Rhymes of a National Park Naturalist
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Below, the blue-green Kaibab is still.
Its virgin forest like a well-kept lawn.
The shadow of a bird — our buoyant plane —
Across the velvet pile sweeps smoothly on.

Ahead, the wooded plain is creased and scarred
By deep fiords that breach its rugged lea,
And leave, between them, craggy, pine-clothed points,
Rough headlands reaching boldly out to sea.

An empty sea! No water fills its bowl.
An ocean dry! Its shore a precipice.
And giant islands rear their pointed crests
To penetrate the Canyon's blue-gray mist.

An empty sea? Ah no! A mighty bowl
Whose blending colors seem to overflow.
So full of silence, mystery, and depth.
So full of space, and awe, and peace, and glow.

Behind, the headlands lose their sharp relief.
Beneath, the ledge-walled islands silent brood.
And, winding like a tawny, fettered snake
Among them twists the Colorado's flood.

Life's sweet dreams, 'though fleeting, leave their mark.
They take us to a world we can't explain.
If you would live a dream you'll ne'er forget,
View Nature's greatest canyon from a plane.


The River grinds on at its endless task
Of cutting Grand Canyon deeper.
While the hands of Rain, and Frost, and Time
Claw it wider, in some places, steeper.
But shadows shift, and colors change,
And clouds sail uncharted courses
To stir men's souls 'though their minds can't grasp
The power of Nature's forces.


I like to see a turkey strut
And swell around the stable;
Or, black against the sky, a smut
Perched high on branch or gable.
But I like best to see him cut
And passed around the table.

Paragraph two omitted.

For when I'm waiting stiff and staid
And, sizzling from the pan,
A turkey on the platter's laid,
And gravy, too, I scan,
I'm mighty glad I wasn't made
A vegetarian.

And so I like to watch him strut
And swell around the stable.
On mash and corn to see him glut
As much as he is able.
For then I know that he'll be cut
And passed around the table.


As a botanist you're elated
When you find a plant that's new,
And your head becomes inflated
When "they" name it after you.
And no doubt there's much of pleasure
Found in tearing plants apart,
Counting stamens, bracts, and petals
And dissecting out the heart.

But for me — I like the beauty
Of the meadows rich with bloom
Like a rippling, sparkling carpet
In God's outdoor sitting room.
Where the sky's the only ceiling
Just The Mountain for a wall,
Pools for mirrors, rocks to sit on,
Music from a waterfall.


We notice all the species
As along the trails we pass.
The fungi, ferns, and flowers,
Insects, mammals, birds, and grass.
Among the common objects
That attract the wand'ring eye
Is the brilliant Gummus wraperi
And bright Tinn foileryae.
At higher elevations
You may usually see
The gold-and-orange Cameraflim
In magnificent abundance
Is the Golden Orangepeel,
The Candibar container,
And the Ladyslipper heel.
While Cigarettus buttus
And Film packa taberae
Transform the green trail margin
Into one big Sorey eye.

Mt. Rainier National Park, 1932

Hail! Hoary guardian of yon Mountain's peace.
Your couch a weathered slab of crumbling crag
O'erlooking glacial chasm far beneath,
Ice-carved through cubic miles of Vulcan's slag.

High on your sunlit, alpine throne you lie.
Your grizzled coat by glacier's breath disturbed.
The rush and roar of distant avalanche,
Or scream of eagle leaves you unperturbed.

About your castle clamber mountain goats.
The scurrying cony piles his drying "hay".
A jeweled hummer flashes past, and clouds
Trail chilly shadows on their silent way.

Behind your cliff the glistening ice-fields rise
To meet the mottled blue of fleece-flecked sky;
And echo out across the canyon void
The clear, wild shrillness of your piercing cry.

Mt. Rainier National Park, 1932

The cone of Pseudotsuga taxifolia hangs down,
The white pine cone is pitchy. It is green but soon turns brown.
The hemlock cones are plentiful, and small as they can be,
While true fir cones stand upright on the branches of the tree.

The western, or red cedar, cone is also very small.
The Chaemacyperis' cone's a funny little ball.
The yew tree doesn't have a cone. The botanists repeat
It's fruit is like a berry; soft, and red, and very sweet.

The conifers have cones, it seems, to propogate the race,
But squirrels think that they are made to exercise the face.
They use them, too, for baseballs, and in the daily diet.
If you wonder what they taste like, take an artichoke and fry it.

But cones have other uses not intended by the tree.
They make delightful ornaments as you may plainly see.
They give the learned scientists some grounds to fight about,
And they help us to identify the trees, without a doubt.

As seen from West Seattle

Against the glowing West your spires rise
Like eager fingers searching out the stars.
The windblown snow and twilight on your slopes
Blot out the mark of Time's erosion scars.

