Saturday, June 27, 2009

Leafy Sanctuary

The orange-gold of a Baltimore oriole lured our eyes to the very top of this incredible tree. From a distance, the branches formed a solid green dome. Like a leafy Cousin It, the tree kept its secrets to itself. Of course the imagined sanctuary created inside was irresistible. I had to find out what it was like to enter the heart of the tree. Parting those thick tresses, I stepped into a hushed sanctum. The light was gorgeous, brighter than expected, dappled and soothing. Bird whispers resumed. When my friend couldn’t find me, she knew exactly where to look. She found her own door into the sheltering umbrella of spangled green. We just stood there, awed, looking up and listening.

Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge wrote a poem called “Leaf Huts and Snow Houses” that contains these parallel thoughts:

These poems don’t amount
to much, just
some words thrown together
at random.
and still
to me
there’s something good
in making them, it’s
as if I have in them for a little
while a house.
I think of playhouses
made of branches we built
when we were children:
to crawl into them, sit
listening to the rain,
in a wild place alone,
feel the drops of rain on your nose
and in your hair –

Olav H. Hauge, translated by Robert Bly

Hauge was born in 1908 in a small Norwegian settlement. In Bly’s words, he “lived all his life on what he could produce from three acres of ground.” “The richness in his small house lay in the handmade spoons and bowls, the wooden reading chair, and the bookcases to which the best poetry from many continents had found its way.” Eighty years later, Hauge died “in the old way,” with no signs of disease. I was enchanted by Bly’s description of the respectful service, followed by this heart-rippling scene:

A horse-drawn wagon carried his body back up the mountain after the service. Everyone noticed a small colt that ran happily alongside its mother and the coffin all the way back up.

The excerpt from “Leaf Huts and Snow Houses” was found on page 264 of The Winged Energy of Delight: Poems from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, Selected Translations by Robert Bly, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2004. The photographs were taken at White Flower Farm, Litchfield, Connecticut, on 6/7/09.


Unknown said...

Lovely to read of these "leaf houses." Thanks for an introduction to a new poet.

Christine said...

You're welcome! Try The Dream We Carry from Copper Canyon Press, 2008.

Pam said...

You might like this book I just finished by Norweigan novelist Per Peterson..."Out Stealing Horses." I love beech trees-good for climbing too.

Christine said...

Oh, I love that book -- such spare beauty throughout. Good to see you here! I left a message about Rilke on your blog, but it seemed to have disappeared. I shall try again.