Friday, November 1, 2013

it is not our job

"It is not our job to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves
Like the trees, and be born again,
Drawing up from the great roots."

- Robert Bly

Be a lamp,
or a lifeboat,
or a ladder.
Help someone’s soul heal."

- Rumi

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”

- Albert Schweitzer 

“Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.”

- Hafiz

The photograph above is my favourite from this session yesterday in the trees. It makes me think of angels hanging up their wings after a long day's work.

"Hang on to the clear light!"

- Thomas Merton

The sky was low and grey when I walked out yesterday morning. The light on such a day is clear and perfect. I hadn't been to the little forest in the next neighbourhood for a while and so we set out, the dog and I. This stand of trees isn't so very large - set amid townhouses, apartment buildings and suburban houses. Last time I was there someone had dragged in the picnic table that is usually on the North side of the trees, chained to a pole. A small clearing has been made, trees pushed over, crudely stacked in what could be the beginning of a fort. It looks like the work of children but there are beer cans strewn, cigarette butts, fast food wrappers, chip bags. Every time I go to this stand of trees, there is a new arrangement. Someone had dragged out the picnic table this time, and what had been a triangle of stacked up wood, about 6 feet all around, had been strewn about, collapsed.

There are trails all through the woods made, I suppose, by people walking through with their dogs. Kids playing around. They're more pronounced now that it's fall. Less of a tangle to walk through.

The place is a mess in some areas, but in others, quite wild feeling. Standing quietly, breathing in the forest smells, shooting leaf photographs, the dog sitting beside me, I can forget for a few seconds that I'm in the city at all. The birds yesterday were flying overhead, calling to each other, settling in trees and singing like mad. At one point a whole flock of small birds alighted in a few trees, and then roared off again.

At one end of this stand of trees, it seems to be all angel wings, hung up to dry, withered and drained.

But at the other, it's all a delicate tangle, green bits that are difficult to focus on.

I've been drawn to these city forests for years. They used to fill me with yearning for childhood forests, real forests. It was a real ache, a terrible longing. These days, I'm more liable to take them for what they are, to not spend time wishing they were other, that I could be somewhere else. These suburban forests have their own stories. They shelter homeless people in the summer. And revellers. Perhaps, the angels arrive for late night conferences.

These suburban stands of trees remind me that there is beauty in the world, even in these worn and bedraggled and pillaged places, small places. When I need reminding, I walk as far as I can into the centre of the forest, and I stand and I wait, and the leaves are trembling. And I.


  1. gorgeous. love the photos and quotes Shawna.

    I'm not quite there yet. city forests still feel like half of what they could be. too far from real forest. but then there's the river and that assuages.

  2. I hear you. I'm moving closer to being satisfied with what I have, and making what I can of what's there. You've reminded me I need to make a trip down to the river. Thanks, Pearl.

  3. Gosh, we're on a similar wave length. Yesterday I spent ages putting together two different blog posts. One post (long, long overdue) was the before/after of our front door and the other one I prepared is me waxing on about the withered flowers in my garden. That quote by Schweitzer fits perfectly. I wish now I had posted both blog posts so you don't think I'm copying your thoughts ... oh well, I'll still post it either at the end of the weekend or Monday.
    I love so many of these images and am particularly smitten with your thought of angels wings hanging out to dry. Love that.

    1. I'll look forward to reading yours, Diane! I think it's very cool that we're thinking alike.

  4. Shawna, I just want to thank you. I turn to you each day. And thank you for this one.

    1. This makes me happy to hear. Thank you over the rainbow.

  5. Beautiful... love these leaves hanging on one more day.


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