Below, the mainland lies, a velvet mist
Of rolling hills in whispering forests robed,
While Vashon, Blake, and Bainbridge, silent, guard
The quiet shores by bay and inlet probed.

The Sound's a sheet of shining silver spread
To mirror Day's last blush of saffron light,
It's surface etched by fanlike paths that mark
A ferry's course to distant shores, and Night.

Olympics, troubled ocean turned to stone,
That Time has left to stand, a last frontier,
Long may your glacial cirques and windswept crests
O'erlook yon wilderness, without a peer.

A rugged bulwark stretched across the West,
You block the Storm King's hosts from warmer clime,
And from your white-rimmed throne below the stars
Look down upon the changes wrought by Time.


Along the edge of yonder swampy place
The frosty night has left a fringe of lace
To frame the image of the Queen clad in
A wrap of ermine, new and sparkling clean.
A wind-blown veil of snow reveals her brow,
Gift of the boisterous Winter King, e'en now
Returning on the pinions of the wind
From out the frozen North. And lest he find
Them unprepared, all Nature's children haste,
So sleek and summer-slow, to be not last.
The somber, fir-clad slopes and swales flame fresh
As tribes of pigmy maples don their dress
Of orange, scarlet, gold. Anemones
A million shaggy bonnets toss the breeze,
Drum majors on parade. Upon his throne
Of stone, a marmot, blinking in the sun,
Sprawls, loath to leave the smiling, grass-filled glade,
And thus, defiant, shows he's not afraid
Of winter. Sniffing up the wind, and still,
A mountain goat stands, white against the hill,
And gazes out across a silent sea
Of haze-drowned valleys to eternity.


Across the snow-filled hollow circled 'round
By family groups of huddling alpine firs,
Your throbbing, drum-like love-call swells and wanes
While Nature, restless now in slumber, stirs.

Your throaty cry seems near, yet faintly far;
Its booming source is neither here, nor there,
No strutting form appears, no fir bough sways,
The eerie voice its presence to declare.

Oh sooty cock, chant on your lone refrain,
Men call you "fool hen", for you fear him not,
But what ventriloquist among his hosts
Can stand, and sing, and no one mark the spot?

Sing on, oh feathered suitor of the heights,
For 'though the snow be deep and winds still chill,
When your sad hooting haunts the wooded slopes,
Then spring will soon be coming o'er the hill.

*Sooty Grouse


Come, my friends, oh come with me,
Come and watch the bumble bee
On her nectar-seeking trip
From blossom bud to flower lip.
Come and worship at the shrine
Of bleeding heart and columbine.
Come and learn of twig and cone,
The "why" of glacier-polished stone.
Trace the flows of molten rock
Spilled by Vulcan's ancient shock.
See where scuttling conies hide
Their drying "hay" 'neath talus slide.
Learn the calls of thrush and jay.
Watch the black bear's cubs at play.
In the forest's somber light,
Find the fern and saprophyte.
Marvel at the silvery cloud,
The ancient crater's sunset shroud.
Feel the lift of alpine breeze
Far beyond the storm-dwarfed trees,
Come, my friend, and learn with me
How God has made the scenery.


Fathered by Time and born of Mother Earth,
As great convulsions shook her troubled breast,
You grew apace, and reared your glowing crown,
Your heart a caldron seething with unrest.

About your feet a tropic verdure spread.
Strange creatures thrived awhile, then passed away.
Erosion, hardy sculptor, plied his trade.
A hundred years, to you, was but a day.

You watched the glaciers creeping from the North,
As on your flanks the gathering snow lay deep.
The glaciers shrank, and forests came the while
You lay beneath your blanket, fast asleep.

The gnawing ice fields sought to still your heart.
The Redmen saw, and worshipped from afar.
A thoughtless race, we know not what you've been.
We even fail to honor what you are.

Mount Rainier, 1933

All hail to your courage, oh timberline tree!
To your home where the winds rush, untamed, from the sea;
Braving sleet-shrapnel, barrages of snow;
Gripping where nothing but lichens can grow.
Crowding and prying, your roots split the rock.
Thriving on hardship, undaunted by shock;
Daring the lightning to strike at your head;
Forcing the rocks to provide you with bread;
Everywhere windward, knowing no lea, you're a
Stout-hearted, resolute timberline tree.

Clinging up there with the world at your feet
In a lava-bound, ice-moated, alpine retreat;
Thrilling to sunsets that no others know,
Delighted by moon-jeweled lakes far below;
Sharing, at times, your 'lone kingdom remote
With a ptarmigan troupe or a stray mountain goat;
Outpost of tree life, pioneer bold,
Breasting the rigors of storm, wind, and cold;
Twisted and battered, dwarfed, gnarled, but free;
Fight on forever, oh timberline tree!


