So it turns out I wasn't the only person writing words of love for my adopted homeland, the Great Valley of California. I write geology and environment words, and not poetry. But my home town of Modesto has a Poet Laureate. Her name is Gillian Wegener, and she recently penned a beautiful
sonnet work about the valley that has been enshrined in our Great Valley Museum of Natural History at Modesto Junior College. The museum is a wonderful introduction to the natural world that lies hidden beneath millions of acres of agricultural fields and cities. There's a little bit left of the world from before, as those of you who've followed my blog would well know by now. So, please enjoy some poetry, as well as some scenes from my last few trips to the old world of our valley (the Merced and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges)
There is so much we will forget
And most of it doesn’t matter-
The grocery lists and the Tuesdays-
But we can’t forget that first
Our Valley was grassland,
Was riparian woodlands, was marsh,
Was peopled by those who knew
The places where the fish gathered,
Who knew the seasons of oaks,
Who knew the stories the stars told.
We cannot forget the way the wind,
Given its unimpeded way, ripples
The needle grass and the waters,
Moves them in the same rhythms.
And let’s not forget the calls of the cranes
Filling the air with a sound so dense
There’s almost no room for breath.
And we must remember too what’s already lost:
The grizzly, so much of the quiet marshlands…
Our world is poorer without them.
But the rivers still converge and
The beavers build their dams
And the hawks, ferruginous and red tail, drift
On the thermals, and all of this was happening,
Was here, before we were, before
Our grocery lists and our Tuesdays.
So we can’t forget the vernal pools
With their sudden flowers, and
Their patient species, buried and waiting,
Earthbound constellations of life mirroring
The constellations that shine above us
With stories we can’t forget, just as we can’t forget
That an earthquake in far off ocean makes waves
That flow, that propagate to our nearer shores,
That the moon’s gravity tugs at our wild oceans,
That our galaxy has wrapped its spiraling arms
Around our sun, that our sun is just one bright star
In a universe filled with bright stars,
The space between them expanding
Faster than we’d even imagined, and
We can’t forget, even as we’re learning,
Even as we are amazed at finding ourselves here
In this universe, in this galaxy, on this planet,
In this broad valley, with these creature, in this place
With its pockets of grasslands and woods
Which we won’t forget, which we will care for,
Because this is where we live, one of many species.
This is our shared and wondrous home.
A poem for the Great Valley Museum
January 17, 2015
For more information about the Great Valley Museum, follow this link: http://www.mjc.edu/instruction/sme/gvm.