Mother Maple

These little maple leaves,
now breaking forth from bud
stretching their arms with
first cry will
soon toddle on tree, will
soon be schooled in photosynthesis, will
soon branch out and then
then settle down; life
made in their shade until at end
they blaze in glory and fall to fate:
fodder for humus; toil for humans.

What is tree to leaf?
Is she mother? Is the end of
each branch to womb? Does tree
portend leaf’s coming, being, going?
Or is tree like God? Or do the two merge?

I put my hand to trunk
and feel earth, intuit strength, know
life flowing to me like energy incognito;
life from womb in whom is
caring, Kraft, creation.

Akin to Earth

Yesterday was the spring equinox. It was a glorious and gorgeous day and although a good bit of it was spent inside marking, at one point my wife came in to pull me out to see snow drops raising their holy hooded heads from the ground. I wandered over to the corner of the yard to see how my little bur oak tree is doing, and bending down I could see some buds starting to form on it. Walking back to the house, I notice our backyard maple tree crying sweet tears of joy at the turning of the earth towards the sun. Everything seemed to be waking up.

The day before, I was looking out of my office at this same yard as I was preparing for noon-day pause at “chapel.” It was online and this was the Friday in which we do “Settlers’ Work,” pondering how those who are not Indigenous can educate ourselves around the reality of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, and the Calls for Justice from the national report on MMIWG. We always begin this time with a land acknowledgement, remembering that the land on which Laurier and Luther are located were deeded to the Haudenosaunee with the Haldimand Tract of 1784. This was also traditional territory of the Anishinabeg and Neutral Peoples. As I do this, I often think about a lesson I am learning from the land. On Friday I mentioned that we often talk as if mother earth is waking up in the spring, and suddenly it struck me like a ton of bricks that this same mother earth is falling asleep on the opposite side of the globe! She is waking up and falling asleep at the same time.

I am increasingly informed by the idea that this earth is our relative, our mother – as per Indigenous perspectives. And this invites us to imagine that in some ways we are like the earth, if she is our mother. Interestingly other worldviews share this perspective of our being imaged after the earth. The ancient Greeks considered the human to be a micro-cosmos. And the Hebraic name for the original, mythic male was Adam, derived from the word for dust, or dirt, and the name for female was Eve, derived from the word for life. Humans are living dirt. We are dust and to dust we shall return. We are akin to that from whence we came and to whither we go.

The earth wakes and sleeps at the same time. How about us? How might we experience this simultaneous arrival and departure; taking up and setting down; being born and dying? I suppose this is evident in every transition in life: from being a babe to being a child to being a teenager to being a young adult to being a not so young adult to being an elderly adult. Each stage is leaving behind and a coming to. There is both death and life in birth, life and death. This is the paradox of our existence. Paradox means contrary to opinion, or in opposition to how things appear: death is a being born just as surely as being born is a dying, since life itself is a journey of death and death is a journey of life. Of course we are taught to fear death by many forces. But our mother teaches us that dying is not the end of life but its transitioning into a new form, a point well illustrated in the lessons of Lent, a time of marking the dying in life as life in dying.

The Heavens are Shattered

This bare tree framing the sky lays
bare the state of my soul:
a little bit empty
now and then
I might be seen through
but this too is gift:
the tree frames sky
and I frame why.

Branches cut up what is on high just
like lead pieces glass together by dividing:
the power of the line meets
the strength of the translucent.
The heavens are shattered
and so beautiful…

This Too Can Be Home

There is a sprig of hemlock,
Tsuga canadensis not Conium maculatem,
nestled in the round of our Advent
wreath; warmly wrapped by
lights of hope, peace, joy and love,
this gentle bough at home
in my home.

I pinch a bit of it for my nose and
I find myself transported to a
fragrant conifer forest. My
soul is sated and settled in the
womb afforded by four sister trees:
hope, peace, joy and love.

I look above and see tongues of fire
resting on these sacred silva beings:
I take delight in knowing that this too can be home.
I pinch myself and am transported back
to my living room, where the Holy
holds inner and outer as one.

Roots in You

Trees cannot walk, unlike
homo erectus now sapiens.
But our silva relations
are stars at standing still,
the sine qua non for
paying attention.

