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The wild tree April 27, 2013

Posted by Jenny in hiking, memoir, nature, poetry.
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"In theWoods," Paul Cezanne, 1899. He was a favorite painter of my mother.

“In the Woods,” Paul Cezanne, 1899. He was a favorite painter of my mother.

My mother loved to take walks in the woods. But she was not a bushwhacker. I always wonder what she would have thought about the remote places I’ve explored in the mountains. I wish she could have visited the hidden valleys and seen the secret waterfalls tucked away in the fastnesses of the forest, perpetually flowing into their deep and solitary pools, their churning white foam ceaselessly absorbed into the powerful clarity of the stream.

I wish she could have seen the scribblings of light on the pools, where the water steals colors from the bordering forest and stirs them in swirling patterns that never stop changing.

She would have appreciated those places better than anyone exactly because she believed in the otherness of nature. On her walks in the woods she knew that she herself created the magic that filtered down gently through the branches and onto the mossy pathways.

“Deep in the woods” was a favorite expression. She wasn’t “far into the woods” or “a long ways into the woods” but deep in them the same way she might have been deep in thought. She’d find her way into the maze of shadow and light, and once she’d arrived in those deepest glades, it wasn’t all that easy to get back out. And that was as it should be.

Her poem titled “The Wild Tree” speaks of a tree in the woods with no history, no symbolism, no human purpose. Its wildness comes from its perfect separation from human concerns.

The Wild Tree

“We have never seen an unobserved tree.” —Hans Reichenbach

Deep in a woods without edge or path stands a tree like all other trees.

It rests on the earth with only the weight of its shadow.

Its roots push into the ground just as the ground makes room for them.

It takes up space that is exactly the size and shape of itself.

It takes up time, one moment after another, and

It is the same color night and day. It rustles soundlessly.

And the shape of its leaves has never been drawn.

Birds alight in its branches and sing because they are birds, resting their wings.

It has no jinns or genies, no dryads or hamadryads.

It has no myth and no botany,

And in spite of its great age it has no history.

Its life is neither willed nor destined; nor is it accidental.

It is itself only.

—Barbara J. Bennett

Barbara Bennett, 1922 - 2007

Barbara Bennett, 1922 – 2007