The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Philip Larkin, High Windows (Faber and Faber 1974).
My daily walk takes me through a former army post (now turned into a park) on the bluffs above Puget Sound. At one point, I pass beneath a long row of tall bigleaf maples that border the former parade ground, which is now an expanse of green that is mowed throughout the year.
Yesterday, a breeze came up as I walked beneath the canopy of boughs. I looked up into the swaying branches against the blue spring sky, listening all the while to the rush of the wind through the fluttering leaves. Larkin is correct: "Begin afresh, afresh, afresh" is exactly what the leaves say.
Christopher Sanders, "Sunlight through a Willow Tree at Kew" (1958)
We each have our own versions of Eternal Paradise. A fit subject for reverie, I think. I suspect that some of us would be content to spend eternity stretched out on the grass beneath a full-leaved tree, blue sky overhead, wind soughing through the boughs. Sun and shadow would move back-and-forth across our face as we lay looking upward at the restless green and blue and yellow patterns. For ever.
Kayenta, Arizona, May 1977
I fall asleep to the sound of rain,
But there is no rain in the desert.
The leaves of the trader's little cottonwoods
Turn, turn in the wind.
Janet Lewis, Poems Old and New: 1918-1978 (Swallow Press 1981).
In Eternity, there will be no seasons. Only the ever-moving colors of the sun and the leaves and the sky and the sound of the wind in the leaves -- a rustling, a sighing, at times a roaring.
The riverbed, dried-up, half-full of leaves.
Us, listening to a river in the trees.
Seamus Heaney, The Haw Lantern (Faber and Faber 1987).
Patrick Symons, "Oak Arch Grey (Wimbledon Common)" (1981)
Perhaps you think that I have gone too far with these daydreams of Eternity. Crossed the line into purple prose. But every time I walk beneath a tunnel of whispering trees I cannot help but wish that the tunnel will never end. I slow down as the exit approaches. I glance backward. My spirit droops as I emerge.
I suppose this is what Wallace Stevens is getting at in "This Solitude of Cataracts": "He wanted to feel the same way over and over.//He wanted the river to go on flowing the same way,/To keep on flowing." Alas, we are all up against Heraclitus's dictum: You cannot step into the same river twice.
But, in a World of popular culture ("entertainment" and politics) that consists entirely of chimeras and fantasies, is it madness to want to walk for ever down an avenue of trees? And what if, as you walk, the leaves above you, and all around you, say this: "Begin afresh, afresh, afresh"?
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.
Christina Rossetti, Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book (1872).
Robert Ball, "Mrs Barclay's Pond, Harborne" (1949)