Saturday, October 27, 2007

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up,
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world,
I know that this is the way in ours.
~Robert Frost

I've been raking leaves. They've gone from green to gold to rust, and the cherry trees are spangled green and gold and rust even now, but the leaves rain with each shiver of wind.

Autumn is a good and tidy time. You rake up the summer's green, load it into bags and send it away to the farmer who turns it into compost for next year's crops.

It would be nice if life's cares were so easily gathered together, bundled up and turned into a rich bed for new experiences. All the ragged edges and unraveled sleeves, the old angers and resentments allowed to break down in dark decay and come up again in flowers. A garden of the spirit.

This week's correspondence and conversations have reminded me that people do not allow their bitterness and grudges to go down to decay and come up in flowers. The old hurts, the bent and crippled coping mechanisms, are carefully tended. Keep them warm and dry, like museum pieces. Go back to stroke them when the pain begins to dull. Lay on hands and let the bitterness burn like a green fire. There is no going down in decay possible in the carefully tended museum of the spirit. No coming up in flowers.

It's hard to work with the curator of a museum of pain. Curators guard their collections, lest some part of it be touched, soothed, shattered. Curators love their collections, even if they are no more than a heap of old wounds and broken promises.

You look and listen while they catalogue in detail, each one. You can love a curator without loving the collection. You are patient and wait, hoping that a bright treasure lies hidden among the rubble heap. But days, months, even years, into the tour, no brightness emerges. You suggest perhaps it's time to look up from cataloging the misery to see the sun shining through the windows. But curators are focused on pain. Not to cherish it with them amounts to betrayal and abandonment in their eyes.

It's much easier to be out in the garden, tending to a cycle of life that allows the death of all things, and the subsequent flowering. Out raking leaves, in the crisp cold air.


greg hitz said...

I wonder what frost meant. I wonder if he wrote with second meanings, or maybe only with the exact literal meaning, the rejoicing of leaves falling, covering the earth like a brown leather glove, giving life to new life. Rejoicing in exactly what is.

Deb said...

Frost seldom wrote superficially. Death, decay and regeneration are repeating themes in his poetry. I think he is America's foremost poet.

I've been a Frost fan since Jr High, and that was 60 years ago. My "Collection of Robert Frost Poems" is literally falling to pieces. And while working out my New England genealogy I was delighted to discover that he is actually a cousin on my mother's side. You think I wasn't gobsmacked?

I recommend reading some other of Frost's works which can be found here: