Reliable Friends

O, Tannenbaum, how lovely are your branches.

You need no introduction to nature.

You are nature.

To nature you return.

Nature holds you every day.

Yet who among us does not need

a reminder of these things?

That is the point of this Of the Earth blog, to remind myself to go outside, to be in nature, to remember what it’s all about.

On this Solstice, I am remembering.  I am watching for babies’ smiles.  I am listening for the voices of my friends and family.  Now I pause to listen, too, to the more quiet ones with the cold, damp bark and the skitter of feathers.  With them, I am “one of the common things,” as poet William Stafford (Allegiances, 1970) said, joining in rejoicing for the lengthening days.

“World, I am your slow guest,

one of the common things

that move in the sun and have

close, reliable friends

in the earth, in the air, in the rock.”

Even in winter, the Hudson River naturalist John Burroughs (John Burroughs America, 1951) made a point of conversing with the plants where he lived.  “Nearly every season I make the acquaintance of one or more new flowers.  It takes years to exhaust the botanical treasures of any one considerable neighborhood,” he wrote.

Like John Muir and Aldo Leopold, Burroughs had a special fondness for conifers and he wrote, “How friendly the pine tree is to man—so docile and available as timber and so warm and protective as shelter!  Its balsam is salve to his wounds, its fragrance is long life to his nostrils; an abiding, perennial tree, tempering the climate, cool as murmuring waters in summer and like a wrapping of fur in winter.”  In thinning the white pines near our cabin, I brought three inside and now I see my friends all around.  As my favorite carol says, how lovely are their branches.

old friend
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