex to pollinators.

The years passed on. At last we graduated.
We packed the hall, and our commencement speaker
Talked stagnantly about how noble Science
Was waiting for us to run its budgets of billions
And ride in rockets to learn the universe.

But afterward, shaking his head, our teacher took us
Aside and quietly gave us our last lesson.

“Science? The universe?
Ride a fifty-cent bus to the creek and study the eyes
Of a wolf-spider preparing to launch on a cricket.”

Then sidled away, hunch-shouldered, almost arachnoid,
Leaving us (our first moult finished) with fledgling fangs
To pierce and suck the truth in uncouth ways.

Swans, Geese, Ducks, Eagles and Beavers

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I spend a lot of time walking through Yellow Point Park and EcoReserve enjoying the wonderful wilderness right here in our neighbourhood. I am awestruck by the ancient trees, inspired by the tenacious lichens, ferns and mosses, delighted by the wild flowers. The Park and EcoReserve are home to so many interesting species.

I love watching the swans land on Long Lake, and the pairs of geese protecting their nests. I enjoy the raucous duck wars during breeding season and the parade of ducklings following their parents through the marsh. The purple martins are beautiful swooping across the water to snatch bugs midair. When the red winged blackbirds return in the spring, their calls echo across the water. Blue herons stalk through the shallows, then strike with lightening speed to capture prey in their long beaks.

Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls

I’ve watched eagles teach their young to fly, performing short awkward flights between huge trees. I’ve listened to Screech owls calling through the forest, been dive-bombed by a barred owl, and seen Great horned owls perched high in sturdy branches of enormous fir trees.

Beavers, Cougars, Bears, Deer, and the little Sundew

The beavers work diligently to reinforce their dams and adapt the habitat to suit their needs, thereby ensuring continued diversity in the forest. Deer and bear feast on leaves and wild berries. The occasional cougar prowls silently through the forest. On the marsh, sundews (little Venus fly traps) capture insects in their tiny maws. The frog chorus is so loud in the spring that it is difficult to sleep.

All of this is possible because our community had the foresight to fight for the preservation of this beautiful Park and EcoReserve. The EcoReserve was created in 1996 “to protect a highly diverse mosaic of ecosystem types, from aquatic, peat bog and forest to dry site ecosystems”. Many of the plants and animals are red-listed and blue-listed species at risk, including the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem. This habitat should be protected.

It’s very fragile – and ours to lose

We could easily lose the unique features and diversity of this beautiful park and wetland if we don’t protect our forest and watershed. The Yellow Point watershed is very fragile, and officially one of the most stressed aquifers in the province. Yellow Point rests on fractured bedrock, which has limited ability to retain water. Our only water source is rain. We don’t have any rivers, or any connection to the Cassidy aquifer or other water sources. The rain falls on our forest and seeps into our shallow soil. It is caught in many small ponds and catchment basins that feed the streams that flow to the sea. Our forests, mosses and other vegetation hold the water, enabling it to sink into the earth. This groundwater distributes itself through small fissures in the bedrock to our wells.

During the dry months there is no recharge of the watershed. We rely on the ability of our forests and wetlands to retain water. Without our forests and ground cover, the rain would flow rapidly away causing erosion, filling our creeks and wetlands with silt and depleting our watershed. The sun would bake our wetlands and the complex ecosystem would be destroyed.

Disruption, contamination and depletion of the Yellow Point aquifer is a legitimate concern for local residents. Destruction of our wetlands will make us all poorer.

We must protect our forests and watershed to preserve our beautiful Park and EcoReserve, and the wonderful community of plants and animals that live there.

Diane Coussens is a 40-years resident who raised her two children in their home on Long Lake Road.

Tree Time

by Priscilla Brewer

We are finally beginning to understand the tremendous benefits of trees and forests.

We know that trees filter air pollutants and give us fresh clean oxygen to breath. They also store groundwater, purify our drinking water, and capture vast quantities of carbon. They keep us cool in summer, protect us from winter chills, and provide us with food, fuel, lumber, fibres, crafts and medicine. It’s almost as if we need trees to survive (WE DO!).

But trees don’t only benefit humans – they also create and nurture their own ecosystems and support vital biodiversity. Trees immensely help other plants and wildlife to flourish, they keep river habitat healthy, help protect and replenish our watersheds and aquifers, and improve soil conditions for an immeasurable number of below-ground critters.

Trees provide all these valuable services for free, 24 hours a day, without complaining. Yet they are sometimes treated as if they were unimportant objects, appreciated solely for their dollar value.

Incredibly, there has been a recent wave of research that delves deeper into the mystery of trees. New studies and compelling literature suggest that trees can communicate with each other, pass information, share nutrients with other trees and plants, and even recognize and nurture their offspring. This would imply that trees think, care, and feel pain.

Even more mysterious is the idea that trees can help humans on a spiritual level. Around the world, studies have shown that by spending time immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of a forest we can lower our stress levels, improve our memory functions, lower our blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and depression. Many countries consider ‘forest bathing’ a recognized form of health care. Hanging out in a forest can actually make us happier and healthier.

We could all use a little more tree time!
The Yellow Point Ecological Society (Y.E.S.) hopes to inspire local residents and visitors to appreciate the enormous gifts we receive from our precious forests.

Together, let’s speak out to protect what remains of our forest, so that the trees can continue to protect and nurture the complex and biodiverse ecosystem that lives beneath their branches – including us.

Please join us for our monthly Yellow Point nature hikes! Or February hike is on the 11th at 11:00am at the Yellow Point Ecological Reserve (meet at the end of Whiting Way, no dogs please). Our March hike will be at Wildwood, March 11th at 11:00. See you there!

