Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago, the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite Void gave a discourse to all the assembled elements and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings, the flying beings, and the sitting beings--even the grasses, to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning Enlightenment on the planet Earth.

"In some future time, there will be a continent called America. It will have great centers of power called such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur, Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon. The human race in that era will get into troubles all over its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature."

"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings of volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain. In that future American Era I shall enter a new form; to cure the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger: and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it."

And he showed himself in his true form of



A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful.

Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war;

His left paw in the mudra of Comradely Display--indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that of deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;

Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;

Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the west, symbolic of the forces that guard the wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the true path of man on Earth:

all true paths lead through mountains

With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;

Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;

Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs, smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;

Indicating the task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.

Wrathful but calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him...



Thus his great Mantra:

Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana Sphataya hum traka ham mam


And he will protect those who love the woods and rivers, Gods and animals,
hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick people, musicians,
playful women,and hopeful children:

And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television,
or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:





And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.


Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.

Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.

Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.

Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.

Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.



...thus we have heard...

Sierra Magzine @
July/August 2003 Issue

- Two Views from the East

Poet Gary Snyder and artist Tom Killion paint
Japanese-influenced portraits of the rugged High Sierra.
by Gary Snyder and Tom Killion

Copyright © 2008 Tom Killion


View One

by Gary Snyder

Though born in San Francisco, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and started climbing snow peaks as a teenager. Then I did Forest Service trail and fire work–including two seasons on lookouts–and was inspired by reading John Muir, about his overcoat, his dry bread and tea.

I came back to California to study East Asian languages in Berkeley–and fell into a rich culture of poets, bohemian leftists, and Japanese-American Buddhists. One summer I worked in the Sierra on a trail crew, and that fall took a sumi painting course from Chiura Obata, a Japanese-American artist who taught at Berkeley. My Sierra-eye was clearly shaped by the East Asian landscape sensibility, plus Muir’s hardiness and devotion, and the gritty world of mules and packers.

Back on the West Coast after some years in Japan, I met Tom Killion and he gave me a copy of his just-out 28 Views of Mount Tamalpais. I knew the Marin backcountry well, and I had hiked the trails of Tamalpais, climbed it and circumambulated it, many times. I also knew the work of Hokusai, and his series of "views." Tom had done, I thought, exactly the right thing. Finding himself drawn to printmaking and inspired by the Japanese artists, he focused on his own world: Mt. Tamalpais, under which he had grown up. This long practice of art, craft, and attention produced a marvelous set of images, "sky, earth, and water," with angles from bays, estuaries, oceans; from ridges, decks, fields, and thickets; with bridges, freeways, pilings, and the far city in it too. It is a perfect evocation of a place and its spirit.

When Tom approached me several years ago to suggest this Sierra collaboration, asking if I had any unpublished Sierra writings, I first thought not–until I remembered my many backpacking notebooks. I considered them overly laconic, but covering a good span of space and time. (Being tired, cold, and hungry, I didn’t write all that much, and sometimes what looks like the admirable brevity of haiku is probably just my haste to put the pencil away and get some hot tea.) So I looked at his High Sierra prints already done. They stole my heart. He had caught the streams and mountains as they are: visionary and earthy; icy, aloof, and dangerous; but an inspiring teacher when approached in the right way.

View Two

by Tom Killion

Since childhood I have felt the urge to take up pencil, pen, and brush each time I’ve encountered the open vistas and glaciated patterns of the Sierra landscape. The work I have accumulated during four decades of Sierra journeys includes close to a thousand sketches in pencil, watercolor, oil paste, and, most commonly, ballpoint pen–my preferred "medium." These sketches portray every subject from the minutiae of wildflowers to the range-encompassing vistas seen from mountain peaks. Most are filled with a shorthand vocabulary of scribbles and marks, supplemented by notes about vegetation and geology that I will not translate until months–or more often years–later, when I work them into the designs for woodcut prints.

I have had a lifelong interest in the multicolored woodcuts of Hokusai and Hiroshige, early-19th-century masters of the Japanese landscape print. Since my early teens I have attempted to portray the California landscape through the lens of these artists’ ukiyo-e ("floating world") sensibility, using Japanese wood-carving tools, woods, and papers designed for hanga (woodcut) printmaking.

One of the great attractions in ukiyo-e landscapes was the relationship between humans and the natural world portrayed in them. Massive trees and towering mountains dwarfed the country people toiling along narrow paths, creating a reassuring contrast to the world I grew up in, where human constructions threatened to overwhelm the natural beauty of the Bay Area. My attempt to portray fast-changing childhood haunts around Mt. Tamalpais through this lens must have stemmed from some deep desire to turn the clock back to a less human-dominated world. And so the little trails and vast mountain slopes of the Sierra appealed to me as the subject for a series of landscape prints.

Gary Snyder’s Journal

Solo Trip in the Lyell and Ritter Backcountry

Gary Snyder’s first Sierra backpacking trip was a solo loop through the Ritter and Clark ranges in 1955. His first volume of poetry, Riprap, burns with the cool flame of this summer when, Snyder recalled, "I began writing all the poems I consider worthwhile."

