Thursday, February 2, 2012
A Lowering Sky
I took a walk at the arboretum today, under a lowering sky. It’s been over a year since I’ve been there, and I’m not sure why I’ve neglected it, and myself. It’s a place that fills up my soul with the poetry of the trees and leaves and branches and blossoms.
The arboretum is a beautifully carved bowl, a vestige of an old farm. It’s a manufactured landscape in the best sense of the word. Master gardeners have shaped the vistas with an understanding of what the eye will appreciate through the seasons.
The arboretum has been designed by human hand, but nature still holds sway. There is accidental poetry to be found all around: in the crinkled leaf staked by a red stem, in the tendrils of a vine curled tightly around a branch, in the tired branches of an old willow, in the sensuous curve of the bulb of a skunk cabbage.
Emotions sometimes overwhelm me when I walk in the arboretum and notice little details. I was so excited to see the first skunk cabbages that have emerged in the soggy ground under the huge old tree among the moss and dried leaves. I felt giddy, like seeing an old friend in an old haunt. I felt happy that I remembered the first time I had seen them, happy to remember the friend I walked with when I saw them in the marsh, happy to remember the sense of accomplishment I felt after researching and writing a poem about the plants.
The skunk cabbage and I share a history; we have formed a connection. What a feeling of rightness it was to see those skunk cabbages coming up again in the same place, at about the same time as previous winters (maybe a little early?). They have cycled through the seasons and are emerging, just as I feel I have been doing lately. They are a reminder to pay attention, to notice not one but several skunk cabbages in various stages of emergence still partially hidden under the brown leaves.
After my walk, as I was driving home, my body felt heavy and light at the same time. My face felt a heavy numbness from the wind, a heaviness that felt peaceful, like I had worked just hard enough to deserve a rest. My limbs felt similarly heavy and peaceful, but there was a stirring of lightness around my chest and shoulders, a happy fluttering of my heart and a lifting of my shoulders, as if little wings or skittering leaves had attached themselves to my shoulders and were helping to lift them up, boost my spirits, lift them of a heavy burden.