Three Poems, One Theme: Nature's Perception of Time Essays

Three Poems, One Theme: Nature's Perception of Time Essays

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In three poems – "Old Woodrat's Stinky House", "The Mountain Spirit", and "Boat of a Million Years" – Gary Snyder uses the concept of deep time to show us how nature views time and implies that humanity needs to be able to see time the same way. Snyder's poems imply that he believes people have forgotten their place in the natural world and that we should try to regain our respect for nature. "Old Woodrat's Stinky House" explains what is wrong with how we perceive time. "The Mountain Spirit" shows why nature views time as more like a singular thing than a series of segments like humans do. "Boat of a Million Years" hints at a solution and implies that we should relax and follow nature's example.
First, the poem "Old Woodrat's Stinky House" begins with a short creation myth – Coyote and Earthmaker creating the planet – but the poet goes on to write:
Us critters hanging out together
something like three billion years
Gary Snyder does this to help the reader perceive the vast amount of time before humans existed. Snyder later writes about "woodrat" who is described as "stinking everything up – pissing on everything". Woodrats (also known as packrats) have been known to devote their time to collecting material items with no practical value. Gary Snyder is comparing us as a species to the woodrat of his poem. As further proof of the woodrat-human connection: the "venerable desert woodrat nest" is described as "a family house in use for eight thousand years". This
"eight thousand years" figure is no coincidence; humans started building clay huts eight thousand years ago. Snyder then equates the "four thousand years of using writing" with the lifespan of a bristlecone pine as a demonstration of how young we are to this planet. He ...

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...oking" to characterize humanity's need to control the natural world. Gary Snyder is really suggesting a world where we humans live with what happens and not try to change the planet. The poem ends with the line "We are led by dolphins toward morning"; when linked to the idea of a "boat of million years" this line posits that we as humans should realize that time is long and that we should follow nature's example.
Finally, all three poems are linked through the common theme of nature's perception of time. Two of the poems – "Old Woodrat's Stinky House" and "Mountain Spirit" – are linked with the common image of the bristlecone pine to show how long a single being can live. Gary Snyder's poems show the reader: what is wrong with humanity's perception of time, how nature view times, and suggest that we emulate nature to become more integrated with the natural world.

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