Friday, September 20, 2013


Thursday, August 29, 2013


I'm reading a truly wonderful book written by the poet Mary Ruefle. By wonderful I mean intelligent and engaging, humble and erudite. It is a collection of lectures titled Madness, Rack, and Honey (Wave Press 2012). 

In the lecture she calls "Fear," she asks us to consider John Berger's "succinct and frightening sentence." 

"Everywhere these days more and more people knock their heads against the fact that the future of our planet, and what it will offer or deny to its inhabitants, is being decided by boards of men who control more money than all the governments in the world, who never stand for election, and whose sole criterion for every decision they take is whether or not it increases or is prone to increase Profit."

My first encounters with questioning the costs and benefits of Profit came during my high school years, during the 1970s, but not in high school itself. These encounters came at church. 

One Sunday, Brother Moody, also known as Dr. Moody, a professor of agricultural economics at Arizona State University--the university down the street from my high school I would later attend--cautioned against "too much profit." Dr. Moody warned that this pursuit was harmful to the Economy, writ large.

Meanwhile, during my zero-hour seminary classes, held across the street from my high school in a church-owned building, I was trying to understand what it was Jesus was trying to teach us. 

Among the several lessons that have stuck with me was a philosophical question that went something like this: What is a man profited if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?

Right now, extreme efforts are underway by a consortium of two of the world's largest multi-national mining corporations--London-based Anglo-American and Canada's Northern Dynasty--to get US government-approval to build the Pebble Mine

This mine would be one of the world's largest open-pit copper, gold, and molybdenum mines and would be located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay--at the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers--one of the most productive wild salmon habitats in the world. 

Not only is the area environmentally sensitive, it is seismically sensitive, and would include the world's largest earthen dam, a dam which scientists claim may not withstand a seismic event of a magnitude of the 1964 Anchorage earthquake. What are we willing to risk for Profit? 

Daily, it seems, I ask myself if today is the day we humans will snap out from under the spell of the large and small Profits that cause all of us to put our ecosystems--and their sustainability--at risk. It seems that day will always be tomorrow, and for someone else. 

Here in Northern California, we've made life all but unsustainable for salmon and steelhead in the once-prolific Russian River, one minor--or major--diversion of water at a time. Globally, our minor and major actions have radically, perhaps irreversibly, altered our atmosphere.  

So why the photograph of Mono Lake? To remind myself that Soul sometimes prevails over Profit, and how it is done.

Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


My nephew and I enjoyed our second annual summer road trip to Lees Ferry and a day on the Colorado with Mick Lovett, owner and operator of Marble Canyon Outfitters. 

As was the case last year, we were talking about next year's trip by mid-morning. We had also stopped counting the fish we'd caught as we were well into the double digits. Follow this hyperlink to Mick's blog and photos of three vibrant rainbows my nephew caught. 

I also had the opportunity to present Mick with a contributor's copy of Spillway No. 20 in which my poem, "Marble Canyon," appears. The poem is dedicated to the memory of his father, Rocky, and the place both he and Mick love so much. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Saturday, June 29, 2013


Monday, June 3, 2013



Wake up. It's time to fish.


Saturday, May 4, 2013


Most mornings, mornings when the steelhead aren't running in the local river, I practice a simple tai chi set in a local park. 

Last Wednesday I arrived much later than usual. I'd been celebrating the culmination of my Poem On! arts residency at ArtSpace Gallery in Placerville the night before. 

At 9:00 am the park was full of kindergarteners out on some kind of foray with their teachers. I practiced as far away from them as possible but knew I'd draw attention. 

Pretty soon a group of boys was sneaking towards me, darting from tree to tree. I heard one of them whisper, That man's dancing. I did my best to stay focused during the set and keep a straight face. 

I noticed one boy pick up some berries. Clearly, he was deciding whether or not to throw them at me.  

Quietly, I said, Don't do that

The other boys all whispered, He said, don't do that

One of the boys sat down and started drawing. I'm going to draw the dancing man, he told his friends. 

