walk among the autumn trees

Translucent Leaf (2014)

Dead leaves, and the nourishment they store, remind us that there’s beauty and life to be found in disorder and decay.

• Laura Poppick, What Happens to All the Dead Leaves

a friend from my past who i saw at a reunion
someone i used to laugh and play sports with
grimaced when i told him what i do
a chaplain in hospice, i said, when he asked me
and immediately he had no words
just this look of distaste so striking
as though i were some unclean israelite
who had brought death’s stench
into the holy place

i wish i’d had the imagination to tell him
that what i do is walk among the autumn trees
i stop, examine each luminescent leaf
and try to capture its essence
before its inevitable letting go
falling to the earth
feeding the ecosystem
bringing life to us all

23 thoughts on “walk among the autumn trees

  1. They bloom for me this week in Australia

    Come down to Kuey in lilac time
    It isn’t far from London

    For me Spring is so sad
    I feel so alone
    My life revolves and comes back to the blank starting place
    Endless circles going nowhere


  2. I’ve been like that for too many springs, too busy to notice the lilacs, and they only blossom for a few weeks.

    For the past couple of years I’ve rebelled against myself and now I try very hard not to walk past a lilac without stopping to smell it. Nobody should be too busy for that.


  3. Sorry you had that experience with an old friend and sorry he lacked curiosity and imagination to see what joy your work can bring to you and families you work with.


  4. I Sit Beside the Fire and Think

    I sit beside the fire and think
    of all that I have seen
    of meadow-flowers and butterflies
    in summers that have been;

    Of yellow leaves and gossamer
    in autumns that there were,
    with morning mist and silver sun
    and wind upon my hair.

    I sit beside the fire and think
    of how the world will be
    when winter comes without a spring
    that I shall ever see.

    For still there are so many things
    that I have never seen:
    in every wood in every spring
    there is a different green.

    I sit beside the fire and think
    of people long ago
    and people who will see a world
    that I shall never know.

    But all the while I sit and think
    of times there were before,
    I listen for returning feet
    and voices at the door.

    – J. R. R. Tolkien


  5. So often when fall comes I’m so busy with other things that I miss the changing of the leaves – I don’t really notice it until one day I look up and discover that nearly all the leaves have fallen and all the color is gone already. This year my intention is to go outside every day if I can, and mark every last little change of the season, storing up all that beauty against what’s promising to be a very long and dark winter for all of us.


  6. i wish i’d had the imagination to tell him…

    You did. This poem is your telling. One day, when he is in the right place at the right time, he’ll be able to hear it.


    When I am among the trees,
    especially the willows and the honey locust,
    equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
    they give off such hints of gladness.
    I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

    I am so distant from the hope of myself,
    in which I have goodness, and discernment,
    and never hurry through the world
    but walk slowly, and bow often.

    Around me the trees stir in their leaves
    and call out, “Stay awhile.”
    The light flows from their branches.

    And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
    “and you too have come
    into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
    with light, and to shine.”
    (Mary Oliver)


  8. Spring and Fall: To a Young Child

    Márgarét, are you gríeving

    Over Goldengrove unleaving?

    Leáves, líke the things of man, you

    With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

    Ah! ás the heart grows older

    It will come to such sights colder

    By and by, nor spare a sigh

    Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

    And yet you wíll weep and know why.

    Now no matter, child, the name:

    Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

    Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

    What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

    It ís the blight man was born for,

    It is Margaret you mourn for.

    Gerard Manley Hopkins


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