Thursday, April 23, 2015

Installation--Letter #46

Dear Governor Ducey,
I almost met you today. You walked right by me. I met your security guards, at least. The sad thing was, after your speech, you had to leave. And I had hoped that you would stay to hear the other speeches about vision for the university and faith in our education system. But you are a busy man and you had to go after your talk. Still, I can send you the poem I hoped you would hear that I wrote for the new university president. Maybe you'll hear it one day.


The Ponderosa Pine is an excellent tree.
It’s a smart one. Patient for rain,
resistant to quiet, low intensity

fire.  It has arranged
to love the snow,
to buffer wind, to make

in its trunk a big home
for a small Abert squirrel
and partner the oak,

so the squirrel will
have something to eat.
We show similar skill.

It was here that the rings
Tom Kolb counted in the tree
showed how Ponderosas dream

of fire. They want space between.
A too near fellow Ponderosa
can mean a devastating rather than a healing

fire. After wildfire, finds Carol Chambers, a
brown bat is necessary to rehabilitate
the place. Bees and Mariposa

can’t do it alone. Bob Neustadt
knows it takes as much Spanish
as English to convince the great

butterfly the border is only a bush,
burning. Nancy Wonders writes
that borders work to establish

authority in weakened states.
Her daughter, Brooke, NAU BA
and MA, onto Chicago PhD, now creates

her own stories about borders and way-
ward boyfriends as a nonfiction writer
and prof at Northern Iowa. We northern A’s

like to stick together. Nancy Johnson finds
how mycorrhizae might tie carbon into their hairs,
sinking it into soil? Maybe. While she aligns

plants with fungus, Rich Hofstetter discovers
a kind of fungus that keeps bark beetles at bay.
From root to canopy, the researchers

weave what they know with what they
need: A way to live better in the middle of a forest
in the middle of a city in the middle of a dry-

ing climate. Some say the idea of the west
is already over.  But I don’t think so.
Here, the students are on a quest

to design a clean burning stove
and an efficient solar powered water heater
and to write philosophies that show

the correlation between clean water
and planet health. And personal health.
And the histories of the Navajo potter

and the future of the Hopi health
care worker and David Williams student’s woodcut
of a healthy forest that shows what real wealth

means. These are just some of the names I know.
Like the trees, we work to resist fire.
We need a little space to grow.

Counting the needles, let alone each cell
would take forever but that’s the so
what of an excellent wood. Each needle,

bark droplet, every mycelia falls and balances, teeters
and supports, bends in the wind but doesn’t
break. At the most triangular top

it looks perfect. A shiny and bright green
arrow to the sun.