Ray WhittierRAY WHITTIER   (1932 -      )   is a lifelong Lynn resident and longtime owner-operator of Ray J. Whittier for Lettering, a sign shop in downtown Lynn. Ray Whittier has loved poetry all his life and was moved to start writing his own poetry when he observed a humanitarian act in Lynn that was the basis for “A Christmas Gift,” the title poem of his self-published first book. A second collection, Poems, appeared in 2010, and a new expanded edition of A Christmas Gift was published in 2012.


A significant portion of  Ray Whittier’s poetry is inspired by Lynn history, including “The Snake Man of Wyoma Village.” Charles A. Clark (1871 – 1965) was one in a long line of Lynn naturalists who frequented Lynn Woods and Whittier’s poem about him is featured in an article about Clark in the anthology No Race of Imitators: Lynn and her People (Lynn: Lynn Historical Society, 1992). Ray Whittier’s own naturalist tendencies are expressed in “Bird Watching With My Son,” wherein an exciting observation takes place in the Lynn Woods. “Fall Camp Day at Lynn Woods” was written to commemorate the event naming Cooke Road (1993), which runs between Dungeon Road and Great Woods Road and leads to the Stone Tower. The road’s namesake, Stanley Cooke, helped stop an interstate highway from expanding into Lynn Woods in the late 1960’s. The poem and the commemorative event (cosponsored by the Lynn Museum and The Friends of the Lynn Woods) embody two important Exploring Circle traditions: the camp day and the ceremony to name a physical feature of Lynn Woods.

Hear and see Ray Whittier recite his poem Fall Day Camp at Lynn Woods


                                 FALL CAMP DAY AT LYNN WOODS


Pignuts cover the ground
‘Neath the twin grey hickories.
It’s hard to step without dancing on one
And before your balance is back
Others from the heights have fallen down.
A rustling sound brings
Your eyes upward to a leaf-filled sky,
Where bushy tailed squirrels
Are busy harvesting.
Most are taken, not all
And the grounded pignuts,
Some whole, some shelled,
Announce the arrival of fall.
The warmth of a shorter day is gone
And took the daylight with it,

While the cool cloak of evening
Wrapped around the changing woods
And blew a breeze across the pond.
The forest and everything in it
Seems to be huddling together.
Nightfall drew them closer,
Like chilled campers around a fire pit
And like campers the stories would begin.
Gathered ‘round the aging oak,
The hemlock, maple, poplar and pine,
Waited to hear the tales he’d spin.
He talked of times when he was young.
How across the glen at Blood Swamp
Flew the heron and hawk, cardinal and crow
And in his hair the wood thrush sung.
In his woods Indians free, roamed
Where the wild flowers grew,
The fox made her den and the snake
Basked on a sunny stone.
He told of people long ago
Who set aside his wooded home,
So that those yet to come
Its quiet peace would know.
“We gave them our wood,” he smiled,
“To build, to burn, to pen their stock.
We gave them our water to drink
And to picnickers, shade for awhile.”
The stories went on and on,
Weaving a tale from Dungeon Rock
To hill top towers,
From Wake Robin Spring
To Walden Pond
The old oak grew tired, all must rest,
For tomorrow was Camp Day
And all their friends would be there
To name a road for Stanley Cooke
And they must look their best.

(Written for Lynn Historical Society
Lynn Woods road dedication)



from:   A Christmas Gift: A Selection of Christmas and Other Poems            (Swampscott MA: Dory Press, Inc.) 2000.
courtesy:  Ray Whittier