Sunday Morning

First blossoms.

Seeing them extends my life seventy-five more years.

~Matsuo Bashō, “haiku 96”, from “Reading Basho with My Ten Year Old” in Paris Review, April 29, 2020


Notes:

  • Photo: DK on Run This morning. 6:11 am.
  • Matsuo Bashō, born 松尾 金作, was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. He is recognized as the greatest master of haiku. He was born in 1644 and died in 1694

One Tiny Beautiful Thing

Paying attention to what is happening in Washington is a form of self-torment so reality altering that it should be regulated as a Schedule IV drug. I pay attention because that’s what responsible people do, but I sometimes wonder how much longer I can continue to follow the national news and not descend into a kind of despair that might as well be called madness. Already there are days when I’m one click away from becoming Lear on the heath, raging into the storm. There are days when it feels like the apocalypse is already here.

Except it isn’t, not really. Not yet. One day when the relentless rains let up for a bit, I went to the park an hour before sunset to walk on the muddy trails and take a break from the bad news. The woods were as lovely as they ever are after a rain: the creeks full of rushing water, the gray bark of the fallen trees slick with moss. Above the trail, the limbs of the living trees creaked in the rising wind, the kind of sound that makes your heart ache for reasons too far beyond words to explain. Though the forest understory is already beginning to green up, weeks too soon, the towhees scratching for insects stirring in what’s left of last fall’s leaves were not in any way sorry about the early arrival of spring.

A few hundred yards on, my eyes caught on a tree I hadn’t noticed when I was walking in the other direction. About seven feet up the trunk was a knothole, a place where a limb had long ago broken off and let water in to rot the wood. Perhaps a woodpecker had helped to deepen it, too, and given the water more purchase over time. The hole was small, a dark grotto in the thickly grooved bark of the stalwart oak, a hiding place that reached far into the mass of that old tree, and the failing light deepened its darkness. Who knows how many miniature woodland creatures have crept into its crevice over the years to nest, to shelter from the wind and rain, to hide from predators — or to wait for prey.

But a creature lurking inside it is not what singled this knothole out among the hundreds, even thousands, I had passed on the path as night came on. What caught my eye was a cluster of tiny seedlings colored the bright new green of springtime, so bright it seemed to glow in the gloaming. The tender plants were growing in the loam inside the knothole. Far above the ground, a hole made by decay in a living tree had become a cold frame, a natural greenhouse that lets in light and keeps out frost. Life in death in life…

Instead of giving up something for Lent, I’m planning to make a heartfelt offering. In times like these, it makes more sense to seek out daily causes for praise than daily reminders of lack. So here is my resolution: to find as many ordinary miracles as a waterlogged winter can put forth, as many resurrections as an eerily early springtime will allow. Tiny beautiful things are bursting forth in the darkest places, in the smallest nooks and deepest cracks of the hidden world, and I am going to keep looking every single day until I find one.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “One Tiny Beautiful Thing” (NY Times, Feb 23, 2020)


Photo: Mohan Bhat

Sunday Morning

It’s spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves…
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;
overflowing with blossomfoam…
dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Tony Hoagland from A Color of the Sky in What Narcissism Means to Me


Notes – Photo: Dogwood in Blossom by David Castenson. Poem: Thank you Whiskey River

Riding I-95 South. With Cuts.

I’m crossing the I-95 overpass, aiming to circle back and slide down the ramp into the pack – the morning rush is backed up for miles.

I wait at the stoplight.

Four girls, 7-8 years old, blue skirts, sweaters, hair pulled back, backpacks bouncing on their backs…hustle across the crosswalk, all four with iPhones cradled in both hands. Texting. Surfing. Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat.  Hands, eyes, fingers, all blind to the onset of autumn in the trees overhead, and the yellowing leaves which quiver from the gentle breeze easing in from the North. The light turns, I see them in the rear view mirror, heads down. And likely still down at this moment. The scene replays in a loop. Something Large, is irretrievably Lost.

I inch down 95.

Something Large, is irretrievable Lost.  A 1/2 mile stretch on my right, formerly lined with thick, lush trees, the same trees that separated the commuter train lines from the suburbs, the same trees offering a moment’s sanctuary from Work-to-Come or Work-Behind-Us, these same Giant trees, thick with foliage…are Gone.

