Sep. 14, 2005

For All

by Gary Snyder

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Poem: "For All" by Gary Snyder, from Axe Handles © Shoemaker & Hoard, Washington D.C. Reprinted with permission.

For All

Ah to be alive
          on a mid-September morn
          fording a stream
          barefoot, pants rolled up,
          holding boots, pack on,
          sunshine, ice in the shallows,
          northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
          cold nose dripping
          singing inside
          creek music, heart music,
          smell of sun on gravel.

          I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
          of Turtle Island,
          and to the beings who thereon dwell

          one ecosystem
          in diversity
          under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

It was on this day in 1638, a young clergyman, just 31 years old, died in Massachusetts, and in his will, left his library and half of his estate to a local college. To honor his memory, the college changed its name. The clergyman was named John Harvard, and the college changed its name to Harvard University, and it's the oldest in America.

It was on this day in 1901, President William McKinley died of a gunshot wound, the third American president to be assassinated. He had won a landslide victory in the election of 1900. He had gone on a tour of the country, a victory tour, which he ended in Buffalo, New York, where the Pan-American Exposition was being held near Niagara Falls.

McKinley was shaking hands with a long line of people on September 6, when a 28-year-old anarchist from Cleveland named Leon Czolgosz came up to shake his hand. Czolgosz's right hand was wrapped in a handkerchief which concealed a gun. He shot the president twice, hitting him in the abdomen. At first it seemed as though the wound was minor and that McKinley would recover, but he died on this day in 1901. He died, historians believe, because he needed an infusion of fluids and nutrients, and the IV had not been invented yet.

It was on this day in 1927 that dancer Isadora Duncan died. She went riding in a convertible on the French Riviera. She was wearing a six-foot, fringed, scarlet shawl, embroidered with Chinese asters and a great yellow bird, and the shawl got caught in one of the car's tires, and it broke her neck.

It was on this day in 1812 that Napoleon's army invaded the city of Moscow. He began the invasion of Russia in June of that year. The Russian forces kept retreating, burning the farmland as they went so the French wouldn't be able to draw provisions from the land.

The troops were exhausted and hungry by the time they reached Moscow on this day, in 1812. The gates of the city were left wide open. And as the French came through, they noticed that all over the city small fires had begun. The Russians had set fire to their own city. By that night, the fires were out of control.

Napoleon watched the burning of the city from inside the Kremlin, and barely escaped the city alive. The retreat began across the snow-covered plains, one of the great disasters of military history. Thousands of troops died from starvation and hypothermia.

Of the nearly half million French soldiers who had set out in June on the invasion, fewer than 20,000 staggered back across the border in December.

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