Poet’s corner: 'Breathing' in Jack London State Park

These days, most of us lead very busy lives. We drive on the highway from place to place. We text. We go, go, go.

How to breathe life back into our overstimulated minds? One way is to take a walk in the park. Here in Sonoma County we are fortunate to have many lush places where we can walk beneath a canopy of redwoods or be overwhelmed by a chorus of bird song under golden light.

In her poem, “Breathing,” former Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings takes us on one of these life giving hikes where just being in natural surroundings helps us learn how to breathe better.


Jack London State Park

This is where it is done. Beneath the canopy

of trees above and the many songbirds

we’ve not had time to learn the names of

by their chips and trills, here where bees effervesce

in gold light, water still spilling on the rocks,

and inside the softly carpeted fairy ring

where braided shadows of redwoods drape

nests of mice, voles. Breath comes softly

standing at the picket fence of the graves-

London under the red rock, fresh ashes

poured in a mound nearby. (We wondered if

that’s desecration or a human right.) It comes

deeper in the garden of rosemary, lavender,

and quicker at the cottage when we realize

the woodpeckers win in the end with

no one to mend the walls. Dear Jack: I like

peeking in the windows to see your desk,

your books, your sleeping porch and Charmian’s

where you were brought to die, but mostly

I like to walk the land left to us. Is there

anything you can do from where you are? Be

a hero. Send a ship or a good dog. Think

Wolf House. Happy House. This restful,

delicious house of air. We breathe here

better than almost anywhere, distressed.

Reprinted from Cloud Fire (Spuyten Duyvil NYC, 2012)

Katherine Hastings runs the WordTemple poetry series and radio show. For more information, visit

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is Sonoma County’s 2016 Poet Laureate.

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