Saturday, April 14

Wandering: a Meditation on Life, Art, Trees, Creativity

Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness. -- from Wandering
Pasture Protectors

Wandering, Hermann Hesse's collection of succinct prose, poetry and sketches, was on my bookshelf as a young college student. I don't know where it is now -- it's the kind of book you want to keep around to read over and over again, yet at the same time, a book that begs to be passed around from friend to friend ... Hesse's writing is simple, profound, mystical (in a Earth-mystic sense) poetic, inspiring. This is one of my favorite books ever.

I originally put together this post for Tim's woodworking site, ShopTalk. Inspired by the Festival of Trees, I decided to illustrate my favorite passage from Hesse (on listening to trees) with some of my photos and share it with my readers on Raven's Nest.

Sit down anywhere you like, on a wall, a stone, a tree stump, on the grass or the earth: everywhere they surround you, a painting and a poem, everywhere the world resonates beautifully and happily around you. -- from Wandering
Juniper Snag
... For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.

Lone Cottonwood Braves Coming Storm

... Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest trees grow.

Window Frame

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

Early Budding Fool

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

Silky Skin

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end ... I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

Dusk

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! ... Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the Mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

Eleagnus Solitary against the Evening Vast

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the Mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is Mother.


So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own thoughts. Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives that ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them ...

Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

-- excerpt from Hermann Hesse: Wandering translated by James Wright, © 1974

6 Comments:

Anna B said...

I stumbled upon your site a few months back- while searching for a mary oliver quote... and i bookmarked it as i knew i would want to return. You are a wise and whimsical woman! I came back today, and have spent the last hour or more strolling through photographs, stories, art, woodworking, snowangels, and i have enjoyed it thoroughly! thank you for sharing your life/world/art with us. It's so wonderful to encounter such a generous spirit. generous with your heart, life, art, etc. I live in NH and just had a baby boy- MAx, my first child, 4 wks ago.. he's in a sling having lovely dreams, as i wander around in cyberspace. I am in babyland for sure, but after reading through your blog- i feel as if i've had a cup of tea and a visit with a new friend. thank you thank you thank you.
anna Birch
www.QueenOscar.com www.PenhallowPress.com

Rachael said...

On Maureen this is just the thing I needed to read. I am planning for a solo show in the fall of this year, and have chosen trees as the subject. I've been thinking of reading literature about trees as a source of inpiration and these passages are perfect.

I spend much of walking around time looking up at the trees in my city. Someday I will trip over something because of looking the wrong way... ;)

Princess Haiku said...

Sage. I am delighted that I found such a poetic and inspiring blog.

Pam said...

Maureen, thank you.This spoke to me in a way nothing has in a very long time. My connection to trees is strong, for all the reasons written here...so beautifully written. My ashes, when the time comes, will be scattered at the foot of some trees I have chosen on our mountain, and I will become part of their story.

maureen said...

I'm glad to see everyone's comments on this post as it is one of the best pieces of thinking/writing I have come across.

Anna: thank you for telling me you are enjoying the photos and thoughts. I am whimsical, though I may not be so wise. Still I'm glad to know you're reading. Good luck with your new baby. He must be two months old by now -- and I'm sure being a new mother is a mixture of tender bliss along with times you just need an hour more sleep, right? Sweet dreams to both you and your child

Rachael, this excerpt from Hesse has so many inspirations for art and life -- I'm sure you'll be able to use the seeds he planted when he wrote this passage, to grow your own ideas for your exhibit. I wish I could come to Vancouver for the opening. When in the fall will you open?

Princess Haiku, thanks again for all of your comments. For letting me know you're reading ... I hope things slow down for me in the near future so I can read more of your blog :o)

Pam, you must be online right about now. I just got an email that you left your comment. It's raining here - so muddy out -- and I have to go out in a bit to buy plants for one of my clients. I've been working outside in the rain for the last couple of days. Oh well - we need it. Anyway, we planted a tree yesterday - a huge one -- that creates instant presence in a tiny jewel-like garden. It felt so good to give this tree a beautiful home where it will be loved and cared for.

Pam, I can think of several parts of this passage that seem as if Hesse wrote them specifically for you, for Tammy, for me. Like this one:
"When a tree is cut down ... one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured."


and this: "When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! ... Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the Mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all"

But really, every single word in this excerpt is a jewel! Someday I want to put together a video with this excerpt combined with these and other tree photos.

C. said...

I love this site andreturn here often. Thank you for making it so beautiful.