Category Archives: Earth Day

Dreams of Ambrosia

When spring rains cease and school adjourns,
we’ll take an old tin pail and swing it by the bail.
With Peggy-Dog at our heels, we’ll race
through the gate and down the path
to the river bottom pasture, where
cottonwood catkins drift as snow.

We’ll scamper and pick and eat our share
of little wild strawberries, woodland berries,
growing in the sand-covered moss where
beetle-bugs hide, as we dream of baking powder
biscuits piled high with God’s own fruit—
delicate and gritty, smothered in thick new cream.
North Cascade Mountains, Washington

Gyppo Logger

When the 20th century was was young and timber claims new, Tom Porter split shingle bolts and sled them to the river. At high water, he floated them to mills on the Puget Sound. He felled the old growth firs, selected prime logs. The rest nursed hemlock and maple. Steam-spewing engines tugged and strained mainlines onto drums, skidding each log through underbrush and loading it onto hard-tired trucks on pole roads.

The War is over, now. This quarter section is Dad’s, to grub, to claim, hopefully, to farm.

I’m fourteen, my brother’s ten. We’re gyppo loggers, two boys and their dad, ignoring age and safety laws—equipment scrounged from scrap heaps and abandoned sites.

Valley fog is thick, freezes our limbs and evergreen foliage. We chop and clear decades of roots and decay smothering long butts to salvage one short log. On hands and knees, then bellies, ignoring mud and ice-encrusted clothes, we burrow like jackrabbits until we can stick one arm under a log. With all the strength two kids can muster, we tug on the haulback line, pulling slack in the mainline, trying to get it closer to our log. I unshackle a choker from the buttrigging between mainline and haulback. My soaked gloves stick to the icy steel.

We throw a choker over the log. Push its knob-end into its bell. It slips in my fumbling fingers. We slide the cable a half-turn on the log. Shackle it to the buttrigging.

I climb on the log, stretch to my tiptoes. Signal “Go Ahead!” to Dad standing on a donkey skid at the landing.

He fires up the little Model A engine, shifts into first gear, slowly tightens the mainline. We hold our breath. The log rolls free, inches towards the landing. There’s very little lift from a bullblock halfway up a spar tree.

There’s no romance, no money, no future in gyppo logging. There must be a better job in February.

‘Earth Day’ on the Upper Skagit River, WA State

               To Celebrate Wilderness 

                    
                    I drive into the North Cascades

following the Skagit

past civilization’s blight

to celebrate its wilderness.

 

I gaze in awe, this fleeting moment,

at snowy ridges and glacial slopes,

alpine lakes and hanging valleys,

traces of ice from eons ago.

 

I see barren hills

stripped of hemlock, cedar and fir,

dammed rivers, meadows without life,

mountains raped for gold.

 

Traveling this trail of refuse,

I ponder our thoughtless greed.

Will we ever recover that which

                    we have destroyed?

From Rockport Bridge

 

I stand on Rockport Bridge,

this sunlit winter day.

My eyes follow the Skagit

past Washington Eddy

to Eldorado’s glistening ridge.

 

For a fleeting moment, I see

snowy ridges, glacial slopes,

alpine lakes and hanging valleys,

traces of ice from eons ago.

 

Framed by cottonwoods and purple hills,

the road edging Mount Sauk

scribes the river,

gently washing pebbles

beneath a winter sky.

 

Travelers pass me

in eagle search,

skimming the view—

a ferry barge,

a cedar canoe,

our log cabin—

artifacts of my youth.

 

These incidental visitors
will never hear eagles call,
see black bear fish,
trout rise to the fly,
witness stars outshining the night,
all that I see from Rockport Bridge.

In These Years of Reflection


In my childhood,

when cold winds swept the slopes,

I warmed myself by father’s fire

and read of life beyond the river.

 

In my youth, when summer rains

washed the garden and ruined the day,

I did my chores in a myriad of dreams,

leaving the Skagit behind.

 

In my adulthood, when fortune

shunned me, I recalled neighbors

and yesterdays across the river,

memories that renewed me.

 

In these years of reflection,

I return to the valley to hear nature’s melodies
and see ancestral spirits in harmony,
as the wild Skagit tumbles to the sea.

Published in The Storytellers, SunPorch Productions, Bellingham, WA, 1994. [out of print].
Read at
North Cascades NP Earth Day & National Park Week Celebration, Newhalem, WA, 1998; Bald Eagle Interpretive Center (Old Rockport School), 2000 and 2001; Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival, Concrete, WA, 2/4/01; Concrete High School Class of 1951 Reunion, 2001.