i go among trees

by Wendell Berry from Sabbaths




I go among trees and sit still.

All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.


I absolutely love this poem and, in fact, have written it in pencil on a canvas which I have hanging up at home.

How to describe my feelings for trees… I guess it’s similar to how I feel about cats and dogs. I love cats but dogs just do it for me. (I would actually love one of each – a chance to live out my inter-species friendship fantasy)….And so, as much as I adore all things plantificatious, trees leave me weak at the knees. Another dream is to own an arboretum, however, living in a first floor flat makes this rather tricky. Instead, I regularly visit the woods at Box Hill and have loved introducing my little nephew – I’ll call him, Bubs, one of my pet names – to my ‘tree friends’, whom he has systematically named at my request. In true five year old style, they have been christened Branchy, Longy, Archy and Big Muscles (I’ll leave you guessing the reason for each choice). But my favourite by far has to be the largest of them all, sporting a particularly thick trunk and a vast head of branches and leaves. When it came to naming him, Bubs took a while longer but, after deep pause for thought, finally uttered, ever so slowly, ‘Speedy’; this left me at pains to reassure him that my fit of giggles was not me laughing at him but, rather, represented delight at his superb choice. (I think it worked).

On our last visit, he was meant to name a pair of trees I find particularly touching, as they appear to be holding hands. Sadly, the usual hunt for ‘bug treasure’ took precedence and we ran out of time, so that naming ceremony has been rescheduled for next time. 

Whilst my visits with Bubs are precious and will continue for as long as I hear ‘When can we go to Box Hill again, Aunty Shyama?’, I also savour my solitary strolls. But whether with my little man or alone, I always cherish being able to hear more clearly the sound of my soul-song there and my heart being able to sing it – loudly and with tree-filled joy.