Gary Snyder’s “What Have I Learned”

I think I share many of the same beliefs that Gary Snyder holds, though I’m sometimes amazed at how two people who have traveled such different paths could end up with such similar beliefs. Though we both grew up in the Pacific Northwest and California and share a love of the Cascades, our paths could hardly have been more different. I have been as conventional in my actions as Snyder has been unconventional.

Perhaps age gives us insights. Having made a lifetime of mistakes, one hopes to have learned something, and as one ages one realizes that the only way to keep anything is to pass it on:


What have I learned but
the proper use for several tools?

The moments
between hard pleasant tasks

To sit silent, drink wine,
and think my own kind
of dry crusty thoughts.

-the first Calochortus flowers
and in all the land,
it’s spring.
I point them out:
the yellow petals, the golden hairs
to Gen.

Seeing in silence:
never the same twice,
but when you get it right,

you pass it on.

It’s hard not to look back and fear we have passed on things we didn’t get right, but in the end we hope that we can pass on those things that we have gotten right, otherwise such wisdom is wasted.