I’m the Last Leaf on the Tree – Vol. 19

“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

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Sleep, little willow
Peace gonna follow
Time will heal your wounds

Grow to the heavens
Now and forever
Always came too soon

Little Willow” by Paul McCartney, from Flaming Pie

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Willow Tree by Liz Barrett

Willow Tree. Shared by Liz Barrett (via). Photo source unknown, but appreciated.

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.

From “Hair” by Liz Barrett. Shared in her post “My Trees have Grown Hair: The Poetry of Autism

“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.” 

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“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

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“Forests may be gorgeous but there is nothing more alive than a tree that learns how to grow in a cemetery.” ~ Andrea Gibson

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“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

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“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

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“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

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Dancing Trees

Dancing Trees by tinakeriksen (via DeviantArt)

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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?

“A Tree Within” by Octavio Paz, from A Tree Within

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“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

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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.
~ Krishnamurti

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Winter Oak.

Winter Oak. Virginia Daley. Oil and acrylic on linen. VirginiaDaley.com

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Photograph
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)

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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

Last Leaf” by Tom Waits, from Bad As Me

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“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

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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.

– “How I Would Paint Happiness” by Lisel Mueller from Alive Together: New And Selected Poems

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Liz and Dylan

Lea Gardens, Matlock; photo by Liz Barrett, via ” Living With AutismAutism and Landscape

“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

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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.”

~ “When I Am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver from Thirst. © Beacon Press, 2006.

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Choices
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
would be.

~ “Choices” by Tess Gallagher from Dear Ghosts. © Graywolf Press, 2007.

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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

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“Not that I want to be a god or a hero. Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone.” ~ Czesław Miłosz

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“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 HesseBäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Read more at Brainpickings.org: Hermann Hesse on What Trees Teach Us About Belonging and Life.)

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Special thanks to Liz Barrett for allowing me to share her work. Liz blogs at Living With Autism or you may follow her on Twitter @ElizBarrettB.

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This week’s Trees and Leaves themed music playlist via YouTube, features music by: Dashboard Confessional, Ben Howard, Passenger, The Mamas & The Papas, Andrew Bird and more.

Playlist link:

24 comments

  1. “Whoever has learned how to listen to trees…” I have had so many moments of listening to trees. thank you for reminding me of them.

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    1. So wonderful to hear from you, Kimberly, I hope you’ve been doing well. I’m glad you enjoyed!

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  2. whiteladyinthehood · ·

    Ladies, This post was just beautiful. I enjoyed the quotes, poems and reading about Liz and Dylan. You are amazing!

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    1. Hi White Lady, I’m happy you enjoyed. Liz shares such interesting stories about Dylan; I’m glad you thought so too. Less than 20 days to Spring! 🙂

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  3. I love this post. Just in the past few years I’ve learned to really appreciate the beauty of the naked trees…thanks for including some verse that speaks to that.

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    1. Hey Carly, it’s great to hear from you. Aren’t trees so regal and stoic in between leaves? It’s truly miraculous how they regenerate year after year. So glad you enjoyed, thank you for the comment. -Christy

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  4. I love Liz’s pictures of the same tree during different seasons. The change trees goes through all year long can be kind of symbolic of our lives–some seasons might be barren and we feel gloomy–yet those winter months are the ones that show the true tree’s shape and form–just like adversity can show who we really are deep inside when the fluff is stripped away and we can see what branches have grown to support us.

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    1. Wow, Char, I love your insight into how winter reveals our true character after everything is stripped away. Very profound! And also we may be even stronger than what is visible to the eye–think of a tree’s root structure and its deep and wide network of roots which give it nourishment and stability. Symbolic of faith or family or the interconnectedness of all beings.

      Happy weekend!

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      1. Good insight yourself. There is so much we can learn about ourselves and God through nature.

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  5. mishedup · ·

    Love this….everything so beautiful and meaningful.
    The Milosz followed by the Hesse tho….so touching.
    I look so forward to these…thank you both so much!

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    1. Hey Mish, glad you picked up on the flow from Milosz to Hesse. “Be still. Be still.” Home is inside you, wherever you are. Wow. That whole piece by Hesse is on the Brainpickings site–truly worth the read.
      These are so fun and therapeutic to do. I’m glad you enjoy them as much as Jennie and I do.
      Love!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh! And a different sort of playlist this week; a little more Indie than usual. I love the Passenger and Foals and Andrew Bird especially. Hope you like it!

