Deep Ecology of the Great Smoky Mountains

Silhouette of trees at sunset


Once again,

birds singing in the rain,

and though I’m far from home,

I’m home again – this time in

America’s most visited park.


Looking out from my accommodations

into a woods surrounding

a small clearing, a cemetery

of the farming families of

Sugarlands, this pristine ecosystem


with its mountain streams, wild

animals, so many insects and plants –

perhaps a mere ten percent so far

identified – I’m horrified to recall

how 85 years ago, this land became


clear-cut logging range  So strange

now to take it all in, carbon emissions

from millions of tourists’ vehicles

taking its toll on returned native species.

Have we learned nothing from the past?


Too late I’ve arrived for synchronized

fireflies and May apple verdure at its peak,

along Cades Cove Loop Road, too early for

fall foliage along Little River – all good

reasons to return.  Beautiful, ruthless nature


all around me – tragic history, numerous

numinous voices.  Nearly hypnotized, I’m

mesmerized by the spirit of this place,

once the domain of the Cherokee Nation.

Be patient, something(one) whispers to me,


be willing to wait in the woods by the stream

for the bird, the tree to call out to you.

And when you hear the owl at dusk,

imagine his contact call is just

for you – that he sees right through


your screen to your desire.

And don’t mistake the rattlesnake

for an enemy.  Breathe the trees,

the rain, the mist, blossoms,

mushrooms, mosses – and enter deep


into spiritual (actual) domains,

into deep ecology.  Let your life

be renewed, risen from despair’s root –

here where all things thrive yet are

threatened.  In the dark,


see what is right before you.  Stop

the loss of light with all you’ve got.

Forget the next galaxy – focus on

the reality of this earthly home.

With gratitude, accept its gifts.



Poem by Diana Woodcock

Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and three poetry collections, most recently Tread Softly (FutureCycle Press, 2018) and Near the Arctic Circle (Tiger’s Eye Press, 2018). She has two books forthcoming in 2021: Facing Aridity (a finalist for the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature, Homebound Publications); and Holy Sparks (a finalist for the Paraclete Press Poetry Award). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for her debut collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into the role of poetry in the search for an environmental ethic.