Monday, October 22, 2007

With Apologies to Frost

Nature’s last green is brown,
Her tints are going down
To blend in with the earth
From which we rise in birth.

Prospect Park is finally changing color now, though the temperature is still too warm. Most of the trees just go to brown, while a few are beginning to show off their yellows, golds, and reds.

Not the white pines on Lookout Hill, above the Nethermead, the white pines that I love. Their needles are even greener than a month ago. They have groomed themselves for winter. It is not so that they do not loose their leaves like other trees. They do.

In September we went to our cabin in Ontario, and my wife Melody said, "Look, the white pines are turning brown." And they were. Their branches were all dead brown needles. She worried for our trees, but she needn’t have. Those brown quintuplet clusters hid the tiny new growth needles behind them.

When I went back in October, the ground was thick with needles, and the white pines were bright and fresh and green. For white pines, Easter should happen in October. Oaks and maples celebrate Passover as the New Year, but conifers keep true to Rosh Hashanah.

White pines like the winter sun. And so in wintertime, when I walk from my apartment to the church, I take the long way, up and over Lookout Hill, so that I can say hello to the white pines, especially when there is snow on the ground.

I haven’t started that yet. And Sunday I was running late, so I took the Center Drive. And as I walked past the Friends Cemetery I saw what I had seen before, that most of the gravestones were in shadow from the trees, but some of the stones were brightly lit in the low rays of the autumn sun.

What’s better for gravestones — sunlight or shadow? I mean, what hastens their decay, the algae that grow in shade, or the heating and cooling of solar energy? Those stones that are brightly lit, do they mark the graves of specially righteous Quakers, whose spirits leave an energy behind to greet the sun, or of specially sinful Quakers, unhappy ones, whose souls are not at rest, and cannot abide the sweet decay of shadow and shade? Is there anyone who can come back from the dead to tell me?

Time is linear for Quakers, and for the rest of us Christians. What has been has been, there is no return, and we are praying for the future, which is a fulfillment of the past, but also therefore essentially different from the past. That's a fundamental belief of Jews and Christians and Muslims.

But trees are Taoists or Buddhists, I think. Trees believe that time is circular, and that everything will come around again. I have no desire to convert the trees to Christianity. Certainly not the white pines. They have no need of redemption.

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