Among the Trees

The Road to Walden West ~ January, 2019
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.
The same spot ~ March, 2021
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.
The same, again ~ May, 2020
Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And still the same ~ November, 2022
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.”
                       “When I Am Among the Trees” ~ Mary Oliver


Comments always are welcome.

60 thoughts on “Among the Trees

    1. The pleasures of nature — and the lessons nature has to teach — are all around us, and Mary Oliver was perfectly suited both to enjoy and to learn from nature. I’m glad I picked one of your favorites of her poems.

    1. It’s easy to become friends with trees. I always stop to see what this little grove has been up to when I pass that way. It never disappoints, even though it’s never going to be spectacular in the way of some trees.

    1. I love the bare trees, too. And here on the Gulf coast, January can come very close to qualifying as ‘early spring.’ Even after our brief December freeze and occasional cold January temperatures, some trees are beginning to bud.

    1. Every time I see a photo of your home, I ponder how lucky you are to have such a special place. My childhood home wasn’t on the edge of the woods, but we had elms and maples in the yard with branches that reached above our second story windows; I loved watching their shadows play at night, and the sound of the wind through their leaves was marvelous.

  1. Very nice poem and the photos are well-chosen. I enjoy walking around cities – – seeing people and admiring architecture – -but I have to walk in the woods, too, to recharge, enjoy some quiet and non-man-made sounds and stay on an even keel.

    1. I’ve always been more of a both/and person than an either/or, so I understand how a love of the urban environment can go hand in hand with a love of nature. There were periods in the past when urbanity held sway: I lived, worked, and played in dense urban areas. Now, the pendulum has swung a bit, and I’m happier in nature. There’s less traffic, for one thing!

  2. I did a “tree study” one year – taking photos of the tree in our back yard on the same day each month (and here shows it leafing out each day for a month). It really does illustrate that life continues on despite the sturm und drang that I foment. Ha!

      1. Oh yes – that painting does resemble my tree pics! Or my tree pics resemble the painting. Ha! I thought it was a cool perspective – I sat on the swing under the tree & looked up. It seemed like the best way to guarantee that I would get the same shot each day.

  3. I go to the woods and the wilderness for many reasons, Linda, but one has always been the peace they bring me, starting as a child. Mary Oliver sets just the right tone, as do your photos.

    1. I’ve always had the sense that Oliver’s work is grounded first in experience, and only then shaped by thought. In a way our teachers never imagined when they were teaching us how to cross a road or a railroad track, she knows how to stop, look, and listen.

        1. I’m glad, Lavinia. I certainly enjoy her poetry, and there’s very little more satisfying than being able to pair my photos to her words in a way that makes both more appealing. Best of all, there’s always something new to discover and benefit from in her work.

        1. Speaking of listening, today was the first day I’ve heard a bit of extended birdsong: a cardinal, some mockingbirds, and at least one cooing dove. Trees are beginning to leaf out, too — although we’re back to coolish weather for a while.

            1. And around and around and up and down the trees they go — I’d say our squirrels know Valentine’s Day is coming, and they intend to celebrate!

    1. Both the January and May skies are nicely seasonal. Maybe this year I’ll catch some July or August cumulus above the treeline; it would be a good reason for a midsummer return to San Bernard.

  4. What a gorgeous poem … and your photos of the trees in all seasons illustrate it to a T, Linda. Thank you!Seeing that canopy of green gives me hope that Spring will arrive soon (despite what the groundhog had to say!)

    1. I didn’t intend to collect a set of photos of these trees; every now and then I just stopped and did a quick snap. Eventually I realized they’d look nice grouped together, but I didn’t know quite how to do it. Then, I found this poem, and things fell into place. I’m glad you like the pairing!

      Speaking of groundhogs, it seems that groundhog day has some roots in the Christmas feast of Candlemas. Both fall on February 2, and Candlemas was a time for distributing candles as a symbol of the coming light. Maybe I’ll have it figured out by next year.

    1. Seeing changes over time — a year for Walden West, several years for these trees — is a lot of fun. I’ve been a little surprised that this treeline hasn’t change all that much in five years. The trees are a little taller, but they still have a nice, uniform appearance and don’t seem to have been ravaged by any sort of pest: including mowers or bulldozers. In any event, as long as they’re in that place, and as long as I can get there, I’ll keep taking photos of them.

  5. How privileged we always feel to be “among the trees”. For all the reasons Mary Oliver describes, and more.

    Your illustrated timeline brings comfort to the soul. Our circumstances and moods may change but just as surely as the seasons return, so shall our inner peace.

    1. The long view often is the best view. In a culture where the distant past often means last Thursday, it is comforting to be able to look back and see the patterns that have endured. No one has expressed it better than Joni Mitchell, although it’s taken some seasons for me to truly appreciate her song.

