Teresa of Avila writes: “If we learn to love the earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains and precious jewels! A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive.”
I think the young hemlock tree demonstrates how the waxing of the light has been accomplished before the summer solstice and before summer begins. The pines are raining needles, the maples spiral wings – both will transform; some enriching the earth. Others will sleep away three seasons in rich moist ground until next spring…
Acceptance Is full of magic Prepare A feast of gratitude
hold tight to Flight
Warblers sing on
Robin sits on her nest warming blue eggs Peering through Cedar’s Fragrant eyes- Black Pearls have wings Just like the Hemlocks against whose ribbed trunks I lean Amazed.
Warblers sing on
Waving at me
with urgent needles
trees tell me
most will die In one hundred years who will
be left to care?
Warblers sing on
Rooted in moist earth. rotund trunks branch low. Step ladders to the sky
turn blue hemlocks breathe mourning tears
needles showered in
gold and green
transform in morning light.
Warblers sing on…
Terry Tempest Williams writes “ animals continue to live with an integrity of purpose even as the ecosystem to which they belong to is unraveling”.
This is one point I am trying to make in this poem.
If the poem just strikes the reader as discordant I have made my point. As we approach the summer solstice, deep greening shading us from the heat, we enter the summer season living a split between nature’s intentions and those belonging to so many humans.
Richard Powers states:
“To see green is to grasp the Earth’s intention.”
Isn’t Greening is all about celebrating light as the trees photosynthesize creating the oxygen most species need to breathe?
At summer solstice the waxing of the light has been accomplished. At the solstice the sun stands still and then begins its slow journey south decreasing in intensity. For nature, summer is a time of increasing abundance heightened by glorious flowers and pollinating bees and butterflies flooding fields and gardens. The mating songs of birds are fading into softer summer melodies. Berries ripen, seeds have already been set by early spring flowers; others will follow. Birds are laying eggs; some are fledging. The scent of summer is intoxicating for birds, mammals and trees, all of which have keen noses of one kind or the other. (Yes, trees can smell and communicate through scents by air!)
The heat slows most of nature down. By noontime the trees are shutting down photosynthesis for the day as temperatures increase. Now trees begin to transpire releasing moisture that may or may not bring in a summer shower. Brooks and streams lose water, vernal pools dry up as tiny toads and frogs seek the comfort of wet leaf litter or an overgrown garden to hide in. Birds cease most afternoon singing. Early mornings and late evenings allow the fox and coyote to hunt. Bears emerge from bogs and the tree frogs begin their evening symphony, perhaps punctuated by an owl’s hoot or a kingfisher rattle as the latter fishes the brook for trout. The night sparkles with the cool green light of a few fireflies…
Unfortunately, many people seem pitted against this season of grace and plenty. Frantic partying, roaring boats, motorcylces, four wheelers, trucks, speeding cars scream so loud that nature’s sounds are drowned out. It’s no wonder the 4 percent of animals that are left on this planet hide. Bright spotlights light up the night so stars, migrating birds and fireflies disappear. I often wonder if these folks see anything that is connected to the planet that supports them. So much beauty wasted.
The issue of making as much noise as possible may be one way to drown out all salient thought – a powerful form of denial. The other of course, is spending so much time pursuing “busy” as recreation, even if it’s rabid mountain climbing or racing down a woodland trail.
I won’t bother to address our addiction to shopping and technology.
Most disturbing is a trend that I have been following for about 20 years. The noise is getting louder; yes we have more people, but TV and Video games have also become more violent. Why are so many addicted to explosives of one kind or another be it video games, fireworks, murders, mufflers, bombs or guns? Noise pollution has become endemic to the culture as a whole.
An urgent question for me is to ask what this noise may be doing to the cells of our bodies/minds whether we think we are sensitive to noise or not?
Many studies show that as the temperatures heat up more familial abuse (rape especially) and murders seem to occur. Of course this is a complex issue, but I invite the reader to google some of these disturbing studies. When I finally did they confirmed that my senses were not deceiving me.
For those of us who need quiet time to think, to dive deep to write, to allow our bodies to decide when to wake and sleep, to move with the rhythms of nature, life becomes an uphill struggle as we are forced to live by a (deranged?) human clock. Even if a person doesn’t suffer from PTSD like I do, finding peace is a challenge. I am graced by having a place to go to hide. I can fall asleep and rise with the birds, but what do others do?
