To them it’s a day of finally getting out
of the office,
of taking frustrations out,
seeing how far they can plow the 4-wheel
though what they call “the muck”
before they have to walk (never far)
to electrically “zap” a creek
and haul out stunned fish to count and tag,
sometimes having to try to resuscitate
a big dying steelhead
if they didn’t know it was there
and the charge was too much.
Or it’s a day of excavating with heavy equipment,
drilling, fashioning artificial pools and waterfalls
in a cow-devastated creek,
monotonous in their repetitious look-alike
from one to the next as I walk down by the water,
with rocks cabled to each other with epoxy.
Or it’s a day for them of painting trees–
blue for its death, orange for saving,
according to “the prescription,”
cutting down the patient in order to save it
in the name of “Forest Health,”
the markings often changed in political skirmishes
so what trees are left bear blacked-out stripes
across their bellies as they stand mute, waiting.
For too many of them, it’s another day in the office,
called to endless meetings deciding the fate
of what they never get to see,
mesmerized by radiation-field computer screens–
statistics in neat rows,
or daydreaming of going hunting on a holiday,
a chance to get away and “ready to do something”
–with the elk, the deer, the cougar, the bear
they don’t really know.
For me it’s a day as wonderful as in any
famous tropical rainforest–
small golden sweat bees scavenging from my living
skin’s waste their sustenance
after a summer lightning storm sends up puffs
of gray, then the first leaping orange
in the distant blue mountains,
or a spring day of wildflowers in water-glistening meadows,
finding morel mushrooms under the firs,
looking up to see the flashing crimson
of a pileated woodpecker as she zooms in
to inspect me, then cries her haunting territorial warning.
Or a winter day of crisp cold blue
with clear sun
as the elk burst out from the cover of the forest
and my horse surges under me,
wanting to run with them.
Autumn, gathering juniper berries
and the last green mullein leaves
for wound salves and better breathing,
watching four pronghorns graze on the hillside at dusk,
shutting my eyes for dreams under the moon
to the joyful chorus of coyotes calling
each other for the hunt–
and reaching me.
Dec. 21 1992 Earth First!