The ceaseless struggle surges forth and back.
Embattled trees, a stem yet ragged line;
Here, mountain hemlocks massed to meet attack;
There, outposts held by stubborn white-barked pine.
Entrenched behind yon crest are alpine firs,
Their shock troops crouch below the shattered rim,
While o'er their heads sleet shrapnel whines and whirs,
And clouds, whipped by the vicious gale, make dim
And weird the scene of strife. The harried band
Goes down beneath a fierce barrage of snow.
'Midst howls victorious, over all the land
The Storm King leads his arctic hordes. But lo!
The tide of battle turns. The Zenith Sun
Brings forth his thermal hosts. The prostrate trees
Lift feeble arms, shake off the snow. Each one
Staggers erect, twisted and bent. The breeze
Carries the clarion, rallying-call of Spring.
Then all along each rim, and ridge, and crest
Out over alpine noman's land they fling
The stubborn drifts, which, shrinking back, hard pressed
Retreating leave the splintered, broken bones
Of former warriors, bleaching on the ground
Mixed with the lava, glacier-polished stones,
Crushed skeletons, the pieces strewn around.
And pitying Summer spreads, with kindly hand,
A cloth of alpine flowers, soft and fine,
Upon this graveyard of a valiant band,
The unsung heroes of the Timberline.


The wind sweeps chill across the alpine meadows.
The tinkling stream's by frosty fingers stilled.
The fir trees huddle near their crouching shadows.
The whole, high world by silvery moonlight filled.

On Cushman Crest a vagrant coyote quavers.
His serenade is distance-faint, 'tho clear,
The tang of lowland pine and cedar flavors
The breeze that flows from ice-worn canyons sheer.

The foothills lie below, a lava ocean,
With valley troughs and silvered crests so high.
Saint Helens, filmy clad, and bold Mount Adams
Are islands, dim against the southern sky.

The queenly Mountain, etched in silent grandeur,
Is clad in glacial robes and snow-filled shroud.
Her garments, moon-revealed, in glistening splendor.
Her features hidden by a lacy cloud.

The Kautz sleeps soundly in its gloomy shadows.
No dust-grimed show is seen, nor snowslide scars.
Gibraltar towers high above his fellows
While Point Success stands proud among the stars.


They've gone! The threat of snow is in the sky.
Those soft-voice "V's" of geese have all passed by.
Long lines of ducks are no more seen on high.
Along the shores of yonder ice-rimmed pond,
Bare willow limbs lift high on leafless wand
Last summer's warbler's nest, its builders gone.

Where did they go, those birds of field and fen?
To warmer climes where seeds and bugs remain;
Where suns are warm and parched earth soaks up rain.
THIS is the land they seek, the great Southwest,
A land of mesquite, cactus, food, and rest.
Until again they hear Spring's call to nest.

They come; urged from the North by frosty nights.
Some, like ducks and geese, by mighty flights;
Others, more slowly, bush to bush, and shunning heights.
Some go beyond, urged on as if by fear.
But others stop to spend the winter here,
And seek the same old spot, year after year.


Across the meadow, swept by gusty showers,
Among the dingy drifts of crusted snow,
They make their way, the vanguard of the flowers,
Cheered on by Spring, the herald of the show.
The Lilies, draped in white and yellow folds,
With starry eyes smile coyly as they pass;
Behind them come the buxom Marigolds,
Their verdant vehicle trimmed with greening grass.
And then, their purple spears held high,
The booted Shootingstars march by.

Anemones toss petals by the way.
The storm clouds thin and sunbeams straggle forth
To wave the snowbanks back with gestures gay,
And urge the floral flood to greater girth.
The swelling breeze strikes up a stronger chord
Upon its canyon organ. Skipping by
Come scarlet Penstemons, and then a horde
Of bonnet-hidden Lupines, blue as sky;
And Paintbrush legions, tall and grave,
A million orange banners wave.

Behind them ride the Basketgrass brigades.
Their tassled, creamy plumes gleam in the sun,
While Louseworts, in a myriad of shades,
And Mimulus, and Columbines stream on.
The Asters hold their purple sunshades high,
As fragrant Fireweeds flame 'round the turn,
And fragile Gentians lift up toward the sky
Their cups of indigo, all trimmed with fern.
Then shy Parnassus, white and cream,
Trips lightly by, a dainty dream.

The autumn sunset glows, yet still they come,
Pale Everlasting dressed in glistening pearls;
Senecio and Epilobium;
And Golden Asters toss their powdered curls.
They hasten on, for night is drawing near.
The floats, bedecked with cones, of Fir and Pine,
And bold Vinemaple, bringing up the rear,
Its banners, bright as gold and red as wine,
Flash in the evening breath so chill
Of Winter, coming 'round the hill.

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Rhymes of a National Park Naturalist
dodge/sec2.htm — 19-May-2007