My poem juxtaposes bird song with explosives mirroring the fact that song birds like warblers sooth the human soul and probably that of all non – human sentient beings while highlighting an ever growing dramatic split between the rest of nature and humans .
The use of boys is deliberate. Adolescent Male aggression (regardless of age or even gender) appears to peak at this time of the year. I see the solstice as reflecting the apex of destructive male power, a radical view that I have not seen expressed elsewhere.
I’d like to know what others think.
NOTE: wordpress once again butchered poem – I let it be
I wrote this piece and didn’t stipulate that some adult men and women use guns responsibly, and do not choose violence and aggression as a way of dealing with frustration or solving problems but the destructive cultural tendency is increasing. What scares me the most is how many perceive themselves as ‘good’ and decent people.
I also think that there is a direct relationship between creating/seeking noise and distancing oneself from the plight of the planet. I hope I made that clear.
Waxing moon pierces fringed Hemlocks Starbursts blink in and out Owls converse from Needled Crowns bathed in Air and Light. Refuge Tree soothed by Familiar calls sighs deeply, soaking In the Night.
Refuge incarnates as Aphrodite…
In the forest I slip into a lime green skin with the help of one hemlock, under whose feathery wings this transformation takes place. I breathe her sweet scent through my supple membrane. Standing beneath Refuge, whose roots claw the edge of a steep slope that bows to the river, I can barely see the crown of the tree, maybe 150 feet in the air. This hemlock towers over the rest. Moss and lichen adorn her limbs and the tree’s deeply ribbed reddish brown bark is an invitation to touch that I can never resist. Scrambling down the slope with care I lean against the tree and listen, always hoping… sometimes I think I hear a low hum if the wind is still. Perhaps I’m imagining.
This one tree stands like a sentry in a forest that hugs a stream. I habitually stand under her boughs peering up her massive trunk. I stroke her red ribbed bark tenderly as I query unconventional thoughts and tell her she’s beautiful. Trees don’t have ears but they hear sounds so she is listening…I can only hug half of her at a time. S/he has a circumference of ten feet and six inches. Surrounded by many other hemlocks not as old, all line the waters edge and must be relatives. Behind them, the spongy duff of the forest floor is covered with young hemlock seedlings of various ages that are being fed underground by their elders.
Further up the steep bank these spreading boughs create space for white pine, spruce, birch and other deciduous trees that make up the rest of this mixed forest. A witch hazel grows at Refuge’s feet on the stream-side, while an inch high seedling sprouts in the center of the base of her trunk on the side closest to me. This one- inch seedling has doubled her size this spring –Lime green needles sprout from every teeny twig! A Lilliputian marvel.
Hemlocks define whole ecosystems, their nitrogen rich needles cover the forest floor, sprouting a plethora of seedlings around their roots that will be nurtured by nearby mother trees. It must be noted that although I call Refuge tree a she, she is also a he! Both female and female cones are borne on a single hemlock, and all are mother trees, that are pollinated by the wind. An understory grows up underneath the spreading boughs and limbs creating a branching step-ladder that can reach the stars. Delicate cones bow and drop from the ends of the fringed twigs, some each fall.
During the day Refuge is framed by cobalt blue, dove gray or charcoal and deep green in summer. Deciduous leaves – maple and beech lime the forest. With so many roots entwined this woodland organism developed awareness a long time ago and is engaging in conversation that probably moves us beyond what we can ever know. Hemlocks like all trees support us by providing the oxygen we need to breathe and by storing masses of carbon. Hemlocks in particular purify waters, supporting trout by keeping streams and rivers cool, deflecting heavy rain so that soil will not be lost, lower forest temperatures keeping the air more stable…these facts we know. Hemlocks also flood the air with fragrant terpenes, chemicals that relax us, heighten mood, and can heal damaged lungs. To me this sweetened air is Aphrodite come to life at the edge of summers turning…
Trees like hemlocks demonstrate Love in its purest form bycommunicating with kin and neighbors, nurturing young, protecting and providing homes/ protection for the birds, and accepting with grace the seasons as they pass… even while dying these trees send nutrients to support future generations. Aphrodite lives…
I awaken to the common yellowthroat warbler’s song. A light breeze wafts through the open window intensifying the scent of wild honeysuckle. Phoebe chimes in followed by Ovenbird, another warbler. Mama phoebe takes flight from her nest as I open the door. I peer out into emerald green – sweetly scented hay ferns define the edges of the mixed conifer and deciduous forest that overlooks a mountain brook. My home. A canopy of leafy limed branches protects the house from what will become fierce heat from the noonday star… summer is almost upon us. But not just yet. For now I am still living in the space in between. Fern hollow is an edge place, etched out of olive and jade.
