Thursday, June 28, 2007

Poetry Thursday: About Leaves and Clouds

Lately I find myself obsessed by skies. Skies that are purest blue, or thunderous grey. Pale grey skies with just a hint of sunlight breaking through like mother of pearl. Sunsets that are flame, or coral, or salmon. Skies that are tinged green where blue meets gold. Clouds like flaked fish, or in wave-like formations. Skies that are never the same from one day to the next.

I think it's the flatness of where I live that makes the sky look so vast. Not for nothing was an anthology of Canterbury poems named Big Sky

I try to photograph the sky, but the format isn't right. Sky photographs should be long and thin, and spread right across the room, instead of being confined to a 6 inch by 4 inch frame. And then, there always seem to be buildings and electricity wires in the way.

I look, and try to remember exactly what the sky looked like, but I never do, except in very general terms. We just don't have the memory for clouds in the same way as we do for faces. There are six billion faces on earth, and the human brain is equipped to distinguish each from the others. (Although I have trouble, myself, with twins). It's just as well that we can't do this except for faces. Our brains would be so huge that our necks couldn't hold our heads up. I'm visualising cartoon figures with tiny bodies and enormous heads. Not a pretty sight.

Thinking about clouds reminded me of how a couple of years back, I was pondering similar thoughts about the shapes of leaves, and wrote this poem:

The Shapes of Leaves

Oak I know, and maple,
three or four varieties.
Chestnut, poplar, willow,
the speckled ngaio, waxy taupata,
and kowhai delicate as raindrops.
A dozen or two altogether,
maybe more.

Think of faces – of the six billion
on earth, they say, most of us
can distinguish each one
and name hundreds

Consider how each tree
bears a cast of thousands - each leaf
as individual as a face,
the tip curved more or less,
a nick, a tear, the pattern of veins
as individual as a thumbprint.
Imagine knowing each one –
think of spring, not as the return
of the familiar, but a welcome
to characters entirely new
Imagine the grief each autumn -
the farewell to countless old friends,
the showers of golden tears


More Poetry Thursday contributions here


Crafty Green Poet said...

That's beautiful Catherine. I love trees too and am fascinated by the small differences between leaves, especially as they change colour in the autumn and then fall.

paris parfait said...

It's a wonderful poem - I like the idea of each tree having an individual face and humans' ability to recognise so many (faces and trees).

Sr. Heather said...

Ah, that's some beautiful observation. Thank you for this one - I need to ponder it some more.

tinamtl said...

I will never again look at a tree, in the same way.

What an interesting comparison.My mother in law feels sad every autumn where I felt alive and fresh for some reason. She said it was because everything died. Whereas I saw the beauty in the colours and the crispness in the air.

Perspectives are so interesting.

Anonymous said...

Trees always interested me. The changing faces of leaves with the season. Your poem brought out all that very vividly.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Catherine, this is a fantastic poem. You are such a fine writer!

Pauline said...

to capture the joys and sorrows of new and departing leaves - this is poetry!

Tammy Brierly said...

Catherine, this was brilliant and unique. What a beautiful imagination you have to discover such truth.

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful poem. i do like the idea of leaves as 'characters'.

Anonymous said...

Wow--I love this. It really does give me a new perspective on the changes in autumn, and I love this feeling that even in grieving the loss of something, there is a sense of wonder at how amazing nature and life can be.

Rob Kistner said...

That's a really beautiful bit of writing Catherine -- the poem as well as the intro. Very engaging!

My Artheo says hello to your Florian... ;)

Deb said...

I loved this. I too am obsessed with trees and yoru expression in essay and poem are beautiful.

Clare said...

I love your description of skies and clouds. And your leaf poem is wonderful -- the last 6 lines especially spoke to my heart, deep in my soul. Thank you.

chicklegirl said...

How utterly lovely and profound; I got goosebumps while reading it. I love to read your poems, and this was no exception.

Pip said...

When I first moved to Wellington from Auckland I felt hemmed in by this city's narrow gullies and steep hills. I felt as though the people who lived here suffered from a narrowness of thought, as if squeezed by the geography. Thankfully I soon learned that my initial impressions were far from the truth! Now the flatness of Auckland seems distinctly dull. I remember the Canterbury plains having a distinctly different atmosphere though. Where in Wellington I am fascinated by the way the sky bursts over the top of our hills, I too am fascinated by Canterbury's expansiveness. I loved your poem too. I'm impressed as always by your observational skills.

MaR said...

This was a wonderful treat... Michele sent me your way :)
Have a lovely weekend!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

"...a cast of thousands ...
as individual as a thumbprint ... Imagine the grief each autumn -
the farewell to countless old friends,
the showers of golden tears"

This is beautiful! I plan to read it over a few more times today so I can savor it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

~~~ Bonnie and Roary ^..^

Sara said...

Enjoyed reading your post and poem. It was interesting to think of the differences in human faces and the difference in the leaves.

BTW, Hello, Michele sent me...

Sasha said...

Hi Catherine,

lovely piece. i'm about to head outside and sit in the woods, and I'll be looking at the leaves differently.

this felt so peaceful.