Book of the Week–To Love That Well


Robert Pack is “one of America’s most eminent nature poets.”  I chose his book today because he reminds me of places I have left, but long to be, specifically his poem ‘Bear Grass,’ which I have below.  His words bring me back to my summer in the Grand Tetons, walking through fields of wildflowers, watching bears and wildlife, and contemplating existences and philosophies you can’t fathom in an urban world.


Bear Grass


               Here in northwest Montana in the spring

Blooms a big flower—Bear Grass is its name

Because bear eat the fleshy leaf sheaths after

Winter sleep has much depleted them.

They bloom in intermittent years, stark white,

Composed of a dense pulsing multitude

Of tiny petals like a galaxy—

Or so it pleases me to think of them.

               Yet each third year or so, they manage to 

Coordinate, another thought I like

To contemplate, appearing all together

As a tidal surge in unison

And fill the forest with a scented glow,

Eerie as moonlight on a cloudless night.

               They are extravagantly beautiful—

No one could possibly think otherwise!

So maybe watching this effulgent scene

Should be considered happiness because—

Although I add my thoughts to what I see—

It is impersonal, thus capable

Of helping one forget true sorrows one

Must call one’s own—sorrows that signify

The story of one’s only life, events

Already fixed and inescapable:

A blank-faced parent’s loss of memory,

Desertion of a long-time trusted friend,

A child’s prolonged disease and death.  Such thoughts

Cannot for long be banished from the mind.

               But who says only happiness that lasts

Can be considered happiness at all? 

And who says we’re designed for happiness?

So watching bear grass this white spring, even

For just an hour, in which they bloom as if 

Delighting in each other’s company,

Will have to be enough and must suffice

As happiness.  I will it so, and so

It is until unknown events contrive

To take me somewhere I don’t want to go;

And may the bears soon satisfy their needs 

Where they can pause and eat and stay alive.




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