Friday, October 24, 2008

Wild, Bristled Calligraphy

Who could resist the wild, bristled calligraphy of these poppy stems? Captive in their allotted space at the botanical garden, they claim their original inscription on the world. Intertwined, they embellish the air with unpredictable twists and loops, writing toward purple-black blossoms.

Discussing the domesticated in Walking, Henry David Thoreau writes:

I love even to see the domestic animals reassert their native rights, – any evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild habits and vigor, as when my neighbor’s cow breaks out of her pasture early in the spring and boldly swims the river, a cold, gray tide, … swollen by the melted snow .… The seeds of instinct are preserved under the thick hides of cattle and horses, like seeds in the bowels of the earth ….

In the same extended essay, Thoreau writes this vivid passage:

He would be a poet who could impress the winds and streams into his service, to speak for him, who nailed words to their primitive senses, as farmers drive down stakes in the spring, which the frost has heaved; who derived his words as often as he used them, -- transplanted them to his page with earth adhering to their roots; whose words were so true and fresh and natural that they would appear to expand like the buds at the approach of spring, though they lay half-smothered between two musty leaves in a library ….

That’s the goal of the poet, isn’t it? Let me type -- again -- his description of the real poet: “…who derived his words as often as he used them, – transplanted them to his page with the earth adhering to their roots …”

Unearth that living language, deep and true, already groping for the welcoming page with its fantastic, hungry roots.

The quotes are from a combined volume called Nature Walking (Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walking by Henry David Thoreau) from Beacon Press. Walking was originally published in Atlantic magazine in 1862. The first passage was from page 107, the second from page 104. The photograph was taken at The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY, on Mother's Day, 5/11/08.

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