Monday, November 10, 2014

The Smell of the White Pine

By 1904, all of the great white-pine forests of Michigan had been logged-over in the previous 120 years, with the exception of Hartwick Pines (now a State Park and threatened with fracking from the edges underground) and the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, now also protected. The meadow above is one of my favorite parts of our place in Michigan, which has not been logged since then. The open space seems to have been created by two immense white pines growing there and shading out the other trees. Twenty years ago, when we first came, the edges of the two huge stumps were still quite visible there. They can still be seen when you get closer. One was in the center of this photo where the small bright tree catches the light, and the other is to the left, where two wild fruit trees (cherry and plum) have grown in a sisterly fashion.

Which leads us to tonight's white pine poem which I just found in the new issue of 
American Poets; the journal of the Academy of American Poets.

The Past

Small light in the sky appearing
suddenly between 
two pine boughs, their fine needles

now etched onto the radiant surface
and above this
high, feathery heaven--

Smell the air. That is the smell of the white pine,
most intense when the wind blows through it
and the sound it makes equally strange,
like the sound of wind in a movie--

Shadows moving. The ropes
making the sound they make. What you hear now
will be the sound of the nightingale, Chordata,
the male bird courting the female--

The ropes shift. The hammock
sways in the wind, tied
firmly between two pine trees.

Smell the air. That is the smell of the white pine.

It is my mother's voice you hear
or is it only the sound the trees make
when the wind passes through them

because what sound would it make
passing through nothing?

Louise Gluck
from Faithful and Virtuous Night, FSG
American Poets, Volume 47, Fall-Winter 2014, page 60.

This beautiful poem seems to me to be an almost perfect evocation of the lost-ness of the past. I wish I could write something that would thus evoke the years on our farm, or in our house in Scotia.

This picture was taken at the south end of the property, which is now 
the Hymas Woods Nature Preserve.
I think the largest trunk (center) is a white pine.

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