Priscilla Brewer

Barred Owls in the Forest

January 5th, 2018

The barred owls hoot to each other at night. The ravens chuckle and call across the forest canopy. The garter snakes and salamanders burrow down for winter. The mushrooms are blossoming. Under the soil, a million wildflowers await the spring, and their turn in the sun.

It’s December in the forest. The rain pours down and the forest absorbs it all, allowing it to drain deep into the aquifer. Without the cover of trees the water would run off into the creeks, and the aquifer that we all depend on would be depleted. The forest stands tall as guardian of it all – the wildlife, the watershed, the carbon, the ecosystem as a whole.

But is it safe? Of all BC’s ecosystem zones, the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem that we live within is the most at risk. It’s home to the highest number of species at risk, and it has been the most altered by deforestation and development, with less than one percent remaining as old growth forest and almost half having been lost to human activity. In the Cedar-Yellow Point area two areas of forest have recently been clearcut, one just west of Yellow Point Lodge, the other north of the Woodley Range Ecological Reserve. Other forested parcels may face the same fate.

So what can we do? This is the question the prompted a group of local residents to start meeting early in 2017, and in August we formally established ourselves as the Yellow Point Ecological Society (Y.E.S.). Our stated purpose is “to understand, appreciate, protect and restore the ecosystems and watersheds in the Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island, and to inspire and support local residents to do the same.”

A Voice for Nature

We want to become a voice for Nature, for the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem, for the watershed. A voice for the myriad forms of wildlife that the forest supports, and all the tranquility and beauty they bring. Nature needs it, our children need it, we need it.

So what can we hope to achieve now that we are a formal society? Our hopes are as high as the sky, but constrained by the time, the volunteers and the resources we can muster.

We are busy at work on three fronts. First, we are educating ourselves. We are learning about the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem, the myriad species it contains, the threats it faces and the ways it can be protected. To this end, we are organizing a monthly hike,  and a Speakers Series, starting with the esteemed Snuneymuxw First Nations elder Geraldine Manson on Thursday January 4th.

Second, we are working to build relationships – with the Regional District of Nanaimo, with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, with the Stz’uminus First Nation, and with other groups that are working to protect our forests and watersheds.

And third, we are learning about the legal and regulatory systems that protect – or fail to protect – the forest ecosystem, and we are exploring new ideas.

How to Protect the Forest?

What would it take, for instance, for private landowners to be inspired to protect their forests by adopting the ecosystem-based system of sustainable timber harvesting that was used so successfully by Merv Wilkinson at Wildwood, and for successive generations of landowners to restore their forests to an old-growth condition over the next two hundred years?

Might it be possible for a regional district to create a Coastal Douglas-fir Ecosystem Environmental Development Permit area, providing an added level of protection against clearcutting and excessive logging, combined with enforcement penalties that are meaningful and not just symbolic?

And might it be possible for a regional district to adjust the zoning bylaws so that a landowner with twenty acres (for instance) could still subdivide his or her land, but would do so not by dividing it into four five-acre lots, but by clustering four homes in one area, thereby preserving most of the forest?

Globally, Nature is everywhere under assault. If you want to say Yes to Y.E.S., to join our hikes, to come to our Speaker’s Series, or to join our biweekly meetings, or to become a member, please get in touch.

– Guy Dauncey

A Voice for Nature

Yellow Point is a very real place, even if nobody knows where it begins and where it ends. Is the Crow and Gate in Yellow Point? Maybe not. Is Wildwood Ecoforest? Yes – Merv Wilkinson certainly thought so. Is the land around Brenton-Page Road? Yes, but at some point down the road maybe it ceases to be.

I like it this way – Yellow Point becomes more of a state of mind. If you think you live here, you do. And if there’s one thing that most Yellow Pointers love, it’s Nature with a capital N. It’s the forests, the lakes, the farmland, the quiet country roads, the trails, the ocean. Yes, the ocean. It’s the barred owls, with their seven-note build-up to that final whoo-oo. It’s the beavers, working quietly as guardians of the lakes. It’s the river otters, making their way up the ravine to Yellow Point Park. It’s the explosion of wildflowers from March to May. It’s the new young herring, filling the sea in their teeming thousands before they take off to the larger ocean.

It’s the knowledge that the Stz’uminus and the Snuneymuxw First Nations have lived on this land for thousands of years, and appreciation for their stewardship.

It’s the trees, the proud red cedars in their family groups, the determined Douglas-firs, the billowing maples.

It’s the appreciation for all who in years past have donated their land to become parks, who made Yellow Point Park possible, who worked to create the Yellow Point Ecological Reserve.

And now, for all who wish to protect and preserve and celebrate this beauty, we have the Yellow Point Ecological Society (Y.E.S.), newly formed this August. Like most non-profits, the society was formed because of a perceived threat to our remaining green space, wetlands and watershed.

The threats continue, but there’s so much to be said by way of gratitude for Nature in this region. It is our hope that over the years people will step up to say YES, I want to be part of this. YES, I want to add my commitment to preserve, protect and celebrate its beauty. And YES, I want to be a voice for the wildlife, forests and plants who have no human voice with which to speak.

Nature will face huge challenges over the coming years, as development continues, the climate crisis grows and other threats emerge. It is our hope that the Yellow Point Ecological Society will be around for two hundred years, long enough for local residents and the Stz’uminus and the Snuneymuxw First Nations to see the forest recover its old-growth character, to see the salmon and herring return, and to be part of a new ecological civilization being born.

Guy Dauncey

60-acres