Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Book In A Tree

Is there a book in a tree? Or a thousand books? What literature lies in the land, in the heartwood, in the very expressions of life itself? Were the pagans incorrect to see a living book corresponding to each tree, to each parcel of land? An intelligence, a thick, folded, viscous, textured series of poems full of spirit and relevance? One that took time to cultivate, time to learn how to read, even as we spend years teaching children how to read? A skill that took contemplation, looking at one's own insides as if one were the tree, were the parcel of land? Skills of translation that never were accurate, but bespoke deep connections to one's locale, a patriotism to the earth?

Our civilization's deep errors, erring in abstracting spirit from matter and losing soul which finds its essence in the folded texture of both, thinking no knowledge in a tree except what properties a scientist may catalog, and then its corpse is free for harvesting, completely devoid of story and song. But there are stories and songs in the things, the trees and roots, the land and its soil, the grass on the ground. And the job of poets and prophets is to translate this soul-material into literature the human mind can appreciate.

Literature, of course, is the hardest thing to write. Let us not forget that writing is not invention, but transcribing. The lifting up into sensibility of even the most minor variety takes deep roots, and the ability to compress into both dense and meaningful twists and ribbons soul that is sensed in things. Oh, the things speak. The question is whether we will listen.

Literature is thick. It is not the thin strand or single skein of one mind's layer woven, however beautiful, but the speaking up and out of compressed strata of ages, a lifting up with one's hand of deep layers of significance that have had time to be digested. Because of that rich and thorough digestion, the material is dense, but full of earthy vitality and loam.


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