Tolkien Variations

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
Hands that touch warm the heart
Such is the nature of love.

Tolkien Variations

forest-couple-1280

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White on Blue

Oz asks, Where does time go?

A vacation to Flathead Lake in Montana (the largest lake west of the Mississippi) inspires many thoughts. The season is ending, the tourists going home, the kids to school, and all too soon, I am back to work.

sailboat on Flathead Lake, Montana

White on blue
Standing on the shore of Flathead Lake,
I spy a solitary sailboat
Spreading her white sails to the breeze and the water
Oh, my heart aches to be there,
I long to be gone
A speck of white
Where the blue of the lake meets the blue of the sky
Long do I gaze while the boat disappears
When the cold wind kicks up, and
With a sharp tug on my pants
My sons says to me,
Why are we here?

Un grain de blanc en bleu

Au bord de la rive de Flathead Lake
Je regarde un bateau à voile
Diffuser ses voiles blanches à la brise et à l’eau
Oh, mon cœur a mal à être là,
J’aimerais être parti
Un point de blanc
Où le bleu du lac rencontre le bleu du ciel
Long je regarde pendant que le bateau disparaît
Lorsque le vent froid se lance, et
Il y a un pistolet sur mon pantalon
Pourquoi sommes-nous ici, me dit-il mon fils?

1 flathead lake boat_close

Family Reunions

For twenty-three years I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now, well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it! – Auntie Em, Wizard of Oz

auntie_em
Tell ’em Auntie Em

 

The Great and Wonderful Oz is leaving home and going to a family reunion in Asheville, North Carolina. The reunion is coming up quickly, and Oz is driving so he can think back on all the forgotten years and, more importantly, what he has to say. How strange it seems to reconnect with cousins one hasn’t seen for so many years.

The gathering will include old and new, cousins who hardly know one another except by name; and surely a spouse or two who scratches their chin and wonders, did I marry into this?

And if someone did a blood test, they’d find we are mostly English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, and French, with an odd lot thrown in for a surprise.

kids_poster

As George Burns said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in a city far, far away.”

Ein Baum spricht: Hermann Hesse

“[W]enn wir gelernt haben, die Bäume anzuhören, dann gewinnt gerade die Kürze und Schnelligkeit und Kinderhast unserer Gedanken eine Freudigkeit ohnegleichen.” Hermann Hesse

“[W]hen we have learned to listen to trees, the brevity, rapidity, and childishness of our thoughts gain unrivaled joy.”

Such a lovely thought by Hermann Hesse, I think, that a tree speaks, but of what?

beech-forest

A tree, as Hermann Hesse says, knows nothing of its ancestors and nothing of its progeny. It stands alone, a giant like Beethoven and Nietzsche, towering over the earth, its branches rustling in the wind, and its roots, intertwined, rooted in infinity.

There is a recent theory that that trees mysteriously communicate with each other, and, if that is right, then Hesse is wrong in thinking trees are solitary creatures whose selfish existence is solely lived for themselves. The theory goes that trees in the forest share with each other carbon and other elements. Diversity is therefore important for it allows one species to give to another species when it is in need. The forest is its brother’s keeper. The tree dependent on the health of the forest for its survival.

That too is a lovely thought.

Ein Baum spricht, a tree speaks, Hesse says.

There is an ancient Elm tree that stands alone in the city where I live. It is a remnant of the many grand trees that once lined the block. Its thick branches droop. When a great wind storm comes, old branches break off and fall to the ground. Each spring thousands of tiny flowers appear, then seeds which cover the sidewalks and street, and having nowhere to take root, are washed away.

Is it sad to be the last tree?

There is an oak tree in my back yard that is at least 100 years old. It is home to a family of squirrels that feed from the seed and peanuts I provide. The squirrels run and play on its grey bark. From time to time they just cling to the bark watching me watch them. The oak tree was here before my house was built. It has seen three families come. It will be here when I am gone.

Who has not gone into the woods to find an ancient tree whose bark is gnarled and face like, whose branches reach out to the sky in supplication to God above. A tree that has stood the test of time, the bitter cold and heat, the drought and rain, and through it all has not complained.

Was sagen die Bäume? 

This begs the question, of what does a tree think?

It stands and watches, much like God, of the comings and goings of life. It is home to the birds and squirrels that nest in its branches. It gives food to the deer that feed below. Its broken branches provide firewood for the traveler who wanders by and needs warmth. It is a repository of time.

Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Persevere, for who knows what tomorrow brings?

“[Und] wenn wir gelernt haben, die Bäume anzuhören, dann gewinnt gerade die Kürze und Schnelligkeit und Kinderhast unserer Gedanken eine Freudigkeit ohnegleichen.”

BÄUME von Hermann Hesse

About Trees, Hermann Hesse

cherry blossoms haikus

1-cherry-blossom-oil
cherry blossoms

Here I am cold
Beneath cherry blossoms
Falling like snow

Shaded by cherry blossoms
One is still warmed
By beauty

A thousand petals, each a paler shade of pink
A thousand blossoms, and none alike
What then is beauty?

Try and emulate Kobayashi Issa –
Birds, insects, humans, alike
All share God’s gift, the cherry tree

 

1-cherry-blossom-branch
cherry blossoms in spring

How does the green grass know to grow?

 

blade-grass-24

 

A blade of grass in spring
Waves merrily in the breeze
As if to say, eat me

A bright blade of green grass
eagerly grow
Until it is mowed

dirt-road-poster

I see the green grass in spring
I hear the songbird sing
But best is the warmth of the sun after a long winter

The south wind blows
The green grass grows
The good earth knows it’s spring

 

Something pure and fresh

flower-blue
Enzian, Gentian flower

As the wanderer descends from the mountains and brings not a handful of earth, and nothing is spoken, but a new word, pure like the yellow and blue trumpet-shaped Alpen flower.

Are we, perhaps here only to say: house, bridge, spring, gate, jug, fruit tree, window, – at most: column, tower…. But to say, to understand, oh to say so, as things themselves never meant to be said. Is this secretive list not our concealed earth, when lovers are forced, that thus in the word’s expression, each and every one is thrilled?

 

Translation, as my teacher says, is the conversion of the image to the word three times. First, from the writer’s imagination to the written word, second into a new language, and third, by the reader who sounds the words anew.

It is not an easy task. It is fraught with false steps.

Is our protagonist a traveler or wanderer? Do we know the Enzian as the bright blue flower? Does the place, Hange des Bergrands matter? Are the words pressed upon the lovers or do the lovers in their passion press for understanding? Nouns, verbs, and adjectives all take on a meaning that is not always entirely clear.

Still we must try, and, I suppose as Rainer Maria Rilke does here in his
The Ninth Elegy come up with something pure and fresh as a mountain flower.

 

Bringt doch der Wanderer auch vom Hange des Bergrands nicht eine Hand voll Erde ins Tal, die Allen unsägliche, sondern ein erworbenes Wort, reines, den gelben und blaun Enzian. Sind wir vielleicht hier, um zu sagen: Haus, Brücke, Brunnen, Tor, Krug, Obstbaum, Fenster, – höchstens: Säule, Turm…. aber zu sagen, verstehs, oh zu sagen so, wie selber die Dinge niemals innig meinten zu sein. Ist nicht die heimliche List dieser verschwiegenen Erde, wenn sie die Liebenden drängt, daß sich in ihrem Gefühl jedes und jedes entzückt?