Snow on the lilac —
my mother has already
forgotten that day.
Poems, Slightly Used, April 27, 2008
What Kind of Flower?
A couple of days ago, I straightened up our woodpile, which isn’t really a woodpile, but a collection of trimmings too thick to recycle. There are some nice husky lengths of fig, a few pieces of fir and maple, a rhododendron stump harder than a rock and thicker than my leg, and other miscellaneous moss-covered art-forms. After a bit of neatening and consolidation, I raked away the rotting, aromatic birch leaves that had collected on, around, behind, and in between, because one of our white birches stands watch over that corner of the yard. Even in its bare winter aspect, it waits in a spirit of benevolence and grace. And of course “waits” isn’t the right word. A man, if he is distracted, foolish, and harried enough, waits. A tree, one likes to think, has a deeper, more patient understanding, a more accepting nature, and takes all things in stride, relishing each in turn. Why wait, when there is so much to notice and appreciate in each given moment? And that each moment is given should be more than obvious to anyone who has lived and who survives. Simply put, if we are here only to get ahead, to take, and to prove, it follows inevitably that our lives will be predicated on impatience and waiting, which prod us and torment us like twin miseries. Whereas, if we carry on quietly, doing our best work without seeking reward, approval, or recognition, we find that everything is a miracle — every moment, every leaf, every breath we are granted. Or, to put it still another way,
if I did not praise the ice that clings to me,
if I did not praise the sky that sings to me,
if I did not cry to thee who feel for me,
what kind of flower would I be?
Recently Banned Literature, January 2, 2018