“Why fret away your life? See the willow tree by the river; / there it is, watching the water flow by.” ~Shibayama
Welcome to this “trees and leaves” volume of Words for the Weekend. Spring is in the air; can’t you see the dandelion puffs blowing in the wind? Or, wait, is that snow? . . . Be patient–just like the trees–and the sun will be shining on your shoulders before you know it. There’s much we can learn from trees, even in dark days–as the following writers will attest–and trees never ask a thing of us, except for maybe a chance to grow. Plant a tree this Spring, give one that chance to grow.
And don’t be afraid to be a tree-hugger. You’ll see in a photo taken by Liz Barrett that trees give heavenly hugs. Liz, a poet, lecturer and mother to an autistic son, Dylan, has graciously allowed me to share her work with you here. Liz blogs at Living With Autism and, in addition to being a talented writer and photographer, she is lovely lady to know. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit her world and say hi for me.
The warmer days and personal projects may call me and Jennie away unexpectedly some weekends, but if they do, we’ll share a volume from the past. I’ve been wanting to merge the RoS Words posts over here anyway. Also, how do you like the new look here at Words? Hopefully it is crisper and easier (faster) to load, especially on mobile devices. Have a wonderful week and weekend, friends! How is your weather? Have you ever hugged a tree? – Christy and Jennie
Sleep, little willow
Peace gonna follow
Time will heal your wounds
Grow to the heavens
Now and forever
Always came too soon
He looks up – points suddenly outside:
Hair, Hair he shouts. Good pointing I say,
good talking. But that’s a tree, Dylan – tree.
I take him by the hand, lead us to the garden
and reach to catch a waving branch of willow.
Leaves I tell him: Leaves. He strokes them,
gently: Hair, he says. Hair.
“When Dylan communicates what he sees, the images he offers are as startling and fresh as those of any poet. There is a lot a poet could learn from Dylan’s use of metaphor and his engagement with the senses.”
“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
~ Kahlil Gibran
“Forests may be gorgeous but there is nothing more alive than a tree that learns how to grow in a cemetery.” ~ Andrea Gibson
“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“We do not come into this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated egos inside bags of skin.” ~ Alan Watts
“A few minutes ago every tree was excited,
bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling,
tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship.”
~ John Muir
A Tree Within
by Octavio Paz
A tree grew inside my head.
A tree grew in.
Its roots are veins,
its branches nerves,
thoughts its tangled foliage.
Your glance sets it on fire,
and its fruits of shade
are blood oranges
and pomegranates of flame.
. . . . . Day breaks
in the body’s night.
There, within, inside my head,
the tree speaks.
. . . . . Come closer – can you hear it?
“Concerning trees and leaves… there’s a real power here. It is amazing that trees can turn gravel and bitter salts into these soft-lipped lobes, as if I were to bite down on a granite slab and start to swell, bud and flower. Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn’t make one. A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.” ~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Have you ever noticed a tree standing naked against the sky,
How beautiful it is?
All its branches are outlined, and in its nakedness
There is a poem, there is a song.
Every leaf is gone and it is waiting for the spring.
When the spring comes, it again fills the tree with
The music of many leaves,
Which in due season fall and are blown away.
And this is the way of life.
by Andrea Gibson
I wish you were here
autumn is the hardest season
the leaves are all falling
and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground
and the trees are naked and lonely
I keep trying to tell them
new leaves will come around in the spring
but you can’t tell trees those things
they’re like me they just stand there
and don’t listen
(read more at Words for the Year)
I’m the last leaf on the tree
The autumn took the rest but they won’t take me
I’m the last leaf on the tree
I fight off the snow
I fight off the hail
Nothing makes me go
I’m like some vestigial tail
I’ll be here through eternity
If you want to know how long
If they cut down this tree
I’ll show up in a song
“My kids are starting to notice I’m a little different from the other dads. “Why don’t you have a straight job like everyone else?” they asked me the other day. I told them this story: In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, “Look at me…I’m tall, and I’m straight, and I’m handsome. Look at you…you’re all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you.” And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, “Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest.” So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.” ~ Tom Waits
How I Would Paint Happiness
by Lisel Mueller
Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No –
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
too beautiful to touch.
“Tree memories, I think, run deep. Last summer I took Dylan to a wood which we used to visit occasionally with my mum. It had been ten or more years since we were there but Dylan recognised every twist and turn of it and led me confidently to the trees he particularly wanted to revisit. Dylan’s closest relationships with trees involve a circular passage around them, a ritual dance or a hug (indicating increasing degrees of intimacy).” ~ Liz Barrett
When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
by Tess Gallagher
I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
Photos by Liz Barrett.
“Trees are dependable; they are always in the same place and they change only slowly and in predictable ways. This is a process which Dylan and I have documented in relation to one tree by photographing it at different points of the year. I first photographed the tree in order to create a visual record of one of Dylan’s favourite walks but subsequently realised the tree looked different at different times of year so took more pictures.” ~ Liz Barrett
“When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all. . . .
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
~ Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Read more at Brainpickings.org: Hermann Hesse on What Trees Teach Us About Belonging and Life.)