A giant yellow earthmover hulks along the highway, resting from the mayhem it delivered overnight. Creating What? Room for a second lane exiting into Greenwich? Another rail line? Tree-free space to stand-up cinder block distribution warehouses for Amazon, that stretch for acres, offering convenient access to I-95?

I pass the clear cut, the traffic eases and it’s all behind me. Or so I think. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

And we want to live right where black oaks lived,
Once very quietly and still…
Because we are imperfect and love so
Deeply we will never have enough days,
We need the gift of starting over, beginning
Again: just this constant good, this
Saving hope.

~ Nancy Shaffer, from Because We Spill Not Only Milk from Instructions in Joy 


Notes – Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Franz Wallner with Black Oak

I imagine what it must be like to…stay still in the night

There are no birds or anything, or none that I can see. I imagine what it must be like to stay hidden, disappear in the dusky nothing and stay still in the night. It’s not sadness, though it may sound like it. I’m thinking about people and trees and how I wish I could be silent more, be more tree than anything else, less clumsy and loud, less crow, more cool white pine, and how it’s hard not to always want something else, not just to let the savage grass grow.

~ Ada Limón, “Mowing,” from Bright Dead Things: Poems


Photo: (via Hidden Sanctuary)

in a language no school has taught you

You heard—the song the moth sings, the babble
Of falling snowflakes (in a language
No school has taught you), the scream
Of the reddening bud of the oak tree

As the bud burst into the world’s brightness.

~ Robert Penn Warren, from “Muted Music,” The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren


Notes:

Often I found myself expelling a quivering, involuntary “Whoa”

The trees are so big that it would be cowardly not to deal with their bigness head on. They are very, very big. You already knew this — they’re called “giant sequoias” — and I knew it, too. But in person, their bigness still feels unexpected, revelatory. And the delirium of their size is enhanced by their age, by the knowledge that some of the oldest sequoias predate our best tools for processing and communicating phenomena like sequoias, that the trees are older than the English language and most of the world’s major religions — older by centuries, easily, even millenniums. The physical appearance of a tree cannot be deafening, and yet with these trees, it is. Facing down a sequoia, the most grammatically scrambled thoughts wind up feeling right. Really, there’s only so much a person can do or say. Often I found myself expelling a quivering, involuntary Whoa. […]

Late one afternoon, I lay down in the snow at the base of one for a while, watching as the fog poured in through its crown, and I remembered how untroubled Riksheim sounded at the bar the previous evening when, lowering his voice, he mentioned that there was a particular sequoia near his house that he was keeping an eye on. He could wake up dead tomorrow, he said. “It’s just that flying, fickle finger of Fate. Every once in a while, it’s going to point at you.” Then he fluttered his long, bony index finger through the air and lowered it with a sudden whoosh. Out of nowhere: crash. And I realized that his experience of it — a feeling of forsakenness, of arbitrary cruelty — would be essentially the same as the tree’s.

Two days later, I was snowshoeing around alone when I discovered I was standing in front of the same sequoia I had lain under. There, in the sloping snow at its roots, I saw my imprint. My back and legs and arms were joined into a wispy column, with the perfectly ovular hood of my parka rounding off the top. It looked like a snow angel, but also like a mummy — an image of both levity and dolefulness, neither all good nor all bad. I took a picture of it: what little of myself was left after I’d gone. The figure looked smaller and more delicate than I thought it should, but the Giant Forest was so quiet that I couldn’t imagine who else it could be.


Photo: The General Sherman Sequoia Tree – 275 feet tall, 100 feet around. Sequoia National Park from the foothills of central California’s Sierra Nevada. “To a human being, a 2,000-year-old sequoia seems immortal.”  (David Benjamin Sherry)

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week (Out with the X-Mas tree)

Berlin,christmas tree, zoo

Elephants feast on discarded Christmas trees at Berlin’s zoo.

Recycling. Au Naturel. Who knew?


(Source: wsj.com by Sean Gallup, Getty Images)

Saturday Morning

tree-still

In November,
the trees are standing all sticks and bones.
Without their leaves, how lovely they are,
spreading their arms like dancers.
They know it is time to be still.

– Cynthia Rylant, In November

 


Notes: Photo – Anna Williams. Poem Source: Your Eyes Blaze Out

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