More from Snyder’s No Nature

I’m not foolish enough to believe I could summarize Gary Snyder’s complex philosophy in a short blog entry, but these two poems, chosen from the middle part of his career, give a pretty good feel of some of the most important elements of his philosophy.

I strongly identify with this poem written after the birth of his first son Kai:


When Kai is born
I quit going out

Hang around the kitchen-make cornbread
Let nobody in.
Mail is flat.
Masa lies on her side, Kai sighs,
Non washes and sweeps
We sit and watch
Masa nurse, and drink green tea.

Navajo turquoise beads over the bed
A peacock tail feather at the head
A badger pelt from Nagano-ken
For a mattress; under the sheet;
A pot of yogurt setting
Under the blankets, at his feet.

Masa, Kai,
And Non, our friend
In the green garden light reflected in
Not leaving the house.
From dawn til late at night
making a new world of ourselves
around this life.

Though making my living by teaching did not allow me the luxury of staying home all the time after my daughter was born, I certainly experienced the same kind of feelings and was transformed into a homebody for the next twenty years, focusing most of my life on raising two kids.

The transformation was not a temporary one; even when the kids left the lifestyle remained. I am still a home body, one who enjoys returning to that simple life even after a thoroughly enjoyable trip to far away places.

“The Trade? introduces a slightly different aspect of his philosophy, but it is certainly in concert with the first poem:


I found myself inside a massive concrete shell
lit by glass tubes, with air pumped in, with
levels joined by moving stairs.

It was full of the things that were bought and made
in the twentieth century. Layed out in trays
or shelves

The throngs of people of that century, in their style,
clinging garb made on machines,

Were trading all their precious time
for things.

If you read my blog very often, you’re probably not surprised to find this poem here, either, since it is one of my reoccurring themes, which is not to say that I’m not tempted by expensive toys. It that were true, I wouldn’t have spend much of the day learning what it would cost me to upgrade my cable connection to a faster speed. Still, faced with the choice between time to do the things I want to do or more things, I’ve always chosen time, refusing to work summers when I was off and choosing to retire as early as possible, no matter what the financial consequences.