Tuesday, July 27, 2010


As we turned into the park on Sunday, I saw a signboard announcing that today's free concert featured a band called “Innisfree.”

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made,

I recited, and surprised myself by going on and saying the whole poem. I didn't know I still knew it.

Tryon Creek State Park, where Martha works now on weekends: I was driving her in to work. It's not old growth, but it's had a generation or two to recover from the logging, and it's pretty and peaceful, if not grand. It's tucked into an elbow-crook between Lewis and Clark College and the uncertain sprawl of southwest Portland. It claims to be the first urban state park. It was slated to be developed in the 1970s, but the neighbors got together and purchased the land instead, and eventually gave it to the State to be kept as a park. The original group, the Friends of Tryon Creek, still exists, and Martha works for them, sharing space with the park rangers in a “Nature Center.”

A stuffed beaver perches in squirrel posture by the back door. He's seen a lot, in his second life, and he's a bit battered now. He's the delight of toddlers. One, perhaps 18 months old, walked up to him, Martha tells me, and stopped, radiant with wonder.

“Horse!” he exclaimed.

And I shall have some peace there,
For peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning
To where the cricket sings . . .

Just so, one feels, Yeats walked to the shore to gaze at the lake isle of Innisfree, and exclaimed “Peace!”

Doug firs and big leaf maples netting the sunlight, far up above our heads. Below, the quiet green light that sifts down through the leaves, and a few stubborn mosquitoes outstaying their time, floating like dust-motes. I'm fond of mosquitoes, even though they are pests, and have probably inadvertently visited more misery on our species, by way of malaria and yellow fever, than any other creature we've ever lived with. Still, Oregon mosquitoes are harmless, humble and obsequious, politely waiting their turn to suck your blood – lacy, delicate creatures, surprisingly clumsy and surprisingly deft. They mean no harm, and they even take the trouble of injecting you with anesthetic before taking your blood, which is more than your doctor's lab-assistant does. Armed gnats. There is about them something terribly improbable, and rather gallant. I'm a sucker for gallant. They're pitched into a world where their livelihood depends on nose-harpooning a creature far greater to them than leviathan is to us: a creature not only huge, but also wickedly alert and clever, a master of poisons and deceptions, and (to their kind, at least) utterly without mercy.

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