Some things need to be said differently

nefeeder's picture

When you send comments to the feds about their rules and proposals, you don’t generally put those comments in blank verse.

But that’s what I did this time. When I finally figured out what I had to say about the draft Wilderness Plan for the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, I wrote my comments in blank verse.


Basically, because I was stumped. Here was the chance to comment on the wilderness area that’s practically in my back yard. And yet I was finding that I just didn’t have anything left to say.

I’d already commented on the other two wilderness area plans. I’d said, in essence:

“Look, the rules for wilderness are already in law, in the Wilderness Act of 1964. The agencies can run these areas day-to-day according what’s in the law. There’s not a lot more needed.”

And furthermore:

“Look, by laying on all these layers of further human-made conditions and human-made goals, you’re suffocating the very wilderness mindset that the law was meant to preserve!”

So I’d already said it. What was left?

Then I realized. What was left was how it feels. How it feels to see a thing being killed with kindness. Well-intended effort, but a diminished creature left behind. Like the old saw: “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

That’s how it feels – to me, anyway.

Here’s what I sent:


Wilderness is a Lady

A Lady in the Grand Style

Living in a big old house

That’s always been there.

“Is she on the porch again?”

“What is she looking at?”

“Her hair is crazy!”

“Look at her clothes!”

She never speaks

Except sometimes to say one thing:

I am what I am.

We children could visit her.

She’d open the door without a knock.

Things were wherever they were.

Maybe there was a logic.

She’d bring cups,

Sometimes milk or water,

Sometimes old biscuits,

Maybe a plate of venison.

She was a feature.

The neighbors looked at her,

She looked at them.

No need to say:

I am what I am.

Of course everyone wants her to be safe,


So the courts and the legislature go to work.

Qualified custodians take charge.

The house is preserved,

And the Lady with it,

Dressed and minded to in her big room

Where she can be safe,


Now we visit under supervision,

We standing on our side of the carpet,

She in her chair not moving.

The custodians find grants.

The house comes up on the web:

Click here for rules and explanations.

And there’s the Lady’s image –

“Who is that? What’s she doing there?”

Soon enough, she’ll go to the nursing home.

She’ll eat off a TV tray.

She’ll be safe,


“She never says anything.”

“They tried teaching her.”

“Who was she?”

When it’s done, we’ll stand by the plaque at the sidewalk.

We’ll read the words.

“What do you think?”

“I remember her!”

“What a character!”

Words are our little bricks.

We need dwellings, and we make them.

We build our schemes.

We do the best we can.

But life and words

Are not the same thing.

Campbell Gardett lives in Mackay. He is a member of Custer County’s Natural Resources Advisory Committee.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4 (2 votes)