Like water flowing east

Clouds and mountains all tangled together up to the blue sky

a rough road and deep woods without any travelers

far away the lone moon a bright glistening white

nearby a flock of birds sobbing like children

one old man sitting alone   perched in these green mountains

a small shack   the retired life   letting my hair grow white

pleased with the years gone by   happy with today

mindless this life is like water flowing east


Allow me to offer a word of advice. Stay away from poetry on grey and gloomy days, especially if it’s rained for days on end and the poems are about autumn.

Green leaves

That dawn after dawn

Grow yellow,

Red cheeks

That fade

With the passing days –

If our world

Is made up

Of such changes

As these,

Is it strange

That my heart

Is so sad?

Hsiao Kang

Do you see what I mean? There is something about autumn that infuses melancholy in the air. The changing leaves are splendid, the fresh apples in the orchards divine. There are football games to cheer for and woolly sweaters to be worn. Yet, through it all there is a quiet whisper, put to words by the poets. Life is like water flowing east.

Warner in fall
That changing colors at Warner Nature Center are breathtaking, even in a gloomy rain.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It seems to me an opportune time to think about the legacies that we leave for future generations, both as individuals and as a society.

When the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968, congress declared that the St. Croix and other outstanding rivers should be “preserved in free-flowing condition… and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.” The National Park Service, established just over 100 years ago, shares a similar goal – to preserve “unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” I wasn’t alive yet when either act was passed, but I’m thankful that they were and do truly enjoy our National Parks and the St. Croix River.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects the St. Croix and other special rivers for the benefit of current and future generations.

Sometimes individuals create legacies of their own by placing conservation easements on their properties with the Minnesota Land Trust or another entity. A conservation easement is a set of restrictions a landowner voluntarily places on his or her property in order to preserve its conservation values. Easements can protect land against future development or mining, allow for continued farming, or provide for restoration of native habitat. An easement applies to current and future landowners, permanently protecting the property.

Even if we don’t own land or hold a seat in congress, we can create legacies of our own by passing on stories to our children and sharing our love for nature and the outdoors. Research from the Children & Nature Network shows that spending time in nature reduces stress and anger, helps children to improve relationship skills, reduces the risk of obesity, and makes children more likely to care about and protect the environment as adults.

Standing Cedars in fall
Spending time in nature promotes physical and mental health and helps children to develop an environmental ethic.

Perhaps it would be safer this autumn to read proverbs instead of poems. Here’s one from the Greeks,

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

Or, as Crosby, Stills Nash & Young would say,

Teach your children well.