Answering to Catalogue and Category

April 25, 2014

National Poetry Month. 25

Big Leaf Maple

Big Leaf Maple

Learning Trees
by Howard Nemerov

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees.  That’s done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves –
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform –
And their venation — palmate, and parallel –
And tips — acute, truncate, auriculate.

Sufficiently provided, you may now
Go forth to the forests and shady streets
To see how the chaos of experience
Answers to catalogue and category.

Confusedly.  The leaves of a single tree
May differ among themselves more than they do
From other species, so you have to find,
All blandly says the book, “an average leaf.”

Example, the catalpa in the book
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three
Around the stem; the one in front of you
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost;

Maybe it’s not catalpa?  Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids,
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world

Not always at the joints, competing with
Experience while cooperating with
Experience, and keeping an obstinate
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

And think also how funny knowledge is:
You may succeed in learning many trees
And calling off their names as you go by,
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

Map for Green Lake Tree Walk

Map for Green Lake Tree Walk

Today is Arbor Day, and in celebration of trees, I took a tree walk around Green Lake.  The City of Seattle offers downloadable maps and tree identification keys to several Tree Walks around the city.  This was my first time using this resource.  Armed with my map and camera, I set out to identify the trees of Green Lake.

Red Horse Chestnut

Red Horse Chestnut

Yellow Buckeye

Yellow Buckeye

Yellow Buckeye

Yellow Buckeye

Austrian Black Pine

Austrian Black Pine

Empress tree

Empress tree

Incense Cedar

Incense Cedar

Black Walnut tree

Black Walnut tree

Japanese Red Pine

Japanese Red Pine

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar

Oak Hill

Oak Hill

Elm leaves

Elm leaves

Crabapple Row

Crabapple Row

Approaching Crabapple Row

Approaching Crabapple Row

 

Katsura tree

Katsura tree

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

European Larch

European Larch

Bald Cyprus (I think)

Bald Cyprus (I think)

Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

Atlas Cedar

Atlas Cedar

Atlas Cedar

Atlas Cedar

Tanyosho Pine

Tanyosho Pine

Austrian Black Pine

Austrian Black Pine

Oriental Spruce

Oriental Spruce

Big Leaf Maple

Big Leaf Maple

Zebra Cedar

Zebra Cedar

Kwanzan Cherry blossoms

Kwanzan Cherry blossoms

Empress Tree

Empress Tree

The Trees
by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old?  No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “Answering to Catalogue and Category”

  1. Mary Heath Says:

    A beautiful Arbor Day post. And pedetemtim, a great reassurance when it comes to learning. Thanks, Mary

    >

    • Rosemary Says:

      An intriguing vocabulary word in your comment, today, Mary. I had to look up pedetemtim — step by step it is!

  2. Lynne Says:

    What a lovely tribute to trees! I love the poems you chose to accompany your beautiful photos.

  3. quixotree Says:

    Reblogged this on quixotree and commented:
    WIth thanks to Rosemary. Blogger, stranger, kindred spirit.


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