Bixby’s Landing

A poem by Robinson Jeffers:

They burned lime on the hill and dropped it down
here in an iron car
On a long cable; here the ships warped in
And took their loads from the engine, the water
is deep to the cliff. The car
Hangs half way over in the gape of the gorge,
Stationed like a north star above the peaks of
the redwoods, iron perch
For the little red hawks when they cease from
hovering
When they’ve struck prey; the spider’s fling of a
cable rust-glued to the pulleys.
The laborers are gone, but what a good multitude
Is here in return: the rich-lichened rock, the
rose-tipped stone-crop, the constant
Ocean’s voices, the cloud-lighted space.
The kilns are cold on the hill but here in the
rust of the broken boiler
Quick lizards lighten, and a rattle-snake flows
Down the cracked masonry, over the crumbled
fire-brick. In the rotting timbers
And roofless platforms all the free companies
Of windy grasses have root and make seed; wild
buckwheat blooms in the fat
Weather-slacked lime from the bursted barrels.
Two duckhawks darting in the sky of their cliff-hung
nest are the voice of the headland.
Wine-hearted solitude, our mother the wilderness,
Men’s failures are often as beautiful as men’s
triumphs, but your returnings
Are even more precious than your first presence.

No matter where you’re reading this, you’ve no doubt noticed that there are less and less of pretty much every animal every year. When’s the last time you saw a firefly?

Last week a black bear crashed into my parents’ backyard while they were sitting out there with their cats. Something like that is terrifying at the outset, for sure–but even more so because of the surprise of seeing a creature that is gone or almost gone from almost every part of the country. What was a black bear doing in a residential neighborhood? Well, how much land that isn’t a residential neighborhood (or an industrial wasteland) is left? My parents live in Pennsylvania, which is gas land, coal land, suburban land, and everything else. I remember driving past fields as a kid and seeing thousands of fireflies; you felt like you could walk through the field without a flashlight and see things as clear as day. The last time I was home in the summer, last year, I saw three, maybe four fireflies during a whole week.

“Men’s failures are often as beautiful as men’s triumphs, but your returnings are even more precious than your first presence.” I’m not so sure that’s true, although any kind of return would be nice.

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