Pine needles swirl around in the sky with the wind pulling them from their branches. They are dry and dead with the summer draught in them. Clouds broke last night and supplied the forest floor with rain, the vines with rain, the branches with heavy rain, and the broken wood, the broken trees piled up against the shed, along the path to the forest, in the Pacific Northwest temperate zone, the pine trees, a few madrona, cold to the touch, a great big ancient oak in the center, saved from the hungry jaws of the bulldozer.
My father said, “I couldn’t be a developer, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to make those kinds of decisions.” The decision to tie a pink ribbon around a tree to save its life and ecosystem. Well, the letter came and the trees will go. Someone will make money off selling timber. Someone will reduce a forest to paper money. Someone will smirk when we try to prevent the movement of the machinery. Our bodies not worth $20,000.
Conservation. The smell of a damp, happy forest.
I am back from a brief excursion to the San Juan Islands where I will be studying the earth and the literature of the sea from a dormitory in the woods overlooking Friday Harbor. There are wooden chairs scattered about the scenic rocks, the rock of contemplation, there are row boats to take out into town for a beer or ice cream cone. There will be hardly many tourists in town during fall and I will be riding my bike through backcountry roads lined with oak trees with firebursting autumnscented decaying leaves. The trip was a mock trial of what it can be like. The potential is now realized and my role in deciding how to best approach the 10 weeks I’ll have there is set into motion. I will scatter the ashes of old negative-looping thoughts into the bay and watch them drift off in the bellies of the fried egg jellyfish, drifting brainlessly along to carry on into a higher tier of the food web. Making science and poetry happen simultaneously while attempting to squash loneliness under the output of my creative voice…
The wind interrupts my thoughts. My inevitably faulty predictions for my last quarter of “COLLEGE LIFE” at the “UNIVERSITY of WASHINGTON” (capitalized for emphasis). Orange/brown needles sent sailing right at my open window, some braving the reflective eddy of the roof to make their way onto my desk. A stack of books to my right. George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Andre Gide’s The Immoralist, Faulkner’s Light in August, Home Ground by Barry Lopez, Texts for Nothing by Samuel Beckett and others whose titles are facing away or buried under canvases and notebooks. A pair of old Panasonic headphones. A railroad spike with little metalwork of a bear pulling a circus train off of it (or deeper into the ground if the spike were in use). A civil war bullet. Various interesting rocks and sea shells. A spool of yarn. Two lighters. Pipe. Bag of weed. A stack of half used yellow note pads. Artifacts, hand-me-downs, and art supplies. The anger of the wind brings my attention back to the wildly swaying tops of trees. I am vaguely aware of the possibility for a 160 foot Grand Fir tree crushing through the roof and destroying all I’ve described including myself. I am a young man in a purple pullover hoodie and blue gym shorts, no shoes. My hair is brown and middle length. Eyes blue. Scrub on my face from negligent razor maintenance. I’ll grow it out for the winter. For the poetic biology.
If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.
-Rachel Carson accepting the National Book Award for The Sea Around Us, 1952