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 wordtemple.com/blog.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle is Sonoma County’s 2016 Poet Laureate.