Minister's poetic ode to Wissahickon at booked

by Len Lear
Posted 3/7/24

For centuries, poets and authors have been rhapsodic about the beauty and majesty of Wissahickon Park. The latest addition is this new book.

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Minister's poetic ode to Wissahickon at booked


For centuries, poets and authors have been rhapsodic about the beauty and majesty of Wissahickon Park, part of the largest urban park system in the country. And countless individuals and families have moved to Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy at least in part because of their proximity to it. 

For example, Christopher Petersen, who opened the Mt. Airy Coffee Company at 7101 Emlen St. on Feb, 18, told us, “We used to come up (from West Philadelphia) here to hike and bike and run in the park, so we thought it would be even better to live here permanently.”

In his 1844 essay, “Morning on the Wissahiccon," legendary poet Edgar Allen Poe, who was living on Spring Garden Street at the time, wrote, “Now the Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard and the common topic of every tongue. Yet it is only within a very few years that anyone has more than heard of the Wissahiccon. Its banks have some of the most magnificent forest trees of America.”

The latest addition to Wissahickon lore is the just-published book, “Wissahickon Poems” (Resource Publications), by 18-year Chestnut Hill resident, the Rev. Scott Robinson, 59, who will be reading from it and answering questions on Sunday, March 10, 3 p.m., at booked, 8511 Germantown Ave. Representatives of Friends of the Wissahickon will be present with information about protecting and preserving the creek and the park.

“The poems in 'Wissahickon' exist for one reason,” Robinson told us last week. “That is to draw our attention to a natural world that is 'ensouled.' Trees, rock, water, fungi, animals, fish and birds all participate in spirit and ... all serve one end: to help us to see, feel and know that ... all the creatures with whom we share our planet are our elder siblings because they were here before us.”

Robinson said that Wissahickon Park is “absolutely” one of the reasons he is living in Chestnut Hill. “Oh, my,” he said. “The spectacular geology, the flora and fauna, the sound of the water, the history – so many things!”

Robinson is a former hospice chaplain, a Ph.D. in musical composition from the University of Minnesota and a highly respected composer whose musical group, Mandala, had performed in churches, colleges and other venues around the country.

Two years ago, he published “The Way In; What a Hospice Chaplain Learned Living with Parkinson's, in Poetry and Prose,” a candid revelation of Robinson’s own periodic rages. 

“My main purpose in writing 'The Way In,'” Rev. Robinson told us at the time, “is that so few people know anything about Parkinson's disease. If you are at an advanced stage and in a nursing home, no one will listen to you, so while I am still in a position to have a platform, I want to use it.”

When asked how he is currently doing with Parkinson's disease, Robinson replied, “I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in. I could be better, but I could be much worse.” 

Robinson was treated with something called Deep Brain Stimulation, a surgical procedure that implants a neurostimulator and electrodes that send electrical impulses to specified targets in the brain which are responsible for movement control.

It was a disappointment,” he said of his treatment. “The only apparent result of the surgery was that I regained my sense of smell, though the 'post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy' (assuming one thing caused another merely because the first thing preceded the other) might be involved. It actually happened all at once in the woods, an overwhelming inpouring of olfactory sensations.”

Robinson's wife, Alyson Ballantine, is chief medical officer at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia branch in King of Prussia. Their daughter, Sophie is a freshman at American University and also has a job coaching at a circus school in D.C. Another daughter, Clare, 20, is working on a research project in New Zealand.

“Wissahickon Poems” is available at Len Lear can be reached at