Ode to Peter on Our 15th Anniversary
Grunts of satisfaction.
Ah, another weed uprooted from the wilderness.
I didn’t have to get behind the wheel, jaws clenched,
to find this tranquil place
where birds call out and breezes waft between big leaf maples.
I walked here with my husband.
Like a father unmindful of his child’s growth,he needs a pal to remind him
of the great, natural beauty
a small band of volunteers have re-established
in this corner of Earth we call the Madrona Woods.
With primal tugs,
I wrench out invasive ivy
and pat warm mulch
about the base of a fern
as I watch him propel up steep slopes
too treacherous for his comrades.
A tall, strapping form in boots,
he could pass for a Marine.
Only I know.
He is tucking his tender little ones in for the night.
Gently watering the redwood sorrel and elderberry
he planted a few months ago.
Yes indeed, these woods are cared for.
Unlike the tangled bramble
where the Ted Bundy’s of my youth
tossed the corpses of their prey
and flesh turned to dust before anyone noticed.
Here the carbon cycle fulfills its greatest calling.
Fallen trees slowly become nurse logs
for the next generation.
By the time our grandchildren are grown
the tree downed by last winter’s storm
will be rich new soil.
I did not achieve world peace today.
But I had a fresh glimpse of the man I married,
liberated some ferns,
and felt the good Earth in my hands.
Roberta Riley 2007
Taking a break from hauling holly I follow a towhee
The savory comfort of Madrone teaked limbs peeping
From branched bends promises
Each laurelled bend, hemmed with emerald ivy whispering to ankles,
Stimulates these woods forward into recollection.
And having traveled these paths to the point
Where each may be magnified even from afar,
I know it to be a place I know.
Path contours hillsides… Dip… and turns to precipice.
Often a thought of Wendell Berry’s percolates with these woods:
Slopes and drainages hold trails to intimacy,
A mode of travel lost under pavement.
For these woods recalled were wilderness.
A boy and a merry band
Tumbling down dunes of carpeting ivy
Blackberry swaths immense
Whole regions inaccessible
Black holes in topography.
We would harvest laurel berries, perched on a giving limb.
Plucking hard and brilliant water-green ones.
Perfect things of handfuls.
To pile and cache, to pile and cache, to throw at one’s friends.
After careening down and scrambling up, water from the stream tasted like water.
An oasis in residential pavement.
I am thankful for this wilderness.
Now we plant ninebark and Indian plum.
I know where to watch wrens nest.
And ants disperse trillium seeds.
And following a towhee through beckoning paths.
Andrew Holm, 2000
Madrona Woods Magic
This remnant of wild down the street
offers casually by day
manifold delights to draw me in—
Morning dew encrusting spider’s tracery,
bringing this mid-air magic into view,
Bursting green strung on waking Indian Plum,
ignoring groundhog, spreading word of spring,
Rays slipping between centennial big-leaf trunks
touching a fern of ancient lineage,
Drifting fog retreating for a moment’s glimpse
of golden leaves distilling autumn’s light,
The tumbling notes of tiny stream and winter wren,
staccato scolding squirrel and downy’s tap,
the wind, which uses different voice in leaf and fir,
the pungent fragrance of the earthworm’s lair.
the familiar is transformed
by winter’s moon at full—
Fern fronds gleam against the inky shade,
their rhythm stark along the rising bank,
Bare maple branches search the higher air
tracing dark-on-dark patterns on the sky,
The trail beneath my feet is soft with loam,
trapping a hush that active day dispels,
I’m bathed in light that adds my drifting form
to silvery ghosts of patient snag and log,
A withered leaf drifts to a lower branch,
a miniature knight shoulders past a twig
—the only sounds to break the breathless spell.
—This vestige of forests past
casts in chaste moonlight
a thrill I receive in silent awe.
Written by Judith Starbuck after a walk in Madrona Woods under the February full moon in 2000
Patrick of the Woods
Many a work day in Madrona Woods, third Saturday of the month…
We’d carry tools to our site for the day,
begin to pull out ivy, blackberries or other invasives,
to mulch or plant.
Soon Patrick would be there working beside us,
his own tools in hand,
lithe and tireless,
always a welcome addition to our little force.
Our gathering had pulled him north from his Leschi neighborhood,
bringing his strength,
Not that he didn’t have enough to do closer to home.
But he loved them all,
the struggling urban forests
that bring balance to our busy lives,
turn us into stewards,
draw communities together.
And I think he liked our scraggly band,
our way of looking at the world the way he did,
our banter over great lunches.
Madrona Woods is permeated by the work of Patrick’s hands
and the fruits of his love.
It is one of many places that are a little better because he was here.
Judith Starbuck, In memory of Patrick Boland, 2005
A Brook in the City
The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in. But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearthstone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run—
And all for nothing it had ever done,
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under,
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.
They are going to daylight a river here—
that’s what they call it, noun to verb.
A stream turned out years ago from its channel to run in cement tunnels,
dank and airless till it joined a sewer,
will be released—to sun, rain, pebbles, mud, yellow iris, the sky above it
and trees leaning over to be reflected!
At night, stars or at least streetlamps will gleam in it,
fish and waterbugs swim again in its ripples; and though its course,
more or less the old one it followed before its years of humiliation,
will pass near shops and the parking lot’s glittering metallic desert, yet
this unhoped-for pardon will once more permit the stream to offer itself at last
to the lake, the lake will accept it, take it into itself,
the stream restored will become pure lake.
Sands of the Well, “Sojourns in the Parallel World”