Fall Birch

I feel a connection to nature while walking on a wooded path along a lake.  It feels like a visit with an old friend, walking the woods and lake I’ve gone by so often.  This walk on a sunny fall day puts me in a contemplative mood.

I pass a stand of birch trees with bark peeling off in layers.  They look like their shedding the autumn skin and will be bare in the winter.  The birch tree must be an odd sight to someone looking it over for the first time.  I enjoy peeling the bark, and using it in different ways.

peeling birch bark

peeling birch bark

Sunny days after a stormy early fall snow, and walking by a lake seeing the peeling birch trees by the water brings to mind a poem.  I’d like to share it with you.

    Birch Bark
    by Michael Ondaatje
    An hour after the storm on Birch Lake 
    the island bristles. Rock. Leaves still falling. 
    At this time, in the hour after lightning 
    we release the canoes. 
    Silence of water 
    purer than the silence of rock. 
    A paddle touches itself. We move 
    over blind mercury, feel the muscle 
    within the river, the blade 
    weave in dark water. 

    Now each casual word is precisely chosen 
    passed from bow to stern, as if 
    leaning back to pass a canteen. 
    There are echoes, repercussions of water. 
    We are in absolute landscape, 
    among names that fold in onto themselves. 

    To circle the island means witnessing 
    the blue grey dust of a heron 
    released out of the trees. 
    So the dialogue slides 
    nothing more than friendship
    an old song we break into 
    not needing all the words. 

    We are past naming the country. 
    The reflections are never there 
    without us, without the exhaustion 
    of water and trees after storm.

2 responses to “Fall Birch

  1. Thanks for sharing C & C though the poem reads a little bit scary – quite desolate.
    I shall come back to it another time as my mood could strike a different chord.
    Love the trees – I have five silver birch in my garden.

    • You’re write there is a moody, desolate tone… and for me evokes memories of past times. He wrote the poem about a memory of time(s) spent with a friend on a lake. The peeling birch tree represents the change of seasons or shedding of the past. Maybe it’s part of his symbolism in the poem that he tribute to a friend who’d he used to spend time with on the lake, and who’s passed away.

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