A walk through the woods

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

It always seemed very much, to me as a child, that I was living in a poem — that my life was the poem. When you're in a very quiet place, when you're remembering, when you're savoring an image, when you're allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another — that's a poem. That's what a poem does.

Naomi Shihab Nye

On a beautiful, first-vestige-of-spring day last week, I headed out to Morton Arboretum, which is another world — or rather, a world in microcosm — and gave me the space inside my own microcosmic mind to wander and wonder and follow the trail through the woods there — as well as through my interior woods, thick with thoughts, that led to the following poem:

 

"Gone to seed," 

Euphemism for decay, 

Home stretch to life's finish line, 

Echoed in my head as I took to the trail 'neath a cloudless sky, 

Warmed to the far side of 50 degrees, 

The northern hemisphere tilting to meet a stronger sun, 

Off-throwing the oppressions of winter.

 

No decay. Not yet. 

No "Gone Seeding" sign in the window. 

Going to seed, not gone.

Fecund first … and last. 

Scattering generativity,

A modern-day John Chapman, 

Super-seeder Johnny Appleseed, 

Evangelist of the prettiest of seeds. 

Spreading the good news

A mission of magnitude.

 

Before me, trees cast shadows, the sun's pen-and-ink portraiture 

On the textured sunlit shag carpet of last year's leaves,

My backlit shadow among them.

Tree seeds differ dizzyingly, 

As do ours.

 

The Nazarene, master of metaphors, spread good seed indiscriminately. 

Some sprouted. Much didn't. 

Falling in shadow, never seeing the light.

But seeds and metaphors endure 

And find alternate pathways to resurrection.

Some repurpose as food, or replenish the soil.

Seeding cedes control over results. 

Birds defecate undigested, pre-fertilized seed back to earth for a second chance. 

You never know what seeding will lead to.

"Don't forget to tell someone you love 'em," says WDCB's Bruce Oscar, signing off another show.

Do love's seeds generate, even those lost in shadow?

 

Seeds hide amid words,

Good readers sift the excess,

Separating wheat from chaff.

Seed-words find a way through.

"How did you put it?" a friend asks about grandparenting, 

"Spoil them with love?"

No, "lavish" with love.

A good word-seed, lavish. Spoil, not so much.

 

Writers lavish with words, the world lavishes with seeds.

Soft, dark, moist soil offers a welcoming bed, 

lavished by intensifying March sunlight,

Unfiltered by leafless limbs. 

Winter overthrown, 

A new world awakens.

 

A bench by the trail spells CHANGE in metal letters, 

A setting that changes with each passing.

Seeds are symbols and symbols, seeds. That's all ye know on earth and all ye need to know, 

That plus Keats' truth and beauty. 

Metaphors are truth, germinating beauty. 

Springing forth from the soft, dark, loam of our inner soil 

When you least expect them. 

It pays to pay attention.

 

A cluster of purple crocuses shudder in the breeze. 

A charred field of pungent, still smoldering devastation reveals a burned blank slate, 

A new beginning for untouched roots below

Eager to grow, 

Alongside seeds swept in by wind and wings. 

Ashes to ashes, dust to soil, ceding to seeding, dying to resurrecting, 

Easter to eastering.

To earth we shall return. 

To start anew.

 

Bird songs soften, rendering inner soil receptive, 

Whetted by wandering, 

Watered by wondering, 

Windswept with willingness,

Going to seed.

 

Not gone, going.

Spring is here.

Easter is here. 

Now is the time.

To get going.

 

Be ours a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere; its temple, all space; its shrine, the good heart; its creed, all truth; its ritual, works of love; its profession of faith, divine living.

Theodore Parker

Contact:
Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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