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.


PNA Swoosh


Farewell to the Snowy Owls at Sunset Park

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Photo by Andrea Loewen

(Photo by Andrea Loewen)

Goodbye to the migrants from up north
— from that other latitude
where when food became scarce
they flew south to fend for themselves.
Two teenagers from the Arctic
roosting in trees
or sheltering against a brick chimney
Only the blazing yellow eyes
glaring down at us in disdain,
black and white barred feathers
standing out against the sky.

No more daily visits to the park
where folks loaded with binoculars
and scopes gathered together
to stare up in wonder at
this icon,
this mythic animal,
this totem visitor,
— its rare appearance
met with reverence and awe…
and the ritual question of birders everywhere…
“Are they here today?”

⋅     ⋅     ⋅

Owl Fever 2

Yes, during the winter of 2012, Sunset Park became a place sacred to the two Snowy Owls who had alighted there to survive the winter. We made daily pilgrimages to the park and learned to greet others in owl-born friendliness.

Those who had seen one or the other or both, gave directions—which tree, which house or pointed to those who had gathered together with binoculars and scopes under a tree and were looking up.

We shared pictures and information…that they lived on the rats dwelling on the bank going down towards Shilshole, that they were fighting as adolescent males of many species are wont to do, probably for territory.

Finally there was only one left and now there are none.


PNA Swoosh