Autumn’s Awe

 

I noticed that the trees,

       whose golden autumn garments

       no longer drape their limbs,
       but droop in tired swathing,
       or immodestly drop,

are glad to bare their form,
       stand proud, though disrobed;

and raise their branches empty in surrender to the season’s skies.

 

Do trees anticipate the spring? Do they harbour hope?

Plan next year’s wardrobe?

 

Or do they, with their ‘yes’ to each cold dawning,

embody simple presence,

and offer purest worship?

 

 

AB 2013

photo by Caroline Hyde

Kimpton in the morning mist and sun

November 5th 2020

I can still see the tree that inspired this poem 7 years ago. It was after a frost, and the yellow leaves were really 'swathed' across the tree, like the sweep of a scarf across the shoulders of a woman in an evening gown. This autumn, in 2020, I have spent a lot of time looking at the 'proud' stature of trees as they release their leaves to the ground in the autumn weather. Sure, I know that many trees already now show evidence of next year's new growth - the sticky tips of the chestnuts, or the catkins already dancing, albeit rather stiffly, at the ends of the hazel twigs - but there is something very still in the presence of a tree, in its strong trunk, in the way its branches grow out of that life-giving pillar, in the sensing-but-not-seeing of the roots, that suggests the 'yes' that I describe. I was for many years a music/worship leader at church, and have loved expressing my deep longing for God in music and song. Then at some stage the silent bits between the songs, the waiting and the listening, became more nourishing than all the active and noisy bits of corporate praise, and I have started to learn that stopping and letting be (whatever the circumstances of my life), as exemplified by the autumnal trees, can take me to deeper places, more contented places, and, if I am honest, to more real places. 'Presence' may in fact not be 'simple', either to define or to experience, but the word, like 'worship', points me in a direction that I suspect it is worth investing my life to follow.