In his 1990 afterword to another book, Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, Snyder describes how "the transparency of mountains and work" brought him a "curious mind of renunciation" in which "my language relaxed into itself." The Sierra experience of "smooth white granite and gnarly juniper and pine" was combining with his study of Zen Buddhism to produce a new poetic voice.

In "How Poetry Comes to Me," Snyder acknowledges the importance of backcountry imagery and experience in the shaping of his art: "It comes blundering over the/Boulders at night, it stays/Frightened outside the/Range of my campfire/I go to meet it at the/Edge of light." –Tom Killion

August 19, 1955

In Yosemite I bought my food. Got a haircut. Revivified the noble car, drove to Tuolomne Meadows. In the campground, distracted by the sight of a girl, clanged the car onto a boulder and grievously bent the running-board. Left Tuolomne about four in the afternoon, wandering up this long meadow-canyon.

August 20, 1955

An Ice Lake below Mt. Lyell:

Walked here early; found a good camp between large boulder and clump of whitebark pine. After hunting firewood went on up Lyell, an easy climb. Rained.
Wet rocks buzzing
Rain and thunder southwest
Hair, beard, tingle
Wind whips bare legs
We should go back
We don’t.

Is it proper for me to be here alone. Could it be shared?

–Foolish query. Best do what can be done. The act will work out its own consequences.

August 21, 1955

Thousand Island Lake: Easy stroll over Donohue Pass, through rocky meadows, down to Rush Creek, up and over here. Davis and Banner–ragged old peaks. Fantastic lake and very large.

Now being in the deva realm. But existing here generates those effects that return one to lower realms. Wind blows, Banner bright.

Three-day-old slip of a new moon over Mt. Davis.

August 22, 1955

I went to the Banner-Davis saddle, but somehow things weren’t like the Climber’s Guide and though I scrambled up much rock, found no available summit. Only a sub-summit on the ridge with a cairn and a few names from Sierra "knapsack" trip of 1948.

August 23, 1955

Went off across the meadows and creeks and up to the two Iceberg Lakes–cold, barren, rocky . . . Handsome rocks!

Intricate textures, pattern and design, color. My boots are going out. May have to walk out in tennis shoes. Ritter looms above. I am afeared of it. Try it tomorrow.

August 24, 1955

The whittled-out alpenstock worked fairly well. Made it to the Ritter-Banner saddle.
With my floppy-soled shoes, looking up at Ritter and the steep snow below the chutes, decided that this foolish monk best not cause people the trouble of looking for his worthless body.

John Muir certainly had guts. So I went on up Banner Peak, an easy walk. Now I am off the peak and have glissaded through the chimney. All that remains is a long glissade and the walk to camp. To read Nagarjuna on Causality.

August 25, 1955

Afternoon: North Fork of the San Joaquin River.

A very rough trip from Banner-Davis saddle. Rock cliffs and scary places. At the bottom of it, long meadow with white pine; two abandoned and one occupied mining camps. Terribly messy. No miners at home, but a horse, a donkey and all their gear.

August 26, 1955

Morning: Frost. No sun in this canyon until late. "Wandering the wild deer paths." Up Bench Canyon; through a grassy gulch between cliffs crossed with paths.

Afternoon: Confusion! But I have come through. Large lake on the map scarcely exists; contours are all wrong. But sudden sight of a T-blaze and a new waterbreak set me proper. The cross-country ramble has ended well.

August 27, 1955

Morning: Inadequate, baffling perceptions: blunt senses, foolish mind. Thinking I am unable to see it or know it–this enormous inhuman beauty–and yet, letting go, I am simply it, being part of it, in me as well as outside. How not to understand it? And yet, how hard.

Tomorrow I am going out of the mountains. Leave us recall that the mountains are high ground being worn down; nature is everywhere, cities and all.

Now the lake is still but for trout-jumps. Sun gone on all but Vogelsang Peak, the fulling moon behind it. Sparse pines, white rocks, clear pale cold sky. Somewhere a horse with a bell is grazing. Saturn in Libra. Pine Marten just ran by.

August 28, 1955

Woke in the night, pissed, watched October star, built up fire. Woke to a still-going one, in the frosty pre-dawn.

washing the mush-pot in the lake
frost on the horse-turds
gray-jay cased the camp

Got granite boulders, a sugar-pine seedling, drove back. Through hot country. Mexicans on flatcars in the San Joaquin. Now, cool air, fog. Sea Air. Smell of straw mats in my cabin.


This article was excerpted from The High Sierra of California by Gary Snyder and Tom Killion (Heyday Books and Yosemite Association, 2002). Gary Snyder has published 16 books of poetry and prose, including The Gary Snyder Reader and Turtle Island, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. He is a former professor of English at the University of California, Davis. Tom Killion, founder of Quail Press, is a California-born woodcut and letterpress artist. His extensively illustrated books include 28 Views of Mount Tamalpais and The Coast of California. For more information about Tom Killion’s work, go to


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