Monday, April 20, 2015

Graced by Trees


My life has been dappled and graced by trees.  Our family history has been intertwined with trees; my childhood home was watched over by trees.  I lived for happy years later up a rickety flight of stairs in what was in its essence a treehouse.  When I need to envision space and peace within, I take myself in spirit back to the piñon-thick canyon where the birds come for sanctuary, the tree-canopied garden where the artist lived, and to the ancient lichen-nobled apple at Green Dragon Temple in the tree-hushed eucalyptus-fragrant valley near the sea.

Like generous margins and spaces between words, trees now begin to seem an old-world luxury, an undervalued blessing of the past.  Gaston Bachelard, in The Poetics of Space, tells us “Rilke wrote: 'These trees are magnificent, but even more magnificent is the sublime and moving space between them, as though with their growth it too increased.”

Their shade, their generosity, is what allows well-being and a healthy ambling among and lingering within the god-frequented groves.   I used to spend long summer evenings on the Stanford campus sitting with sandwiches under the sprawling oaks and reading Henry James—his long, slow, intricately coiled sentences that seemed so summery and grand.  Now there’s not space or time enough in my more hurried life to fit them in.  I mourn the loss, sitting thirstily under the silver-touched olive in our patio for ten minutes each morning before rushing off to work.

But even in the time allowed, the brief moment of taking leaves into my consciousness before the painful daily leavetaking, I am refreshed, restored, reminded of the woodland nymph I was, and am, that photo from eighth grade of me and cottonwood, the child drawn to the grandfatherly tree outside the enviable weathered barn of the photographer, outside my life yet in it.

images:  Gustav Klimt, Buchenhain (Beech Grove)
              8th-grade photograph, Helga Gilbert


  1. when i was seven... the age of new teeth and coltish legs...
    we lived in colorado.
    my secret place ... all children need one ...
    was in the half hollowed out huge old cottonwood tree by a stream. i used to sit inside it. it was my friend.
    now. they are all my friends.
    sacred friends.

  2. I, too, had a cottonwood I sat in—though in the branches. It was friend and refuge both, and inspiration. Love to my fellow tree-dweller!