Poems by a Scientist

Old One   


Old one

Living sculpture,
Hail melts at your base
And your curling bough-hand
Caresses the sky.

The wisdom of ages
Is engraved as scripture,
Each calligraphy stroke
An insect’s life history.

I keep thinking
‘You have lived so much …’
And we must seem
So ephemeral,
Such frantic mayflies
Here, then gone.

I watch a sugar ant
Explore your mystery -
A whole world of bark.

Old one

You have few leaves now
You approach your end,
Not just gracefully,
But, like a benevolent grandparent
Smiling in the sun

So happy …
To share that grace.

Beautiful tree

Beautiful tree!
I worry about you,
For you are so old
And have seen so much.

You curve to the side,
Beautiful but unbalanced
And one day your lean
Could end your days

For there is rot at your base
And the truth is
One day
You will fall …

As will I.

So I make my plea,
That you don’t leave me

Not just yet

For you lend me grace
You teach me wisdom
You celebrate existence
In the ripple
Of your grain.

I hold my cheek
Against your so-white skin
And listen to your eloquent silence.

And indeed
You may outlast me!
But I ask:

While I am custodian
Of this special place
I beseech you -
Stay with us

We are all ephemeral
We all pass on …
But Great One,

Not just yet!


Dr. Haydn Washington is an environmental scientist, writer and activist. He has a degree in ecology, a Masters of Science in eco-toxicology (heavy metal pollution), a Dip. Ed., and a Ph.D. 'The Wilderness Knot' in Social Ecology (2007). Haydn was worked as an Investigations Scientist in CSIRO, Director of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (1988), as an environmental consultant, and as a Director of Sustainability in Local Government. 

He has conducted many flora surveys as a plant ecologist (e.g. Gardens of Stone NP, Wollemi NP) and worked studying the Wollemi Pine (also finding the second site). He has also worked extensively within environmental non-government organisations, being a councillor on the Australian Conservation Foundation for four terms, the secretary of the Colo Committee (which led the campaign to create Wollemi NP), and a media officer for the Wilderness Society.  Haydn is also keenly interested in geodiversity, especially the pagoda rock formations of the western Blue Mountains.

Haydn was the keynote speaker at the FEN 2015 forum 'Healthy Earth, Endless Growth-Are they compatible?', and also lead a group of FEN members on an enrichment day to the Gardens of Stone. These are two of his poems.