You Can’t Take It With You

In other words, there is no such thing as a Death Tax.

In fact, I’m a little surprised that the Christian wing of the Republican party haven’t informed the Capitalistic wing of the party of that simple fact.

As I, and the Wikipedia, remember it, Jesus told the rich man who was unwilling to give up his inheritance, “And again I say unto you. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.? Matthew 19:24

Perhaps that’s why tax payers are allowed to avoid inheritance taxes by donating part of their estate to charitable organizations.

There is NO Death Tax. There is, in fact, only an Inheritance Tax.

Where else can one receive large sums of money and not pay taxes on it? One could perhaps argue that the taxes on inheritances are too high, but of course where else is one allowed to get $2,000,000 and not pay any taxes on it?

If that were true for everyone, I would never have had to pay any taxes in my life, nor would 90% of the population because they will never see that kind of money in their entire life. Of course if that were true, there wouldn’t be much of a country left would there? Governments can’t run without money.

If inheritance taxes are really the burden that opponents suggest, why then do we have the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, the Bushes and thousands more noble families who have such power over our country? Surely, those weighty taxes should have reduced those families to poverty by now.

If one really believes in Democracy and not in an Oligarchy like Mexico where there is a permanent ruling class because of the absence of an inheritance or gift tax and a permanent under class that is forced to leave their country to provide for their families, then an inheritance tax seems like an absolute necessity.

Is equal opportunity even a possibility in a country dominated by an Aristocracy whose wealth and income is taxed at a lower rate than those who are forced to earn their money through their labor?

I don’t know about you, but I’m dead tired of hearing Republican ads accusing Democratic candidates of wanting to increase taxes because they refuse to go along with Republican attempts to repeal a tax that has long been part of America’s attempt to make sure that we do not have a permanent ruling class who has to do little more than run around making a show of spending obscene amounts of money. It’s hard to imagine a better argument for an inheritance tax than Nicky or Paris Hilton.

Bill Yake’s This Old Riddle: Cormorants and Rain

I started reading Bill Yake’s This Old Riddle: Cormorants and Rain with high expectations. After all, I picked the book up at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge’s book store and the author’s someone I really identify with, a retired environmental scientist who admires many of the same Northwest poets I admire, is interested in Zen Buddhism, and loves the outdoors even more than I do.

I was a little surprised, however, that I didn’t like more of the poems than I did, even after a second reading. Considering that the book is only 78 pages long, maybe it’s not too surprising that I ended up only marking five poems to return to the next time I pick up the book. Maybe I just expected more than I should have from the book.

The poems I liked most made me remember things I’d long ago forgotten, like Tokeland where short-sighted developers thought they could make the ocean conform to their desires, without anticipating the effect that might have on residents across the bay. Others, like the title poem, brought back pleasant memories of past trips.

My favorite poem, though, was:

PRAISING THE FISH

You are the visible whispering one.
The Brahman. You are the flush of blood
behind a thin skin of mirrors. Your scales
are small as single notes. Rainbow above all

rainbows, you are jaw and composure.
At sunset your tail is broad. It propels
you up glistening into burning skies,
gills pulsing and nose to the wind as if
it were current. It is

the way wheat-land sunsets burn rivers.
In the flash behind flesh and the blush under
cutbanks, you are the rainbow of horizon,
thunderhead, creek braid and plunge pool.

You are frost turning the sun green.
And buoyed by an aspirated clarity
all this air within water within air
you are a towering splash of hunger,
our flourishing, transient shout.

I initially questioned the comparison of the salmon to “the Brahman,? but further reflection made it seem an apt metaphor. At least here in the Pacific Northwest, Salmon is King, Nature’s life force. Often the controversy over salmon loss gets reduced to cries of woe from commercial fishermen, bitter fights between sports and commercial fishermen, or even simple-minded arguments that sea lions or cormorants threaten the extinction of salmon, but it’s clear that virtually the whole Pacific Northwest ecosystem would collapse with the loss of the salmon.

Salmon migrations are perhaps the greatest mystery of the Pacific Northwest culminating in the spawning of the salmon, as they head upstream, figuratively, if not literally, “ glistening into burning skies.? Even before they spawn, healthy salmon shine, reflecting the light off their silver scales, but once they reach fresh water they begin to turn brilliant red, creating a virtual rainbow in streams.

It is impossible not to be awed upon observing thousands of salmon fighting their way upstream to spawn. One can only imagine the kind of hunger that would drive fish thousands of miles to certain death in order to reproduce. It is a short-lived, but immensely powerful statement of the Life Force.

