These days the hills of Sonoma County are lushly green. The apple orchards confetti the air with fresh, pink blossoms, and the stone-throated creeks at our feet sing with deep water and frog song.
Terry Ehret, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus, addresses such a vivid spring landscape in her poem, “Peaceful Destruction.” She uses it as a way to uncover the violence that can exist under the surface of even the most peaceful beauty.
The poem is set at the foot of Mount Burdell, a 1,500-foot peak between Sonoma and Marin counties that offers paths where insects buzz and the air is crowded with birdsong; a place that continues to turn over in beauty whether or not destruction plagues the world.
Ehret’s poem asks us to remember what has happened — drone strikes, the news of the dead and dying that’s delivered in the daily paper — but also to believe in the power of spring’s renewal, its power to transform in a season “new graves/ into blue fields of flowers.”
by Terry Ehret
The creek behind my house is noisy
with frog choruses. The grass is so long it leans
over. Bugs open their wings on the blades’ edges and wait
for a breeze to lift them into the air. The path winds
south toward Mt. Burdell under the white blossoms of plums.
And the air is crowded with birdsong. This is the peaceful world
that turns the spring earth over whether or not drone planes
drop bombs in Pakistan, or the Israelis reject yet another
negation, or voices of dissent are drowned in gunfire. The paper
arrives each morning with the dead and dying. We’ve run amok,
burned all of our bridges, melted the arctic ice masses, abandoned
the underwater cathedrals, forgotten our mating calls.
It’s been the eve of destruction since 1964, but this morning when the mist
lifted off the river, spring deepened into green,
green hills, dotted with lupine and blue-eyed grass. Spring
wants to be spring, turning bone
back into wood and new graves
into blue fields of flowers.
From “Night Sky Journey,” Kelly’s Grove Press, 2011
Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate, writes this column biweekly for The Press Democrat.