Evening Sun
Jane Kenyon
 
Why does this light force me back 
to my childhood? I wore a yellow 
summer dress, and the skirt 
made a perfect circle.
                                       Turning and turning
until it flared to the limit
was irresistible     . . . .    The grass and trees, 
my outstretched arms, and the skirt 
whirled in the ochre light
of an early June evening.
                                        And I knew then 
that I would have to live, 
and go on living: what sorrow it was; 
and stilI what sorrow burns
but does not consume 
my heart.
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Today, I had the privilege of participating in a lecture at the University of Guelph with Dr, Deborah Bowen and Ryan Vanderhaak. The lecture was titled ‘Trees: When Poetry and Science Meet’

I chose to share a bit about our Hunter St. ravine through a reflection, a piece from Elisha Stam Judson, and a photo taken by Emma Cubitt.

I live on Hunter Street, which is on the brink of downtown Hamilton. My frontyard is a sidewalk too close to a road and a crack house. My backyard is too close to train tracks disguised as a ravine.

When I first moved onto my street, neighbours assured me that the sound of the train would become a comfort of home. After two years, I am yet to be convinced.

Our ravine is not pretty. It is filled with junk that people don’t know what to do with and junk that needs to be hidden.

The birds are birds of prey.

The trees are “Tree of Heaven” affectionately renamed ghetto trees. Their branches are spindly and awkwardly try to become something.

Yet, there they are, and they become a sight to behold and a lesson for us who live alongside them.

The trees claim our attention and say, “Put your roots down here.”

trees in the summer – Elisha Stam Judson

the setting sun peeks through the trees and the green leaves are so thick that  you cannot see into the ravine. the black branches of the tree are sturdy and hold up the bouquet of leaves and the sun underneath them , streaming in beside the deck becomes yellow shadows and halos and tongues of fire upon the earth. they dance loosely. attached by only stems.

and a train comes and blows it all away. in an instant. the noise echoing on my walls, and my legs palpating the vibrations of the body of the ravine.

Photo taken by Emma Cubitt

Image

Q: When you think of the word beauty, what pictures come into your mind?

John O’Donohue: When I think of the word beauty, some of the faces of those I love come into mind. When I think of beauty, I also think of beautiful landscapes that I know. Then I think of acts of such lovely kindness that have been done to me by people who cared in bleak or shattered times,or when I needed to be loved and minded.

When I think of beauty I think of the unknown people, who are the real heroes, you never hear of them. They hold out on lines, on frontiers of awful want, awful situations, and manage to somehow go beyond the given impoverishment and offer gifts of possibility, imagination, and seeing.

I also think of music. I love music. I think that it is just “it.” I think music is what language would be if it could — you know?  

Elegy in Joy [excerpt]      
by Muriel Rukeyser

We tell beginnings: for the flesh and the answer,
or the look, the lake in the eye that knows,
for the despair that flows down in widest rivers,
cloud of home; and also the green tree of grace,
all in the leaf, in the love that gives us ourselves.

The word of nourishment passes through the women,
soldiers and orchards rooted in constellations,
white towers, eyes of children: 
saying in time of war What shall we feed?
I cannot say the end.

Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.
Not all things are blest, but the
seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.

This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love.
Years over wars and an imagining of peace.  Or the expiation journey
toward peace which is many wishes flaming together,
fierce pure life, the many-living home.
Love that gives us ourselves, in the world known to all
new techniques for the healing of the wound,
and the unknown world.  One life, or the faring stars.

 

Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his
antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s
about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time,
Or that
it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

 

 

This morning, I read a great article in the recent Comment magazine written by David Robinson. He selects ‘Sext’ of W.H. Auden’s collection Horae Canonicae to reflect on how being a creature (one who creates)  is in danger of becoming a lost art.

What he has to say is worth reading. If you would like to borrow my copy, come knocking.

 

You need not see what someone in doing

to know if it is his vocation,

 

you have only to watch his eyes:

a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

 

making a primary incision,

a clerk completing a bill of lading,

 

wear the same rapt expression,

forgetting themselves in a function.

 

How beautiful it is

that eye-on-the object look.

 

To ignore the appetitive goddesses,

to desert the formidable shrines

 

of Rhea, Aphrodite, Demeter, Diana,

to pray instead to St Phocas,

 

St Barbara, San Saturnino,

or whoever one’s patron is,

 

that one may be worthy of their majesty,

what a prodigious step to have taken.

 

There should be monuments, there should be odes,

to the nameless heroes who took it first,

 

to the first flaker of flints

who forgot his dinner,

 

the first collector of seashells

to remain celibate

 

Where should we be but for them?

Feral still, un-housetrained, still

 

wandering through forests without

a consonant to our names,

 

slaves of Dame Kind, lacking

all notion of a city,

 

and, at this noon, for this death,

there would be no agents.

 

— W.H. Auden, “Sext”, Horae Canonicae. 

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“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15).

It’s the little foxes the ruin the vineyard. If you’re always dreaming big—surveying your vineyard, plotting the next acquisition of the vineyard down the road, dreaming about all your plans for the estate—in other words, if you tend to always look beyond the vineyard and don’t enjoy actually caring for the vines, you’ll miss the pesky little foxes that are ruining what’s right in front of you. You’ll never be able to enjoy the wine of the vineyard if you ignore the little foxes. You won’t enjoy the fruit of the vine if you don’t tend to the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty work of viticulture.

And here’s what you might not yet realize: that real joy is found right there in the dirt, in the ho-hum task of tending the plant, in cultivating the terroir that will nourish the vines that yield the fruit. While you’re imagining all of the outcomes of the vineyard and all the benefits to be reaped, what might be hard for you to imagine is that some of your best days—when you feel like all is right with the universe, and what you’re doing means something, and you know why you’re here, and your heart swells in gratitude and joy—well, those will be days when you’re mucking about in the vineyard, tending to the little foxes.

The bacchanalian delights of the wine are going to have diminishing returns; you need to find joy in actually tending the vineyard, in concern for “the little foxes.”

Dream Small  James K.A. Smith

— all over the earth

little fires starting up

especially in Canada

some yellow leaves too

buttercup and dandelion yellow

dancing across the hillside

I say to my wife

“What’s the yellowist thing there is?”

“School buses”

a thousand school buses are double –

parked on 401 all at once.

 

I suppose this is the one thing

your average level-headed Martian

or Venusian could not imagine

about Earth:

red leaves

and the way humans attach emotion

to one little patch of ground

and continually go back there

in the autumn of our lives

to deal with some of the questions

that have troubled us

on our leapfrog trip thru the Universe

for which there are really no answers

except at this tranquil season

of falling leaves

watching them in a kind of jubilation

sometimes mistaken for sadness.

Al Purdy

Don’t be surprised at the joy in my heart if you see me walking a puppy on a grass stained, lime green leash.

His name is Berkeley, but to his best buddy Elijah, he is Burka. He plays with leaves and dried up onions.

We are going to get along.