Simone Weil once wrote:
“attention is the rarest and purest
form of generosity,” so making of trees
exemplars – always giving
shade and sap
breath and beauty
warmth and wood.

Posing like a tree
demands more of me
than I first imagine:
balance, humility, serenity
and finally, roots in You.

Conversing with Trees

Here I sit, empty.
No poem comes to me.
Stirred, I go in search
of a verse to pluck.

But on what kind of tree does
a poem grow? Our garden
offers plenty of possibilities:
pine and oak,
beech and maple
spruce and hemlock.
Each one of these spirited trees is
ripe with grace and
rife with peace.

I settle, conversing with trees.
And even if no poem should arrive,
I’ll be succored by the sight of leaves aloft,
and trunks holding up the sky, my eye now
soaking in the chlorophyll filtered light,
inciting wonder, if not a poem.

At the Edge of Eternity

These days our tree
weeps joy,
bleeds peace,
sweats sweet spring …

I gasp and she
replies, but I do
not yet speak her
tongue. All the same,
I can see her buds brave
frosty mornings and,
at midday, her branches
shimmer, like locks, with
warm sun on glistening wood.

Pregnant with promise, she
preaches resurrection, she
hymns creation, she
lauds God.

With my hand on her trunk,
at the edge of eternity,
I wonder about her roots: are they
sated with humus, or do they
pine after the sky, which
her crown so delicately nibbles?

Eve and Adam

To learn more about runes, check out this site.

Eve,
today your
beauty was severe
as you sang the poetry of
trunks and branches runed,
and your face sparkled
with the blush of
first light.

Your breath spirited me
to this marvel of your
possessing me fully.
Here I fall ever
anew into you, into
your sacred site of joy.

I will not slip between
your fingers, but will cling
to you until that moment when
I finally and fully fall into death; and
until that days comes, I will
practice dying by coming
again and again to
the loam I am:
Adam.

Contentment on a Fall Day

Saturday was leaf day at our house. It wasn’t really planned that way, although we did know that it was soon time to wrestle the trees’ labours to the curb, where the city will collect them in early November. We are fortunate in our neighbourhood to have this service, which occurs because we have an inordinate number of older trees that tower over our streets and homes. This time of year is so very gorgeous; as the leaves come down we find ourselves swimming in a sea of orange, and red, and yellow and a coral-like pink too.

My eldest and her boyfriend popped by Friday night, and in the morning Anelise exclaimed that she wanted to rake some leaves. I was quite glad for this intervention, and so the plan was that after brunch – we all had a handful of jobs to do – we would return to turn the yard from its fire-hued palette to green again. I went for a run, an especially lovely thing to do in autumn, and came back to find everyone hard at work. I gladly joined in, as we visited, and joked, and amassed the leaves at the curb, where they will be collected sometime in early November.

I do so much work that generates such little concrete results that I find a rich pleasure in things like raking leaves. A deep satisfaction attends my settling them curbside. I’m not sure if it is the rush of colour on the blue-black pavement, slick with rain from earlier in the day, or the return of the lawn to a contented fall green, but there is a kind of aesthetic pleasure in the process. Or perhaps it is the rhythm of moving a rake. I think at some deep level, it is because we were created to be moving and so many jobs these days are at desks, and the closest thing to activity that we manage is moving a mouse, or making our way to the coffee pot, and such.

Certainly, part of the attraction of this is the way it ritualizes our immersion in the cycles of the season. It seems many of us have lost our sense of identity with the earth. We live in a market driven world with an unrelenting concern with progress that drenches our days and drowns our souls. We are forever wondering about how our portfolios grow, how our careers advance, and how our communities compare with others. We feel like failure without progress. Nature doesn’t progress. It adapts. And deep down, I think, we know that we need to have this truth drench our very being, and bless us with contentment.

And so, we grinned today as we rallied our rakes in recollection of the cycle of life. Blood pushed around our body, and air cycled in and out of our lungs until we worked up an appetite for lunch. As we gathered around the board, and reminisced about this and that, it struck me that what goes around comes around: the “round” matters as much as most everything else.

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