    1. Thanks, Jim. It’s always pleasing to recognize a nice correspondence between a favorite poem and some nice photos, and I thought this set worked well. I’m glad you enjoyed them.

    1. I know. I’m going to have to make the effort to add to the set this summer, when the livin’ is easy, and some of those wonderful cumulus clouds will be floating above the treeline.

    1. It can’t be too long before those luscious shades of green will be decorating your world. There’s something about spring greens — from buds to new leaves — that makes me inexplicably happy. They’re not yet dusty, or nibbled, or diseased; it’s the beauty of new, pure life.

  6. “to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.” Words to live by. She makes it all look so easy and effortless. We never see the words marked out, the papers wadded and hurled at the waste basket, how many tries it took before she got it where she wanted it to be. We never see the misses and flubs and landings in the net, the weeks and weeks of rehersals, only the performance, polished and perfect, performed without the net. ,

    1. You’re right about that. Practice may not make for perfection, but it can fool the outside observer, and often does. Every now and then, someone will come along the dock, watch me varnishing, and say, “You make that look so easy.” I always just grin and say, “After thirty years, I’m finally improving.” One of the things I get a kick out of with WordPress is the record it keeps of our drafts. They do tend to pile up; I suspect they did for Mary Oliver, too.

    1. The one image I’ve not yet captured to my satisfaction is this grove with wild iris in front of them. The trees don’t move, but the irises sometimes show up in the frame with them, depending on the amount of water in the ditches. Maybe this will be the year! Of course, even without the flowers, the trees do well enough on their own. If nothing else, I’d like to capture a deep summer view: July or August, perhaps.

  7. Fascinating to see the gradual changes, especially the deepening green of the leaves. Mary Oliver’s words make an excellent companion to your pictures. (Love those last lines!)

    1. I may try to add to the set this year, catching the first flush of very early green, and the green of summer’s height. Even leaves change quickly from one stage to another, so it’s not as easy as I used to think. Yesterday I noticed a road covered in red; it was the buds from a tree that had suddenly popped out, seemingly overnight. It’s good to see that the seasons are following their natural cycles.

  8. For some reason, I seem to prefer walking within a forest to walking alongside one. Perhaps because then I can’t see the forest for the trees? Or can I see it better?

    1. I prefer walking in a forest, too. Of course, this isn’t a forest, and I was driving rather than walking; this group of trees stands alongside a county road leading to the San Bernard refuge. I wouldn’t mind walking amid these trees, but the land between the road and the trees is so wet, and such a tangle of briars and vines, that cutting through it wouldn’t be easy.

  9. The title reminded me of one of my favorite books, Listen to the Trees by John Sexton, one of Ansel Adams assistants and disciples. It also reminded me of a “Parade” article from many, many years ago that my brother sent me of a spot in the S.F. area through the seasons. Out there the seasons were shades of brown because of the lack of rain and not as lovely as your spot.
    Mary Oliver has an appropriate poem for every occasion in nature it seems and you are aware of each and every one it also seems.

    1. I wonder if you didn’t mention that book in the past; the cover seems familiar. From the description, it makes sense to me that you’d enjoy it. It’s interesting to me that the series from San Francisco showed the seasons in shades of brown. Perhaps it was a particularly dry time, or a spot I wasn’t familiar wtih.When I think of my own years there, I remember them as beautifully green and blooming. It’s true that in the fall the grasses turned gold, and sometimes brown, but it still was an attractive place.

      I have several of Oliver’s books, both poetry and essays, and they’re always fun to look through. Between the books and online mentions, it seems there’s no end to her way with words.

      1. I probably have mentioned it at some point either here, on my blog, Steve’s blog, or elsewhere. It had a strong impact on me.
        Joel moved to S.F. in the early 70’s and I am not 100% sure the series was in the city but somewhere in the Marin vicinity.

    1. It didn’t occur to me until now that many people would think of that, November sky — that clear, clear blue — as a summer sky. We rarely get such clarity in summer, because of the humidity and clouds; it’s nice to see it in fall, after the cold fronts come through. Whatever the season, it did help to frame the poem; I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  10. That’s very interesting, looking at the same section of trees over a span of time and seeing how it changes or how differently it looks at different times. I love trees. Looking at them. Walking amongst them. Smelling the various scents associated with them. Hearing them talk to one another when a breeze blows.

    1. Like you, I have real affection for trees. Last weekend, I was in the east Texas piney woods; it was a windy day, and I heard that wonderful sound of wind in tall pines for the first time in a very, very long time. I need to travel down this road again soon, just to see how these trees look. They’re on the way to Walden West, so I could check the pond as well, and see if any water has appeared there.

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