Sorrow needs space this time of year. Since hiding makes me sadder, I address grief straight on in my forest, at the cairn where Vic’s ashes are buried, and in poetry. I remember the deep roots of trees and know I’m rooted, too.
I searched my poetry files for favorite poems about the wisdom of trees. It’s a Thanksgiving gift to you–and to myself.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
When I feel lost, I trust leafless November trees. They are rooted here. They know where I am. They know the way home.
Rumi adds sacred riches to the teachings of trees. He reminds me that everything in my life connects to the unseen world and my job is to plant love.
Every tree, every growing thing as it grows,
says this truth: You harvest what you sow.
With life as short as a half-taken breath,
don’t plant anything but love.
Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world.
The forms may change, yet the essence remains the same.
Every wonderful sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened.
The source they come from is eternal, growing.
Why do you weep? The source is within you.
And this whole world is springing up from it.
The source is full. Its waters are ever-flowing.
Drink your fill.
I end with the bard, Mary Oliver. Her trees know where she is, too. They bring her back to herself, back home, in a celebration of life as it is–grief, light, loss, and love. All of it. Always all of it.
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.”
It’s simple. The trees know what to do. They’ll remind us if we pause and ask them.
Thanks to writer and friend Robin Botie for sharing the poem “Lost” when I needed it most. For a blog about our lost hours in my forest, please see Lost and Found in My Own Backyard. For other favorite poems in times of grief, see Poems to Grieve By. For a beautiful prose poem about grief in the forest, see “Snow is Falling” by Mark Liebenow. Have a Thanksgiving full of love.