The Lingering Forest

Boojum Tree (Idria columnaris), Baja Mexico

Old Woman Nature


Old Woman Nature
naturally has a bag of bones
                tucked away somewhere.
                a whole room full of bones!

A scattering of hair and cartilage
               bits in the woods.

A fox scat with hair and a tooth in it.
               a shellmound
                      a bone flake in a streambank.

A purring cat, crunching
               the mouse head first,
                       eating on down toward the tail–

The sweet old woman
               calmly gathering firewood in the
               moon . . .

Don’t be shocked,
She’s heating you some soup.

“Old Woman Nature” from Axe Handles. Copyright © 1983 by Gary Snyder. 

(Gary Snyder has been described as the “poet laureate of Deep Ecology“. Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Book Award. His work is said to reflect both Buddhist spirituality and nature.)

We tend to see Nature in a lovely pastoral landscape: pretty flowers, verdant meadows, things we might like to eat. There is the dark, the alien, the deeply frightening aspect of Nature though, and this is ours to love as well. Why do we like to shock ourselves with the dark, the surreal images? Perhaps it is the contrast which reminds us we are still alive, or more to the point, we are not yet dead.

One of the images of the Darkness is in the changing of the seasons. I see the tanning of grass, the shedding of layers of leaves, and the flocks of birds as they migrate. I remain, beneath clouds, considering the stillness and silence that has overtaken my world. Persephone has gone in to somewhere more warm, but I remain. Should I feel sorry for her?

My forest is simply waiting for snow and ice to cover its lost mantle. In this stillness I am content only for a while, but it is enough. When the cold finally drives me in, or away, I find that I have brought the silence with me.

“…one aspect of silence is emptiness, and yes, it is often lonely. In the presence of silence, the conditioned self rattles and scratches. It begins to crumble like old leaves or worn rock. If we have courage, we take silence as medicine to cure us from our social ills, the suffering of self-centered alienation. In silence, sacred silence, we stand naked like trees in winter, all our secrets visible under our skin. And like winter’s tree, we appear dead but are yet alive.”

The Fruitful Darkness, Joan Halifax
North America, Western Coastal Forest

Come. Scrabble with me into this darkened place. I will keep you warm. I will keep you safe. I am not hungry at the moment, but perhaps you would like some soup?

Find the instructions for this word challenge (Silence and Stillness) at the above link. Enjoy the variety, join the fun.

8 thoughts on “The Lingering Forest

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