Wisdom and an appreciation of our world

I was introduced to Ed Zahniser’s poetry via John Warren’s excellent and essential New York Almanac (www.newyorkalmanack.com), to which Mr. Zahniser is a regular contributor.

Zahniser’s “Adirondack Cabin and Mountain Poems,” are set in the Warren County area where his family has vacationed for decades. The author’s father, Howard Zahniser, is an important figure in the history of wilderness preservation in the United States. He was, according to Wikipedia, “the primary author of the Wilderness Act” passed in 1964. Ed Zahniser finds nourishment and inspiration in the wilderness his father helped preserve.

Some of the inspiration is spiritual, even liturgical. “Adirondack Mountain Matins” echoes the morning prayers heard in monasteries and convents:

The mountains are great grandparents

To far Himalayas. Granite wears down

slower than novice monks’ stout wills.

In “You Didn’t Know,” the poet reviews what his younger self didn’t see, echoing the Greek philosopher who told us we can’t step in the same river twice:

Early on you didn’t know…

this life is a river and each day

the ocean streams closer.

“What Shapes Us,” also looks at a lifetime, and Zahniser observes “Our earthly sojourn/takes so little time/reckoned in reverse.”

A number of the poems are dedicated to specific individuals and families, while “At the Schaefer Cabin” describes some of the mischief mice cause in wilderness lodging. I assume the cabin and mice belong to Zahniser’s wilderness advocate friend Paul Schaefer.

“Olfactory Memory” reminds readers of how the woods are remembered. Our noses are our most nostalgic sense, and the smell of a fire in front of an Adirondack lean-to can bring back an image as nourishing as a great painting:

…in visual memories

like classics in art museums…

but unlike Great Masters works,

campfire smoke will not dull but

gloss them by olfactory memory.

Zahniser’s 65 poems are warm and welcoming, in his celebration of the forest and his invitation to join him at his cabin near Crane Mountain:

The cabin porch affords us soft transitions

between the cabin and Big Outside…

We have chairs, benches, – and, oh, the view!

You should come and sit with me sometime.

“Adirondack Cabin and Mountain Poems” allow us to visit with and share Ed Zanhiser’s wisdom and appreciation of the world around us.


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