When I finished the set the boys gathered around me. I turned and started walking toward their teacher and the boys followed me, single file, like the goslings one can see along the American River right now, trying out their legs and wings. I ambled in a snake-like way and when I stopped suddenly the boys piled up against me and started laughing. 

I asked them if they knew what I was doing. 


Sort of. Have you heard of tai chi? 

Karate! one boy yelled. Then all the boys started punching and kicking the air. 

All except the boy who'd made the drawing. I asked him if I could see the drawing he'd made. 

This is you, he said. He'd drawn a tree with a solid trunk and limber, flowing branches. 

You've drawn a metaphor, I said. Does anyone know what a metaphor is? 

The boys shook their heads no. 

It's when you draw something that means something else. In this case, your friend drew a tree to represent me. Very intelligent. Sophisticated. 

The boys looked at me blankly.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


April rains did not dampen Union Mine High School's creative writing students' enthusiasm for writing en plein air on the Cronan Ranch Preserve. In the photograph, above, young writers describe the sounds and smells of the South Fork of the American River as it runs and eddies through land held in trust by the American River Conservancy.

Creative writing and environmental literature teacher Rich Kientz conceived this arts-integration project in which the process of writing poetry is used to explore the environmental concepts of watershed, and to help the students gain a greater sense of place. Rich garnered support for this residency from the American River Conservancy's Innovations in Environmental Education Fund and the El Dorado Arts Council.

On a personal level, this project provides me with an exciting opportunity. It allows me to integrate my own interests, education, and professional experience in the arts and environmental science.

Accompanying us on our poetry hike was the Conservancy's Environmental Education Specialist Lindsay Raber. She described not only the physical features of the landscape we were viewing but also the history of the place, including the peoples who lived here and how they interacted with the land, and the Conservancy's restoration efforts.

The following day it was Gold Trail Elementary's sixth graders who were writing outdoors, under the umbrella of an ancient oak on the Wakamatsu Colony Site.

This tea and silk colony was established on the Gold Hill Ranch by Japanese immigrants in 1869 and is immediately adjacent to the Gold Trail campus. The colony site was recently placed on the National Register of Historical Places at the level of "National Significance."

Borrowing a phrase from renowned poet Pablo Neruda, this was a day for the students to be "poets of the world," increasing and honing their sensory perception skills through direct observation of nature.

This arts residency is a collaboration between sixth-grade teacher Bill Beveridge, artist Andie Thrams and myself. It is supported by the El Dorado Arts Council and is part of the California Poets in the Schools' Poem On program.

I am both thrilled and honored to be the visiting poet for both of these residencies.

Under the leadership of the El Dorado Arts Council's Deb Jensen and Moira Magneson, the art of poetry is thriving in the foothills during National Poetry Month. Visit their website for a full listing of POEMPALOOZA Events. 

All of these exciting poetry activities come on the heels of another exceptional season of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest.

El Dorado County's county-level winner, Connor Ricketts, recited his way to a First Runner Up finish in California's statewide contest. Quite an achievement. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Viewed from the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Thursday, January 17, 2013


My friend and fellow fisher-poet Danyen Powell was kind enough to join me, before the crack of dawn, in chasing winter-run steelhead on our local waters to celebrate my birthday. He was rewarded with a spectacular fish.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


There are a record number of women in the new Congress and I found it a pleasing coincidence that the Winter 2013 issue of Trout Unlimited's Trout Magazine features what may be a record number of women writers: Erin Block, Susie Warner Leeson, Nelli Williams, and Samantha Carmichael.

According to Chris Wood, speaking in his From the President page, "Half the featured authors are women. That wasn't planned. It simply reflects reality."

One of those featured authors I'd like to direct your attention to is Erin Block. Her bio describes her as "a librarian by day, writer by night, and avid fly angler on her days off." When you get a chance, check out her blog and enjoy a new voice in the long literary conversation between anglers; a woman's voice. 

There, you'll also find a link to Whitefish Press and new her book, The View From Coal Creek: Reflections on Fly Rods, Canyons and Bamboo. 

I'm going to order a copy to share with my niece, the young woman in the photo above, hips-deep in the American at sunrise on Thanksgiving morning; smiling.