The following is a submission from Dr. Frank W Maurer Jr. ’64, executive director of the Quail Ridge Wilderness Conservancy (now part of the University of California Natural Reserve System) in Napa County, California, where he has worked for 40 years.
White ash filters silently down around me.
Like snow I think.—-When suddenly
I connect this falling ash
To the fires consuming California, everywhere.
My finger obstructs the fall of a flake.
What was this in its former form?
Someone’s house or barn?
Someone’s car tarp?
Someone’s flower bed, destroyed?
Someone’s woodpile, ready for winter use?
Someone’s chicken flock, unable to escape?
Someone’s Bar-B-Que plastic cover?
Someone’s pet dog’s hair?
Someone’s beautiful old oak standing for centuries
next to a home?
OR—-Someone’s personal ashes, transformed
when defending her property?
Dr. Maurer was inspired for this poem by all of the ash from the California fires which covered his small farm near Davis, California, where he lives. He explains:
“We had a lot of the 2000 acres on the Quail Ridge (University of California) Reserve burn, but that will add to the fire ecology saga and data. California has a fire ecology, but pressed by climate change; and in California with drier weather conditions.”
Dr. Maurer obtained a BA in Science from Antioch College in 1964 and has pursued a career in sustainable agriculture and wildlife biology. As executive director and president of the Quail Ridge Wilderness Conservancy, Dr. Maurer has set up a Student Endowment for students working on climate change on the Reserve which welcomes students from all over the US and the world. He also supports the Antioch Science Fund annually.
Additionally, Dr. Maurer has written the legislation for the state grass, Stipa pulchra, or purple needlegrass, used by 4th graders as one of California’s state symbols in their study of its history. Dr. Maurer is also a hand stone carver and created the Tartan Stone commemorating Scottish Americans. He has donated Tartan Stones to 35 states held in various state libraries and archives and one National Tartan Stone. The Tartan Stone for Ohio resides in the Reynoldsburg Historical Museum.