What took me aback was a sudden recognition that each of the leaves was unique and uniquely alive. It is easy to say: The leaves fluttered. But such a statement omits a great deal.
The stars on the pond;
Again the winter shower
Ruffles the water.
Sora (1648-1710) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 223.
Stars and leaves. Ever in motion. Uncountable. But each one sovereign and irreplaceable.
Patrick Symons, "Oak Arch Grey (Wimbledon Common)" (1981)
One thing always leads to another in the World in which we live. From leaves to stars to winter showers to the ruffling water of a pond to . . .
Swifts turn in the heights of the air;
higher still turn the invisible stars.
When day withdraws to the ends of the earth
their fires shine on a dark expanse of sand.
We live in a world of motion and distance.
The heart flies from tree to bird,
from bird to distant star,
from star to love; and love grows
in the quiet house, turning and working,
servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand.
Philippe Jaccottet (translated by Derek Mahon), in Derek Mahon, Words in the Air: A Selection of Poems by Philippe Jaccottet (The Gallery Press 1998).
The Chinese character for "heart" is xin. The same character is used in the Japanese language, and is known as kokoro. As I have noted here in the past, the character is a wonderful one: in both Chinese and Japanese it can mean "heart," but it can also mean "mind." It can also carry connotations of "spirit," "soul," or "core." (For an interesting discussion of the various manifestations of xin in the Chinese language and in the culture of China, please see Jing Li, Christer Ericsson, and Mikael Quennerstedt, "The Meaning of the Chinese Cultural Keyword Xin," Journal of Languages and Culture, Volume 4, Number 5 (2013).)
In Jaccottet's poem, it is "the heart" that "flies from tree to bird,/from bird to distant star,/from star to love." This is a lovely thought. But it becomes even lovelier when one thinks of xin and kokoro: it is an indivisible compound of heart, soul, spirit, and mind that flies from leaf to star to bird to . . .
Christopher Sanders, "Sunlight Through a Willow Tree at Kew" (1958)
The motion of the World is a motion of imminence, immanence, and emanation. It is a motion of the present moment. It has nothing to do with change or transformation. Our human mortality does not enter into it. In fact, human beings do not enter into it. We are ever prone to analyze, categorize, and explain the World in terms of ourselves. But the World can get along quite well without us, thank you.
The Curtains in the House of the Metaphysician
It comes about that the drifting of these curtains
Is full of long motions; as the ponderous
Deflations of distance; or as clouds
Inseparable from their afternoons;
Or the changing of light, the dropping
Of the silence, wide sleep and solitude
Of night, in which all motion
Is beyond us, as the firmament,
Up-rising and down-falling, bares
The last largeness, bold to see.
Wallace Stevens, Harmonium (Alfred A. Knopf 1923).
Of course, we humans are here. I do not deny that. But our first duty to the World is to leave well enough alone.
The World is aquiver. This is what I belatedly discovered on that summer afternoon when, in my usual slow-witted fashion, I at long last noticed the singularity of each leaf's movement in the wind.
The Place of the Solitaires
Let the place of the solitaires
Be a place of perpetual undulation.
Whether it be in mid-sea
On the dark, green water-wheel,
Or on the beaches,
There must be no cessation
Of motion, or of the noise of motion,
The renewal of noise
And manifold continuation;
And, most, of the motion of thought
And its restless iteration,
In the place of the solitaires,
Which is to be a place of perpetual undulation.
Wallace Stevens, Ibid.
Stephen McKenna, "Foliage" (1983)
I do not make New Year's resolutions. Instead, on New Year's Eve I have gotten in the habit of reading the following two haiku.
Never to grow old, --
But the temple bell sounds.
Jokun (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter, page 202. In Japan, the bells of Buddhist temples are rung 108 times at the turning of the year as a reminder of the 108 sins and desires that we should seek to rid ourselves of.
Journeying through the world,--
To and fro, to and fro,
Harrowing the small field.
Bashō (translated by R. H. Blyth), Ibid, page 290.
A small field, yes, but inexhaustible. More than enough beauty for one lifetime.
Robert Ball, "Mrs. Barclay's Pond, Harborne" (1949)