Seduced by moist air, stillness and dove gray cloud cover I follow my Forest Muse wandering down to the protected field through the pines. The mountains are still shrouded in mist. Lupine spires and lemon lilies peek out above a raft of sensitive ferns. Deep blue iris startle sensitive eyes. I breathe in the intoxicating aroma of the last flowering crabapple as I examine unfurling ostrich ferns. Always the spiral. The Wild Goddess lives here. Once, just after I moved here, She rose up out of the field to embrace me, told me that I was loved… She spoke through pure feeling in that place beneath words. Now She comes to me through the trees…
Approaching the brook I experience a momentary chill. The noticeable drop in temperature is due to the spreading boughs of the Eastern Hemlocks who protect this brook (as well as other streams and rivers) from warming, so that trout can thrive. These remarkable trees slow summer storm run off, purify waters, add nitrogen to the soil through their needles, and create a moist microclimate that supports rich avian and plant diversity. As if to confirm my thoughts the call of a Blackburnian warbler reminds me that some warblers will only nest in this particular tree. Because of their trunks tendency to split, loggers left the “redwoods of the east” behind, and some hemlocks are probably 150 years old (maybe older) although this forest was cut about 40 years ago, primarily for white pine. Hemlocks can live for 500 years or more. Because they are the most shade tolerant trees of all hemlocks can survive on the moist banks of rivers and streams for many years waiting for the moment when enough light penetrates the forest floor; then they shoot up spreading their graceful boughs wide enough to create a cool understory where tender wildflowers thrive, and deer and rabbit browse.
Another warbler is singing, a high – pitched fluted call, this one is a black throated blue warbler. Migration is winding down and I wonder how many of these birds will actually stay to nest and raise young.
Taking another path up the hill I drift back into that space of belonging, my animal senses stilling all thought.
Approaching Trillium rock I am once again pulled into mind, reflecting upon how quickly golden lime brocade moss covered the entire boulder once a few dead trees came down. Starflowers adorn brocade, the same moss that phoebe used to construct and line her nest…
A morning dove is calling in the distance. Mourning and Morning belong together. Just as Thinking and Being do – humans are capable of moving back and forth between the two, but because being is not honored we must re- learn how to do the latter.
One way to frame living through difficult and uncertain times is to perceive oneself as Entering the Mystery (Martin Shaw). When I align myself with the rest of nature I lose myself in the mysterious, utterly fascinating present, develop strength to go parallel with what is, and can give thanks with all my heart for the gift of being alive.
June is the Crowning month for the “Mother Tree” who is getting ready to set her seeds and fruit. This is the time when luminous (numinous?) lime leaves and needles are reaching towards the fiercest solstice light, photosynthesizing each morning until the heat from the noonday star begins to sizzle. At this point trees begin to transpire creating the clouds we need for rain. Underground their roots commune seeking millions of new connections; mycelia produce points of light, store masses of carbon, warn one another of predators, favor their kin, send precious minerals, water, carbon, other nutrients to those trees that are dying, even as the receivers in their weakened state offer whatever they have left for the next generation to live (this may sound like some kind of fantastic story telling but every point I have made is science based).
Above ground trees also actively converse by releasing volatile chemicals. They make communal decisions about the present and the future. For example, they send new predator warnings through the air. They also decide when they will next offer a bounty of nuts and fruits to wildlife.
They provide protection, food, and homes for birds. Trees have been around for 400 million years while songbirds emerged from Australia about 34 million years ago when giant conifers, a plentiful understory and the first flowering plants provided adequate shelter and food.
I don’t think that it is any accident that so many images of the Tree of Life have birds perched throughout the branches. There is a complex relationship between trees and birds that we know almost nothing about beyond the fact that we are losing both. We have lost three billion songbirds. In the United States we have less than three percent of old growth forest left, and yet we seem determined to wipe out the last Old Ones before we are forced to put down the saw.
The loss of ancient tree wisdom brings me to my knees.
The slaughter of so many forests has put more carbon in the air than all the modes of transportation on earth. Twice as much carbon is released into the atmosphere by falling trees…
In this Crowning month of the Mother Tree, the prognosis for trees and birds is dire.
As Richard Powers states so eloquently, “The Forest is a threatened creature.”