[Image: Tree on the Hill (2012), by Patrick Winfield. 24×23.5 inches, film and Polaroids on panel]
From whiskey river:
Deep down, I don’t believe it takes any special talent for a person to lift himself off the ground and hover in the air. We all have it in us — every man, woman, and child — and with enough hard work and concentration, every human being is capable of [the feat]… You must learn to stop being yourself. That’s where it begins, and everything else follows from that. You must let yourself evaporate. Let your muscles go limp, breathe until you feel your soul pouring out of you, and then shut your eyes. That’s how it’s done. The emptiness inside your body grows lighter than the air around you. Little by little, you begin to weigh less than nothing. You shut your eyes; you spread your arms; you let yourself evaporate. And then, little by little, you lift yourself off the ground.
(Paul Auster [source])
All day I waited to be blown;
then someone cut me down.
I have, instead of thoughts,
uses; uses instead of feelings.
One day I’ll feel the wind again.
A moment later I’ll be gone.
(Dan Chiasson [source])
We end up stumbling our way through the forest, never seeing all the unexpected and wonderful possibilities and potentials because we’re looking for the idea of a tree, instead of appreciating the actual trees in front of us.
(Charles de Lint [source])
Not from whiskey river:
On this first day of spring, snow
covers the fruit trees, mingling improbably
with the new blossoms like identical twins
brought up in different hemispheres.
It is not what Housman meant
when he wrote of the cherry
hung with snow, though he also knew
how death can mistake the seasons,
and if he made it all sound pretty,
that was our misreading
in those high school classrooms
where, drunk on boredom, we had to recite
his poems. Now the weather is always looming
in the background, trying to become more
than merely scenery, and though today
it is telling us something
we don’t want to hear, it is all
so unpredictable, so out of control
that we might as well be children again,
hearing the voices of thunder
like baritone uncles shouting
in the next room as we try to sleep,
or hearing the silence of snow falling
soft as a coverlet, even in springtime
whispering: relax, there is nothing
you can possibly do about any of this.
(Linda Pastan [source])
On the Ridge, as in the Indian River section of eastern Florida, citrus plantations are called groves; in California, they are generally called orchards. Citrus trees are evergreen, and in the ancient world they were coveted for their beauty long before anyone ever thought to eat their fruit. Of all the descriptions of them that I have ever run across, the one I prefer is contained in these three lines by an eighth-century Chinese poet:
In the full of spring on the banks of a river—
Two big gardens planted with thousands of orange trees.
Their thick leaves are putting the clouds to shame.
The poet’s name was Tu Fu, and he had so much confidence in his writing that he prescribed it as a cure for malaria. Beyond those three lines, I am unfamiliar with Tu Fu’s canon. But I believe in him. Or at least I did that morning at the beginning of the Ridge, where the orange trees were shaming the clouds, and the air was sedative with the aroma of blossoms. Valencia trees, unlike all other orange trees, are in bloom and in fruit at the same time. So most of the trees in every direction were white and green and orange all at once.
(John McPhee [source])
The Length of the Hour
New houses relax on the fields.
Garage doors open soundlessly
to admit the monster. Tires stretched
over forty pounds of air
pressure float across gravel.
The boy closes the last storm
door on the last evening
paper and runs to the car
where his mother waits. She does not
answer him; the door slam freezes
her dreams. It is January.
A dog chained to a barn door
keeps barking. Somebody’s angry,
scared to let him go.
On the other side
of a forest past these fields,
wolves sniff the hard snow
of the tundra. I lay beside the only
tree for warmth, there
where the pack might find me.
The house takes care of us now.
Look at the meat
browning under the light.
The refrigerator switches on;
ice crashes into the tray.
Here are locks in case someone
wants to do us harm. Remember
how the police had to pound and pound
to wake us that night a white Cadillac
leapt from the icy road
into the arms of our maple! It hung there,
empty, doors flung wide—
it was a great white petal of a car,
breathing under the gas-lights, opening
(Cynthia Huntington [source])
George Washington’s Birthday: Wondering
I wonder what I would have said
if my dad asked me,
“Son, do you know who cut down
my pretty cherry tree?”
I think I might have closed my eyes
and thought a little bit
about the herds of elephants
I’d seen attacking it.
I would have heard the rat-a-tat
of woodpeckers, at least,
or the raging roar of a charging boar
or some such other beast!
Perhaps a hippopotamus
with nothing else to do
had wandered through our garden
and stopped to take a chew.
We all know George said,
“Father, I cannot tell a lie.”
Yet I can’t help but wonder …
Did he really try?
(Bobbi Katz [source])