Friday, April 12, 2013

The Poetry of the Pacific, Day 2

Editor's note: these were pre-written posts, but due to a comedy of errors (not on our part), we did not actually arrive in San Francisco Thursday afternoon. I will post the story at the end of this series. Until then, please enjoy the poetry!

Photo used with permission of Michael Medina, a former wildlife biologist and a conservation photographer,
whose motto is  "promoting conservation through appreciation and education."
This series of posts has an alliterative title, but as I alluded to yesterday, not all of the poems will be about the Pacific Ocean. Today's verse concerns a more terrestrial topic: the redwood forest. These evergreens are some of the tallest and oldest trees we know of. They reach more than 200 feet into the air, with a trunk diameter of 10-15 feet. In the wet and temperate climate of the Pacific coast (from central California up through Oregon), the trees can live for more than 2000 years. Redwoods are of course part of a larger ecosystem, as they support an impressive variety of plants, insects, and animals, from their roots up to their crowns. Unfortunately, between the Gold Rush and the founding of Redwood National Park in 1968, 90% of the forest in California was cut down for timber. (Click here for haunting black and white photographs of big trees, little men, and the horses and oxen involved old logging efforts.)

Dear Husband got a tip from a friend to check out Muir Wood National Monument (est. 1908), the result of early conservation efforts. So yesterday, on our first day in San Francisco, we rented a car and drove north, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to this old-growth forest nature preserve named for the founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir (1838-1914). He is supposed to have said of the gift of having the park named after him, "This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world." To mark the occasion, today's poem is courtesy of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. Yes, you read that correctly. Chief Engineer Joseph P. Strauss (1870-1938)--a native of Cincinnati and the man who took credit for the building of the Golden Gate Bridge--penned these stanzas a few years before that architectural marvel connected Muir Woods in the north to the city of San Francisco in the south.

DH wants to know when we're visiting the Gulf stream waters?

The Redwoods (1931)

Here, sown by the Creator's hand.
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand:
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.

The greatest of Earth's living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung,
Lie buried now--their splendor gone:
But these proud monarchs still live on.

So shall they live, when ends our days,
When our crude citadels decay;
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials' span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here, we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awestruck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal:

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
to make our world like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, Oh, traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.

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