Monday, October 27, 2008

Respite

Birches

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

--Robert Frost, 1915

Every now and again we hit a spot in life where we are overcome with responsibilities and problems, where we feel lost in a pathless wood. My response to those times is usually a longing to go back to childhood. Not that my childhood was idyllic--it wasn't. But it did have a certain freedom to it. I would go out for hours and play in the woods in the nearby park, sitting in a tree or wading in the creek. The problems I faced at home did not follow me there.

And now, when I feel things are out of sorts with my world, I do the same thing, escape to the woods. I don't climb the trees now, but I walk among them. I set my troubles down and leave them be while I walk. Sometimes I find they have sorted themselves out when I pick them up again. And even if they haven't, they are often lighter to carry because I have set them aside for a time.

7 comments:

lizardrinking said...

Me too. I feel more at home than nearly anywhere else with a canopy of branches and leaves overhead. That is a beautiful poem
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim
; Don't take this post away :)

markmier said...

"Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair"

"By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon"

*snicker*

Sorry, I couldn't help it. :) Great post, Glo. I too feel at ease when I'm out in the woods, and sometimes yearn for the simpler times of childhood.

anglophile said...

I suspect that was deliberate on Frost's part, Mark. I think you were supposed to think that, on one level. ;)

amy d said...

Any place out in nature is good for taking away thoughts of our daily troubles for awhile. (As you know,) I love nature and all it has to offer us. For me, the ocean is the surest way to re-center myself and make things fall into their proper perspective. I think I also uses photography as a sort of therapy. By being the observer, I am detached. But still, I am always telling a story that reveals much about me, even if it's something simple like what amuses me.

You can rest your troubles at my feet anytime you need to, sis.

anglophile said...

Thank you, ♥ amy ♥

lizardrinking said...

Respite, indeed! Are we going to wait for the new year for the next post? I know, I know, the muse will not be hurried, but for very selfish reasons, I hope she gets a move on soon ;)

Ti O said...

As a boy and still as a man the wise old vibrations of the tree comfort me.

I preferred my view from the canopy looking down.