Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Domestic Beauty

Home Thoughts From Abroad

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England--now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops--at the bent spray's edge--
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
--Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Robert Browning, 1845

Because I am an anglophile, I do long to be in England in the spring, to see each small beauty gently spring forth. England, like Wisconsin, is a land of domestic beauty. Not grand, sweeping landscapes, but gentle vistas. It has a home-like quality that draws me strongly.

I do not discount the dramatic beauty of mountain ranges or the immensity of the ocean, and I love to drink those glories in. But the things which resonate most in my soul are not the grand, the overwhelming, but the tiny shots of beauty: the lone wildflower blooming in the dead leaf-mould of the woodland floor, the musical song of the common house finch on the lilac bush, the liquid babble of a melt water stream. Things that can be missed if one is not paying attention, things that must be discovered, or noticed--those are the beauties that uplift me the most.

I understand the pull of the remote places, too. The thrilling thought that perhaps I am the only one to have ever stood just here, to have ever seen just this, is intoxicating indeed. But the opposite feeling, the knowledge that many others have stood where I am standing and seen what I am seeing is even better. A tree stands on a particularly favorite walk of mine: its trunk was bent by a long-dead Native American in two ninety-degree turns as a sign-post. I stop at that tree every time, and look in the direction it points, off into the maple woods, toward the small pond where the frogs sing in early spring. It so happens that the tree also points in the direction of my home, twenty or so miles beyond. I like to think perhaps it also pointed to the home of the original sign-maker.


Wade said...

What a beautiful image, that a part of nature would serve as a marker across time and generations, pointing the way home.

lizardrinking said...

See, the fronds do talk to you! But you knew that anyway. ;)

Anonymous said...

I like how when you discribe something I can visualise it clearly. I have no actual idea what that tree looks like, but I can picture it, and how England looks through your eyes.
I enjoy reading you.

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

I guess the wind has blown all of our chaffinches to England.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is full of beautiful thoughts anglophile.(Gwenn)

amy d said...

Almost like a secret path, isn’t it? Before the sign was posted, only the person who shaped the tree knew its significance. Pretty cool.