Monday, October 5, 2015

we must pull the curtains

A Place to Sit 


Don’t go outside your house to see flowers.
My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the void and out of it,
before the gardens and after gardens.


by Wendy Videlock

They are fleeting.
They are fragile.
They require

little water.
They’ll surprise you.
They’ll remind you

that they aren’t
and they are you.

Which flower are you? How do you wish to flower?

This week's questions, perhaps.

We've clearly moved into fall, the blur between season has been refocused. On the weekend there was a strong wind, and so now many of the trees which had been so splendid have lost their leaves.

A bit of a shock really.

Regardless of the wind or the rain, we've been walking every day. Sometimes out in the utility corridor (below) and sometimes to the small suburban forests. I hadn't been to the spot where my favourite tree is for some time, but you'll see it as you scroll down.

Learning the Trees

by Howard Nemerov

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees. That’s done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves—
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform—
And their venation—palmate and parallel—
And tips—acute, truncate, auriculate.

Sufficiently provided, you may now
Go forth to the forests and the shady streets
To see how the chaos of experience
Answers to catalogue and category.

Confusedly. The leaves of a single tree
May differ among themselves more than they do
From other species, so you have to find,
All blandly says the book, “an average leaf.”

Example, the catalpa in the book
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three
Around the stem; the one in front of you
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost;

Maybe it’s not catalpa? Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids,
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world

Not always at the joints, competing with
Experience while cooperating with
Experience, and keeping an obstinate
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

And think also how funny knowledge is:
You may succeed in learning many trees
And calling off their names as you go by,
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

The comprehensive silence of trees is what I'm drawn to, I suppose. Silent speaking.


by Lorine Niedecker

We must pull
the curtains—
we haven't any

I made my annual trip to pluck leaves from a neighbourhood plum tree - plenty of branches hanging over the fence. I've been feeling like I haven't been able to concentrate properly on fall. That I haven't gone out and got the shots I wanted, quite. That I haven't been giving fall my full attention.

I've promised myself that after my book launch is over (October 14), I'm going to turn the computer off for most of the day, at least for a week. I'm going to give myself a bit of a solitude retreat.

“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”

- Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet

So a week ago, Chloe and a friend and I visited the Muttart Conservatory - the show pyramid was full of sculptures from Zimbabwe. I was particularly fond of the small animals.

When we look deep into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds there could be no rain, and there would be no flower.

-  Thich Nhat Hanh

And so even though it's full-on fall outdoors, it's summer in the pyramids. I need to remember to visit more often in the dead of winter.


And this is what it looks like from outside. We had a nice wander around the grounds of the conservatory. Some really lovely views.

And so now it's time for our virtual tea (and doughnuts) break. 

If we were sipping tea I'd tell you about all the nervous eating I've been doing, ha. I'd tell you that I received the printer's copy of Rumi and the Red Handbag. It's really beautiful - I'm so impressed with my publisher. The cover, typesetting, the weight of the thing - all lovely. You can read more about all this here

If we were having tea, I'd tell you about the novel I'm reading and loving. Reading it very slowly because it's not long and it's so amazing. Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick. I'm sure I have someone out there to thank for mentioning this novel - but I've forgotten who.....

Listening to: the new release by The Innocence Mission

Reading and rereading: this article on lovingkindness by Sharon Salzburg. As well, Salzburg links to this really enlightening conversation "Mindfulness and Heartfulness" where the Western Contemplation is compared to the Eastern, Meditation. 

Looking at: Jenny Holzer. Interesting to think about who the voice is in her "Projections." I'm really most fond of the movie marquee, or "Truism" series. "Turn Soft and lovely any time you have a chance" is one of them. 

Lastly, if we were having tea, I'd tell you I'm about the least calm person around right now. But I'm trying to keep my sense of humour about that, too. I'm freaking out about my upcoming book launch and all the related stuff, but I'm freaking out less than I usually do. Progress, right?

So, wishing you all a calm week ahead, dear friends. Thanks for stopping by. 


  1. Thanks for another illuminating post, Shawna. You always bring me new poems and old favorites. Thank you.

  2. A feast for the senses here, Shawna! You made my Monday morning...thank you.

  3. Wonderful! I AM having tea, so this is appropriate. And I'm so excited about your book. Congratulations. xo

  4. I am so excited for you, and the rest of us, for your book launch! Laughing at your " . . . freaking out less than I usually do . . ."; yes, it is progress - well done. Love your photos, especially the leaves stacked together - rather like ratatouille.


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