Learning from Trees – Grace Butcher

If we could,
like the trees,
practice dying,
do it every year
just as something we do—
like going on vacation
or celebrating birthdays,
it would become
as easy a part of us
as our hair or clothing.

Someone would show us how
to lie down and fade away
as if in deepest meditation,
and we would learn
about the fine dark emptiness,
both knowing it and not knowing it,
and coming back would be irrelevant.

Whatever it is the trees know
when they stand undone,
surprisingly intricate,
we need to know also
so we can allow
that last thing
to happen to us
as if it were only
any ordinary thing,

leaves and lives
falling away,
the spirit, complex,
waiting in the fine darkness
to learn which way
it will go.

Learning from Trees

And now the trees are bare. Our beautiful, just-beginning-to-turn-golden gingko lost all its leaves one windy and frosty night last week. This is the natural order of seasons which we cannot alter though we may resist. And having just attended my second Death’s Door (Dying into Life) retreat, I am so attuned to the work of trees in autumn that this poem spoke to me.

Imagine to practice dying every year, like going on vacation / or celebrating birthdays, so that it would become easy and natural. The trees can show us how to learn / about the fine dark emptiness, / both knowing it and not knowing it. And how to hold the paradox.

What do the trees know when they stand undone, / surprisingly intricate? This is what we also need to learn so that our dying might be as if it were only / any ordinary thing.

In that fine dark emptiness, our complex, intricate spirit could wait to learn which way /
it will go. Each year we are given this opportunity to become familiar with this part of life, to be curious and celebrate it, even knowing we cannot know it completely.

Each year, I am learning from the trees, growing more comfortable with the fine dark emptiness, even, dare I say, celebrating it!

 

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