Wednesday, August 20, 2008

“Willow, Weep For Me”


Sorry to be away for a couple of days—bad form right at the beginning of things no doubt….

It’s been a long & difficult summer—a season of memory & confusion & bad judgment—this morning (very early morning, too) the willow’s rustling outside the window off my studio—the willow Eberle showed me where to plant, the willow that’s thrived through drought & 100 degree summers—the willow, the tree of sorrow: “willow, weep for me…”; “& there’s a weeping old willow, he really know how to cry…”

There was a willow in the front yard of the house where I grew up, back in Westminster, VT. A great tree for climbing, & a lovely, graceful tree, too—the foliage draped full, but at the same time light— to me, the willow was a definite entity overseeing that property, & I felt a sort of existential shock several years ago when my mother told me the tree had died & been cut down.

But now there’s the willow outside my studio window, & right now the leaves are disquieted & speaking about the end of summer—metaphorically, of course—as Jimmie Dale Gilmore sings in the lovely “Keeper of the Mountain” (penned by Al Strehli & recorded on the Flatlanders' More a Legend than a Band album), “& I suppose if I hear the river moaning, it’s just the way I’m feeling; the river’s not complaining…” The poet W.D. Snodgrass said it in a slightly different way: “We need the landscape to repeat us.”

Well, yes, I’m glad to see this summer blowing away in the north wind, though I know fire season & the heat aren’t really done; & even if I didn’t want this summer to end, of course it would. The things we try to hold onto—the past—irrevocably slip away no matter how much we cling to them. If the past exists in some other dimension, it’s not accessible—there’s no way to reify memory.

The willow back on that Westminster front lawn dies… willows aren’t long-lived trees, & at a certain point they turn off—their systems don’t function; all the intricate processes involving the absorption of water & minerals, & photosynthesis, etc. run their course. Is there something intrinsically sad in this natural process? Not when it’s viewed outside the scope of metaphor… but we’re always “making sense” out of things—events in our life, the natural world—always looking for “significance.” Same thing with looking forward to the end of a “difficult” season….

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