Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Poet’s Place

What environment do you think is conducive to writing poetry? Do any of these come to mind?

A mountain cabin
Beautiful views
Walking paths
Deer and other wildlife
Tall pines and spruce
Wild flowers
A fireplace
Time for reflection
That list adds up to the home of South Dakota’s first Poet Laureate and cowboy poet, Badger Clark. Clark built his own cabin in the late 1920’s on property in the Black Hills, where he lived until his death in 1957. Now a tourist site in Custer State Park http://www.blogger.com/www.sdgfp.info/Parks/Regions/Custer/badger.htm, visitors can see Clark’s many pair of cowboy boots in a row in his bedroom, note what basic kitchen products he used, and imagine him in contemplation before the fire.

A short loop path offers stops with snippets of Clark’s poetry. Sunset, Collier’s, and Arizona Highways are just three of the many magazines that published Clark’s work. "A Cowboy's Prayer" is one of his best know poems, but is often published with "Anonymous" as the author. He dedicated the poem to his mother. The text is here: www.sd4history.com/Unit7/cowboyprayer.htm

His books have never gone out of print—rare for any author, but especially a poet. The Badger Clark Memorial Society www.badgerclark.org/ promotes his work and helps maintain the Badger Hole.

More information about Clark and his influence on cowboy and western poetry is available here: www.cowboypoetry.com/badger.htm .

I would add two things to the list of environmental needs for a poet: modern plumbing and electricity! Still, I appreciate Clark’s environment and the sentiment in his poem “Ridin’” (full text here: www.badgerclark.org/ridin'.htm) :

I don't need no art exhibits

When the sunset does her best,

Paintin' everlastin' glory

On the mountains to the west

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Swinging on Birches

The birch trees on Isle Royale stand tall, strong, and straight as pillars. Their white bark lightens the dark woods. Pieces of bark peel off and are carried by animals or wind as if to leave notes for hikers along the trail.

The birch trees Robert Frost wrote about were bowed down by wind, weather, or--maybe a boy riding them! Frost considers that perhaps a person could ride a birch tree all the way to heaven, which of course is foolish. Yet he ends with the line: One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
In respect of copyright law, I offer this link to the full text of the poem:
What kind of fantastical conveyance would you like to transport you?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Take It All In

A trip to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior (http://www.nps.gov/isro/) awakened our senses. On the 6 hour ferry ride to the island, National Park Service Ranger Paul talked about the environment and encouraged us to “Take it in! Take it all in!”

Pristine wilderness hiking trails gave us mountaintop views of Canada, marshy meadows filled with water lilies and wildflowers, and rocky shorelines with crashing waves.

Pink, purple, yellow, and white flowers popped out of the green brush.

We were ever alert for wildlife. First we saw moose scat, then tracks, and finally, the moose herself.

Squirrel, fox, and hare also crossed our path—or we crossed theirs. The ever-changing sky held white and gray clouds as well as eagles, ducks, loons, mergansers, and other birds.

Our boots thudded on the pine-needle carpeted path. Near the lake, the loons laughed at us (well, maybe it wasn’t personal). The waves hit the rocks with a relaxing rhythm. (To see images of loons and hear their calls, go to http://www.ns.ec.gc.ca/wildlife/loons/images.html).

The scent of pine, fresh air, decomposing vegetation, and dirt mingled on the trail. Back at the lodge, we looked forward to the aroma—and taste—of a well-cooked dinner.

We did our best to take it all in.

Taking it all in when we’re on vacation is one thing, but can we remember to take it all in when we’re back home? The robin bobbing in the back yard is not exotic, but is still amusing to watch. The way the ash tree dances in the wind, the smell of steak grilling, and the promise of blossoms on our tomato plants are ordinary parts of our day. And we take it in. We take it all in.

What are you taking in today?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

A recent trip past Mount Rushmore gave me a glimpse of George Washington's profile. It's fitting to think of him, the Father of our Country, today. He fought when necessary, negotiated when he could, motivated his bedraggled army, and served his country as President--not king-- in spite of his preference to be a quiet Virginia farmer. That's a lot to admire.
Washington was against political parties and geographical favoritism, always considering the good of the whole. Today, we complain about the government and argue about political issues. A look at Washington's life reminds us that we are the government and one person can make a difference.
Here's more: