Hints of Gladness

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.”

Wishing you all a peaceful end to 2020.

The Blog or the Tree

The Blog that ate reality. (Only consider the indigestion.)

Perhaps this is closer to the electron vs. the tree product? I would not know. I am not sure at all what the blog is in terms of my real world. This is not due to diminished tech ability so much, but rather to a lack of curiosity.

I was given stern instructions to begin a blog, if I ever wanted to produce marketable writing and be able to sell it; to have an electronic presence. I made the effort, thinking that I would open a door to creativity and meet people of ‘like mind’.

I have a very different view today. Somedays I think I am shouting down a well, on others, I am walking along whispering to myself (which is cause for some worry).

Today, it seems I am talking to a very small group of ‘friends in the shadows’. It has a magical and unreal quality to it. I feel myself reaching out and taking a hand, or starting a conversation here and there. Sometimes I simply brush someones cheek with my knuckles and look deeply into their eyes with an attempt to understand who they are. I am looking deep into a mystery that eludes me. You.

Ever Onward

It is this sense of presence in an electronic world that has ignited my curiosity again. What is this web we weave? How does it penetrate creativity? Is the glue still kindness, or does the ego rule?

For me to even voice these words, feels strange. Clearly, the precipice of my ignorance is high and airy. I lean out and see only hints along a skyline. I know nothing. Perhaps knowing nothing, much more is possible. Perhaps I can fly after all.

I will let you know.

Ganges River

Watching Korn Grow (a story of translation)

Corn: 4’6″, at sunset

When the tree fell, I lost all belief, but not hope. Hope is another thing altogether and I am a relentless harborer of hope. I turned to Simone and brushed my knuckles along her shoulder. She was very still, which is not usually a good thing; her vibrance is part of her beauty. She is half a head shorter than I am and nearly as strong. I am one of the corn-fed, usually small in stature. No one in my home group was as tall as Simone, not even the adult males, and I had stood like the tallest stalk of corn over them since I was young. She is of the sea-fed and has the round solid musculature of the swimmer she is. She has never stood out in her community for anything other than the lovely qualities of grace and skill that are natural to her.

     “Are you ok?” I asked her, meaning “Are we done here? Should we go?”

     “Great.” She answered in a tone so deep and heavy, I thought it was not her voice I heard. Her meaning? “Will any of us ever be OK again?”

     Survival is, in part, appropriate communication. Simone and I excelled at this. The tree fellers glanced at us, but made no move to drive us away. We posed no threat. They had even exchanged friendly banter with us when they arrived, not far from the place where Simone and I had made a home. They were from beyond the Wall, or beyond the Pale as my mother was wont to call it. Though my people’s hair matched the silk of the cob, our eyes were dark and our skin many shades of brown, as are the Sea-fed. The Wall folk are, however, so colorless that it made one itch. Light eyes, light hair, and skin that turned red in even the slight sunshine of winter. Even though they performed tasks that proclaimed them as strong and robust, they gave the illusion of sickness and fear. They were tender to any prick, bleeding easily, and flinched at the slightest wind ruffling the grass. I was grateful to have been ‘born to the corn’ as we call it.

     I shifted my hand to take Simone’s, more to reassure myself that she would not simply attack them without warning. For this I received a wry look from a side-slited eye, but she squeezed my hand back and leaned into me, which meant “Mourning now, vengeance later. Do you think I am an idiot?” I am not an idiot, so I made not the faintest reply to this as we waited for the over-full wagon of murdered tree to depart. I know my sweet-heart well, you see, and at this moment she was as close as I had ever seen her to making a rash move.

    For a thousand years, no tree had been cut. Walled or unwalled folk had honored this. If we made tools or built from wood, it was from dead wood. Even here there was a process of asking and receiving permission from the other nearby peoples, including the Wall folk. There was also a ritual for asking the tree if its fallen trunk or branch was ready for harvest. No answer was often the answer and considered affirmative, as the tree had moved on. The tree before us was still green leaved and its branches cast, cut and broken, before us on the ground. I had stood back as they worked on, so they would not see the ocean of grief as it began to fall from my eyes. Never give warning, my teacher told me; there is always time for discussion when danger is past. Any fool, even these, would know me then. We are a taciturn people.

     The end had arrived for this arbor moratorium, but surely not the deeper reason. As yet mature trees were still few and far apart and the young ones were still struggling, but the struggle proved long. I never imagined that the end of this agreement would be taken up by murderers, greed mongers, and betrayers. What else could these be? Anyone could see that the results of a millennium were not yet what they should be. With an effort, I turned my back, guiding Simone with me, letting the grind of wagon wheels move away unobserved, so a backward glance would raise no suspicion. 

     Together, we made our way to my mother’s home: a building without a single beam. She and my father, now long passed, had built it from the humbler and stronger form; stone. Well broken and fit, it had taken them three full seasons to build. People teased them, calling it “Three-Year House”. It was round, and held a roof of weave and thatch that rested upon the craftily formed lip of a central stone chimney. The center hearth was not used in our area, but my father came from some distance away, where it was. My mother and I were shamefully willing to extol its virtues, even now. Each pie of a room entered the warm family setting directly. I hope someday to build one like it for Simone and myself.

     “Korn! Simone!” my mother welcomed us with her usual joy. She named me not for the plant, but for it’s spirit, the one who saved us all.

     “Hello Mother”, Simone addressed her. They love each other well and so I am twice blessed with a peaceful family.

     “What has hurt you?” My mother’s sensitive wisdom is what makes her such a skilled doctor and herbalist. She is a wise woman indeed and I am proud to be her kin.

     “The Wall folk have cut the linden tree.” Simone has always been able to speak with complete candor; she balances my still silence. I let them do this work now, I could not. 

    “No! To what end?”

     “They claim the call of commerce, and the right of law.”

     “They bring evil on their hearth. They will bring the results down on us all!” These two women of my life leaned in together and holding each other, wept. I had already wept my fill and felt strangely cold. I stood back.

     When they stood separate again, I took their leave. “I need to walk,”I told them shortly. They both nodded and I, holding some emotion now, that I could not name, walked back to the place where an old friend had once stood. When I arrived, I could see her sap still flowed and my heart constricted. I did not feel the same uncertainty though. I had changed. The words “commerce” and “law”, spoken by my Simone, had struck it from me. These ordinary words, which should indicate healthy interaction and agreement in a community, had been twisted to hide “greed” and “aggression”. As I have told you, Simone and I excel at translation, and whatever the means to set this right, whatever the interpretations, and actions required, I had not lost courage or hope.

Korn: much taller

The Landscape of Forest

Welcome to this place.

I hope that my voice will provide you with a gateway into the forest.

Your response is welcomed.

“Writing in landscapes, landscapes write in you.”

– Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness

Some Years ago, while visiting Nepal, I had the good fortune to listen to the words of a Nepalese Archeologist. We were standing in front of an excavation in Lumbini, said to be the birthplace of Buddha. There the mother of Buddha was said to have given birth while holding onto the Sal tree. As he continued to speak, he referenced several other trees in the story of Buddha, and then paused to make an aside:

“It makes you wonder, really, if this is not actually all about the trees.”

He laughed and continued his discourse, but the words stayed with me as softly spoken ideas sometimes do. I remembered the impact of trees in my life and the subtle flavor of places, of landscapes that have moved me. Today, I have given a certain credence to this sensation and have concluded that whether it is a lower brain response to a safe and healthy landscape, or a higher brain desire for beauty, trees do hold a significant place in my relation to earth.

The expression of such things is understandably elusive. All aspects of our interconectedness can seem a challenge, at times, to express. We recognize them in flashes in our consciousness and then turn away to resume what we believe to be the important work of our lives. I have often felt helpless to express such thoughts on the world I have witnessed, in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Sometimes the human pain I saw, due to economic imbalances, or the compassionate sorrow that twisted my gut, when disrupted landscapes destroyed or displaced plants and animals, became unbearable.

I would try to speak of my experiences with friends and acquaintances, but such topics seem to slide away from peoples interest focus. Their eyes typically glaze and they make a perfunctory remark, returning to the issues they know, relegating your experience to some other world beyond their ken.

This apparent disinterest was a tipping point for me, one day. I identified with a world much larger than the one my associates knew. I also felt compassion, hope, and fear for that world. I began to wake in the night, while living in Africa, and tell myself fictional stories of people who saw and solved the worlds issues. I set aside two decades of filtered ramblings in a journal and opened up into poetry, fantasy, and science fiction. It was personal and it was private. It was also a healing place. This is what I hope to share in these pages.

Fallen Leaves, Fallen Trees

Words fall away from my mind in orange and yellow
They litter the ground, leaving me silent
The flavor of it sits in my mouth
Bitter or sweet
A nameless perfume rife with memory
I am at last
Finally, That Tree
Tall, still, I brace the landscape
My leaves fallen about me as past glories to dissolve
Food for saplings
I am that tree
Shading the heads of pilgrims
I stand as safe roost for eons of flocks
Soundless, I shrug a shoulder 
Or fan my hands
I am post and lintel
Cup, bowl, canoe
I am fire hardened spear and arrow; slit for the stone
Cradle, coffin, crucifix
I take the hangman’s name in silence
I am that tree.
Support for Maya in her birth throws
Canopy for her son as he awoke
Gathering place for the elders
The sentinel in silence forgotten
Standing within the cycle eternal
Fully aware and in silence
I am falling, falling
My essence dreams
And wakes again

Kiora Tash