I took this picture out the back door in the rain late this afternoon. The maples are turning, but the poplars aren't very yellow yet. You can see here how a clump of poplars, a short-lived tree, serves as "nurse trees" to protect young maples while they establish themselves. These poplars, in this case, Populus Tremuloides or quaking aspen, are already beginning to die off, and the maples improve in size every year. The tall dead aspen near the center is a favorite of woodpeckers who come for the suet. It hasn't been a great suet year, or bird year in general. I have seen many fewer birds than in any year since I began feeding. But until about a month ago, we saw a pileated woodpecker more than once a day! Hot dog!
Here is another of the offerings in conversation that Stanley Kunitz made in his garden. This lovely, gentle poet lived to be more than 100 years old. (Here is a link to other Kunitz quotations on his blog.) The book, The Wild Braid; a poet reflects on a century in the garden, by Stanley Kunitz with Genine Lentine, W.W. Norton, 2005, also had photographs taken while the poet held a series of leisurely conversations with the co-author in his garden in summertime. There is a lot of seasoned wisdom in this slender book. Here is just a taste from pages 97-98.
After a certain period, the poem seems to have no maker at all. Poems gather their own momentum and you feel they're moving on their own.You are part of the world in which they are born and come to maturity but they have an identity beyond that person to whom they are confiding because the poem doesn't really belong to anyone, it belongs to a great tradition. The great tradition includes what I think of as the essential spirit of the poem, which belongs to centuries, and not to any single moment in time.
You cannot know completely what your obligation is in writing the poem. The primary responsibility is to speak the true word and to distill the complexity of sensitivity that enters into any human experience. The poem becomes a vehicle of this so-called persona or soul, whatever you want to call it; it is a crystallization of your unconscious life. It carries a big load!
The poet doesn't so much disappear into the poem as become the poem. It is a concentration of faculties, of everything you are or hope to be, and at that moment you have a focus not only on your conscious life, but your unconscious world, and it is as much an expression of your whole being as is conceivable.
What one is looking for is what Hopkins calls the taste of self, the sense of extraordinary awareness of being, and more than just awareness, responsiveness also, openness. And that is damaged, wiped out by the diurnal---the cares, the responsibilities that each day demand one's attention.
The curious factor is that the day itself cannot be construed as an enemy; it is what gives the materials you have not only to contend with, but to work with, to build whatever you are capable of building. If you deny the day completely, you're lost.
We have no other world we can actually invade with all our being and at the same time be invaded by, so whatever we create is made of the materials of the life. And we should never think of the life as being the enemy of whatever we aspire to create.
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And there you have it! The taste of self. It is still raining outside; I solved the computer problem, which I probably caused myself! And that might be a cautionary tale for another time. Rain still pours down here and is running in sheets off the roof. An hour ago there was a tremendous thundering, but now it is just the steady sound of the rain. A nice sound, actually, to go to bed with. Sleep well.