I sometimes suspect that we’re more apt to see the world in new ways when we listen to those that are different from us, rather than listening to those who already belong to the same choir, which is not to argue, that it’s not also pleasant at times to stop and listen to similar voices.

Nisqually Watershed

From the moment I picked up Nisqually Watershed: Glacier to Delta — A River’s Legacy, I knew I had to own it. The photographs were too beautiful to put down, as revealed by the cover photo. I wasn’t disappointed with the many photos that make up a large part of this book. Seeing them nearly recreates the river’s presence.

I was also delighted by several smaller illustrations that accompanied the text, like this picture of a cliff swallow.

These illustrations not only added variety to the book, but served as a visual balance to larger photographs on opposing pages. Though it’s more than a coffe table book, it can certainly compete with most of those kinds of books that I have in my front room. It’s a visual delight.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as delighted by the copy that accompanies the pictures. Perhaps it was merely a matter of not meeting the expectations set by the graphics, but despite some inspiring passages, the prose seldom reaches the level of this passage:

Origins of the Upper Watershed

For the first droplets of the Nisqually River water, there is nowhere to go but downhill. The thin topsoil cannot absorb the tiny pearls of moisture, and the sparse plants lack amply developed root systems to draw them in. Thimble sized drops coalesce, trickling in rivulets down the slopes of Mount Rainier. Rivulets merge, forming small streams.

Each new stream carries tiny particles of rock, the pulverized aftermath of the glaciers’ ebb and flow. No bigger than plaster dust, these particles are called “flour” a fitting name for any material produced by the mountain’s grindstone and the weight of the Nisqually Glacier’s slow moving mill wheel.

Tinged the color of chocolate milk, the flour laden water sweeps over a field of cobbled rocks deposited in previous eons at the glacier’s foot. The young river barely keeps to its cobbled bed in this steep upper stretch. It jostles and tugs at each rock in its path, coursing ahead with the youthful exuberance of a new river.

The energetic stream finds other new snowmelt sources, some milky and some unusually clear due to nonglacial origins. As it tumbles downhill, the stream divides into two parallel streams for a stretch, then soon reunites in a pattern known as “braiding” for its strong resemblance to plaited hair.

Despite some disappointment with the rather generic copy, I do have a better historical view of the river than I had before and better understand the forces that threaten it. I suspect those less familiar with the history of this region might find the copy more more interesting than I did.

Hopefully the book will inspire those who love the Nisqually watershed to continue to provide the protection a health river demands which was obviously the intention of The Mountaineers and the Nisqually River Interpretative Center Foundation, publishers of the book. I will say this book came as close as anything I’ve found so far to feeling like “home” to me. It may be just about the Nisqually, but it feels like many of the rivers flowing from the Cascades to the Puget Sound. Unfortunately, while making your realize how valuable the Nisqually is it also makes you realize how much has been lost in most of the areas north of here.

Roethke’s “The Rose”

To me, Roethke’s “North American Sequence” is one of the one of the greatest sequences of poems ever written, though I’ll have to admit to a certain bias since much of it is set in the Pacific Northwest, and I first read it while at Fort Knox, longing for home.

Here is the opening section from

There are those to whom place is unimportant,
But this place, where sea and fresh water meet,
Is important
Where the hawks sway out into the wind,
Without a single wingbeat,
And the eagles sail low over the fir trees,
And the gulls cry against the crows
In the curved harbors,
And the tide rises up against the grass
Nibbled by sheep and rabbits.

A time for watching the tide,
For the heron’s hieratic fishing,
For the sleepy cries of the towhee,
The morning birds gone, the twittering finches,
But still the flash of the kingfisher, the wingbeat of the scoter,
The sun a ball of fire coming down over the water,
The last geese crossing against the reflected afterlight,
The moon retreating into a vague cloud-shape
To the cries of the owl, the eerie whooper.
The old log subsides with the lessening waves,
And there is silence.

I sway outside myself
Into the darkening currents,
Into the small spillage of driftwood,
The waters swirling past the tiny headlands.
Was it here I wore a crown of birds for a moment
While on a far point of the rocks
The light heightened,
And below, in a mist out of nowhere,
The first rain gathered?

It is here that the poet claims to find his true self,

And I stood outside myself,
Beyond becoming and perishing,
A something wholly other,
As if I swayed out on the wildest wave alive,
And yet was still.

I probably didn’t understand this poem at the age of 22, but it left an impression that has stayed with me since first reading it, and it rings truer today than it ever has.

Judging from the photographs I’ve posted here this year, some might even believe that I’ve been trying to illustrate this poem the last year. I haven’t, but I have. I suspect I understand the poem much better having spent the last year at Nisqually and at Pt. Defiance.