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  6. The greatest tribute to trees I’ve ever seen in one post. WoW! 🙂 Fantastic!
    Thank you for being so kind! Peace and luvz, Uncle Tree

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well hey there Uncle Tree! That’s mighty high praise coming from a lover of trees, thank you so much. Means a lot to me. You’re welcome to join us any weekend, we have a good time putting these volumes together.
      Thanks again, love and peace to you too, Christy

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello and thank you to Christy and Jennie for including some of my work in this weekend’s post; I am a huge admirer of this blog and it is an honour to see my writing about Dylan featured here. Thank you to you all for reading and for your lovely comments.

    Another awesome playlist, Christy, and a wonderful weaving of leaves. Annie Dillard is new to me so that feels like a gift – and so good to see Nietzsche make a surprise appearance. Krishnamurti too! My white lilac tree is just coming into bud here – which reminds me of that Larkin poem about trees coming into leaf. Have you done a water theme yet Christy? There is water, water everywhere here in England at the moment so if you have please direct me 🙂 Liz, x

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    1. So grateful to share your beautiful work here, Liz, thank you again. You’ll have to tell Dylan he made lots of people happy!

      We sure did do a Water volume–we tackled the elements very early on.

      https://wordsfortheweekend.com/2013/11/23/mud-luscious-and-puddle-wonderful-vol-6/

      I’m glad you enjoyed the music too. I went a little more laid back this week to match the reflective nature of the theme.

      Dylan is a remarkable young man–thank you for sharing him with us.

      (Nietzsche, yes! Isn’t that a great one?) xx

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  8. very cool post!! I liked so much – but the best take away for me was right front the start –

    “Be patient–just like the trees–and the sun will be shining on your shoulders before you know it.”

    but the pics, words, and vids were presented brilliantly and was just so well done (yet again!!!!)

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    1. Thank you so very much. I am sooo ready for warm sunshine on my shoulders!
      Love. Christy

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  9. I love the new look, it’s very bookish and warm..like entering a cool bookstore where the keepers of the place know something about every entry. Your theme is exceptionally inspiring, seeing as how it invites the idea of springtime into the conversation..and those ideas are most welcome right about now.
    I came to understand trees as a peaceful harbor when I began meditating several years back. The girl I was dating told me to envision myself hugging a tree. I wasn’t willing to make light of her suggestion, seeing as how she owned a black belt. Damn if she wasn’t right on, and so I used this to amazing results.And Gibran was right about the bittersweet relationship between progress and pen. As was Waits with his last tree standing tale.
    But most right of all would have to be Dylan. The way he looks at the world, it’s a lesson in perspective the likes of which we would be wise to follow. The world would be a much better place if we stopped messing with the hair on those trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I love you Cayman. Thanks for always putting a smile on my face and for seeing through all the layers straight to the sensitive and meaningful core. As much as this was an ode to trees, it was also an ode to Dylan, who has a few things figured out that I wish the rest of the world would figure out too.

      Glad you like the theme–a book, yes, divided into different chapters. That’s what we were hoping.

      Have a great week, Soul Man!

      Like

  10. […] and Jennie compiled a “trees and leaves” post that is an […]

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  11. Do you get tired of me telling you how your Words collections make me cry every time? Sweet, happy, fulfilled tears. The first passage by Elizabeth really struck me and how Dylan described the leaves as hair. Priceless and beautiful
    I’ve been saving this post for a quiet time so I could read it slowly and savor. You already know what a nature lover I am and trees continue to hold a special place in my heart. Many of my photos are of trees and seeing Elizabeth’s set of three was inspiring. Just beautiful.
    Another post I’ll read again and again…thanks for sharing ladies!
    Michelle

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  12. Hi Christy!

    I just love this one! (well, love them all, really) I love trees and everything about trees! My first HP(Higher Power) was a huge, old oak tree in our front yard. Thanks so much for sharing Lisel Mueller story, it is so very touching and inspiring. And I love Dancing Trees picture! just awesome!

    I hope you are doing well, sending many hugs!

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    1. Hey Maggie, sorry for the late response, but just wanted to say hi and I’m glad you enjoyed the tree volume. I love the idea of an oak tree as your HP. Perfect.

      I think my love for trees began as a small child when my family would read me The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. 🙂
      Hugs back to you my friend. xo

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