As an aspiring nature writer, I seek balance whenever I write about beings who are not human.
I do not want to apply too many human aspects to respected flora or fauna with whom I do not share a language. I do not assume that my human way of sensing the world is the same as an other’s.
At the same time, I cannot take my self completely out of my human body, and to make matters more intricately layered, I am a poet, in love with connection and metaphor.
So…with these qualifiers in mind, I humbly write that in my current state, my birth state of Wisconsin, and the state of my recently relocated, back-home brain, I’ve met some new and familiar muses – Birch trees.
I traveled to Wisconsin (after 20+ years not here) with images, memories of trees. Recalling (and craving) bark textures, leaf shapes and scents of Oaks, Maples, Pines and Hickories, I held these healing teachers of my childhood close as Benjamin and I crossed the border.
Somehow, I forgot about Birches. I forgot how many of them are here in Wisconsin. I don’t know why this happened in my head, and I’ll most likely explore this question more through poetry, but I admit, I did forget.
Then, Benjamin and I walked into Owen Conservation Park, and as we rounded a trail corner, there they were – this stand of Birches. I felt stunned, in the best way. I stood still, inhaled and exhaled deeper. I felt calm. My eyes followed the bases of their trunks to the tips of their crowns, colors rising. I listened, and I cried, grateful.
I tried writing about these beauties to meet my usual newsletter deadline. I tried reading about Birches to inform myself, find some lovely science language to share. I found this:
“Birches are able to photosynthesis through their bark. Therefore, the peeling of bark may allow the removal of a lichen light-blocking layer to expose the live inner bark.”
And while I am feeling a metaphoric peeling of emotional layers, while I am seeking a light, a balance within myself, these elegant trees first told me to be quiet and wait.
This is a truth of the artistic process. You can push all you want, invite your muses with your usual tricks, but sometimes the words (or the paint, the clay, the melody…) arrive only when they damn well please.
So this Volume of M&M is tardy again, but it’s ok, growth takes time.
Here’s what the Birch trees (finally) said:
Try the opposite of turning.
Slip-soft fingertip under a book-page – do not fold-over.
Feel the sacrifice. This tree, her name(d), Paper Birch.
Thank her on your knees.
This tree, her colors – purple-brown bass guitar, night-gray low voice harmonies, periwinkle glockenspiel, light-blue floating high notes, chalk-white still-hush-of-branch-tips, silence –
are teaching you to sing.