Whale watching: San Juan Islands

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Moving slowly through the natural world,
trying to remember everything before it goes.
We count pelagic cormorants, auks, murres—
migrant seabirds down from Alaska for the summer,
watch the cormorant nursery, arranged along shelves
of a gently swinging bell buoy,
bald eagles lined up along crags
on the opposite shore.
Young auklets—swimming like amateurs—
divide, as we plow through them
and there are dolphins,
But not the killer whales
we’ve come to see.

From the tour boat,
video cameras scan the shore,
trying to get it all down—
the San Juan Islands,
Mt. Baker, Mt Rainer—
a polluted haze swirls around the summit
of the scalped mountain behind them
like a scarf covering
the hairless head of a cancer patient.
The scientist on board says
he doubts the same cataclysmic event,
creating the same bacterial scum
that become us and our whole world,
will ever happen again.

·       ·       ·

When I first wrote this poem, I had just moved from Boston to the Northwest and fell in love with its natural treasures—eagles barely saved from extinction, Puget Sound, the mountains, its forests, and the wonderful stock of wildlife.

Now as spring approaches after the long monsoon- like weather, leaving us in the rain and the dark, I am beside myself with happiness and sorrow wondering if we can keep this
Shangri-La and for how long?

The last lines of the poem speak of what that loss would mean to our children and grandchildren. Dedicated to Earth Day, everyday.


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The Garden

Colette Highberger | Zuckerman Residence III

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Just Dreaming
for Colette

The crushed rock walks
wander here and there
the bright autumn Japanese Maple trees
bend over the path—
and there the different grasses.
In the distance Puget Sound shimmers
against the white-shrouded Olympics behind
and friends
in the quiet garden.

Colette Highberger | Zuckerman Residence I

Sunday in the Garden

Now the birds arrive,
and skimming through the garden
as though on urgent errands.
Most are hummingbirds,
those nimble acrobats
whirling overhead.
Then a swarm of bumble bees,
saved from extinction,
buzzing and sipping
—and butterflies too
attracted to this new habitat
—refugees from the holocaust.

Colette Highberger | Zuckerman Residence II

Colette in the Garden

Colette in blue,
over the blue Lobelias,
looking like a flower herself.

·    ·    ·

One thing to know about this superb garden is that it has evolved mightily from its original plan. At first I thought I wanted a walking path for exercise, meditation and the culling of ideas for poems—like Darwin’s sand walk. Then three things happened.

  1. Colette read a book about a Japanese garden and passed it on to me.
  2. I saw photos of Zen gardens in Kyoto.
  3. A team was assembled consisting of Louise Wright, architect and designer for the house reconstruction, Clint Ceder, carpenter and creator of the trellis and gates, Colette Highberger, landscape designer and gardener—and me.

Next, Louise and I visited Kubota Gardens in downtown Seattle and it became a model for ours. Since we had begun to think environmentally, the vision for the garden expanded to one with less grass, more Pacific Northwest drought-resistant plants, and crushed rock paths and huge rocks set within a Japanese scenario.

After Louise drew preliminary plans and Colette fleshed them out and began the planting with the support of Usiel Lopez (2nd gardener), Jaswinder Singh of A and J Retaining Walls gathered rocks large and small and with his team dug trenches for the paths and placed the huge quarry rocks in their proper place. The result is what you see today—a
garden not only lovely to behold, but environmentally green and already a habitat for bees, birds and butterflies.

The Upright Construction Team

Brian Highberger: Head Coach and Master Builder
Louise Wright: Residential designer and overall design coordinator, who worked with me to help create my dream house
Mary-lynn Ballew: Interior designer—another magician
Colette Highberger: Landscape designer and garden visionary
Robert Mitton: Master Craftsman
Ron Horne: Foreman and primary contact man
( Both Robert and Ron checked out final details on the project—commonly known as the Punch List, and spent about 2 weeks at my house on that task thus allowing us to become good friends).
Marty Walz, Captain (demolition)
Dillon Baker: Demolition
Austin Thompson: Demolition (and framing)
Marty Walz: Demolition
Steve Bell: Painter and poet
Clint Ceder: My ambassador to the team and detail man

Everyone did extra duty and extended themselves in order to find and use only non-toxic materials from paint, finishes, window trim, and closet doors in order to provide a truly Green house. My gratitude to all.

These poems form the sixth and final installment in a sequence about the construction of my home—read the first hereRead the second here, the third here, the fourth here, and the fifth here.


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The House V

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Instead of photos, these poems use words to tell of the phenomena while I sit on the deck drinking it all in.

For Pico Iyer, whose thoughts about silence and the sacred I have borrowed.

In the distance
someone is beating a rug
or wet laundry,
children’s voices shouting
then fading away,
their cries muffled
as though under water.
Overhead a silent plane
its lights flickering like stars,
a crow cawing,
a train whistle.
Everything flowing
within this irresistible silence
while I lay splayed on the lounge chair
like a TB patient
when suddenly the sound of traffic
soars like the growling of a storm cloud
far away—
and the deep silence returns
that first empties your mind,
then brings you to the true self
that lies trembling beneath your heart.

Sunset by JMW Turner (Tate)

Pictures at an Exhibition

like a Turner painting.
The sky’s afire
and we are looking
into the hot heart of a furnace.

Thick clouds streaked with Blakean light
streaming through, as the sun slips down
to the other side of the earth,
leaving a rosy shadow of itself
silhouetted behind the mountain
as black-cloaked night falls

·    ·    ·

These poems form the fifth installment in a sequence about the construction of my home—read the first hereRead the second here, the third here, and the fourth here.


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