Monday, June 30, 2008

Feeling Small Is Good For The Soul

I received an email from a neighbor this morning thanking me for a photo I had taken of her ten year old daughter sitting in their magnolia tree. I had shot the photo during one of my evening walks with Edward. It wasn’t the first time the little girl had called to us from her leafy vantage point, and this time I couldn’t resist taking her picture. Her mother spoke of how grateful she was that her daughter valued the old trees all around their home and ended her letter by saying, “Feeling small is good for the soul”. Oh, what a wise statement that is. This little girl is fortunate, as are Edward and I, to share her life with beautiful, venerable trees all around her. As a child, I too shared that good fortune. We lived on the edge of a dense wood and that was where I could be found, always with my dog of course, every day, all day. There is something about wandering around under old trees that sparks the imagination, gently reminding one of one’s place in the grand scheme of things. Feeling small in the face of a wondrous creation does indeed enable a person to arrange their thoughts, their dreams, their lives, in an more enlightened way and that in turn bestows delight to all their days.
Poet Mary Oliver can express the wisdom and wonderment to be found in the nature all around us, infinitely better than I .

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver


  1. I am so inspired by your writing. You truly have been blessed with a great talent. You are most deserving of the award from sweet Willow at the Manor...

    I also grew up very near woods and hills where I would happily roam with my brother and sister. We would stay in the woods for hours cimbing trees and studying the amazing lichen covered rocks and tree trunks around the streams. I would always look at the velvety green moss and dream of what Ireland must be like and make up fantastic stories about fairies in the woods...Ah...the imagination of a child:-)..May we all retain that wonder.

  2. This summer our youngest is home from college and he has shared with me several fond childhood memories of growing up at The Manor. One of them was sitting up in the magnolia tree. We laughed because that magnolia is so small and he is 6'2" 220 lbs now! I always made sure our children had time to lie in the grass and look at the sky.

    I loved this post! :)

  3. There's nothing quite like a tree- they're so comforting, and I'd put them on the list with books and dogs.
    I've liked all of the poems of Mary Oliver that I've read. She always sounds to me as though she's right next to you, encouraging good things.
    This one was a good choice!

  4. Thank you Pamela - you brought back wonderful memories for me. I, too, spent much time in and amongst trees as a child.

    I feel so sad; I don't think any of my children has ever climbed a tree. Since we live in the city, they have had a totally different set of growing up experiences.

    Like Rebecca, I studied the moss and the lichen on the trees, and built houses between the roots for the resident fairies.

    Thanks for the lovely post this morning.

  5. This lovely poem posted on your blog today reminds me of Cider with Rosie, by Laurie Lee. If you haven't read it, it's a must. There is a wonderful passage about the author as a little boy getting lost in an English meadow amongst the ticklish grass and insects which seem fearsome to me! It's prose that reads like poetry. By the way drop in at Thatchwick and collect a special prize! Your second in a sort time, I believes. Love Eleanor

  6. There was a beautiful magnolia tree in the back yard of the house where I grew up. I loved it. It's blooming cycle was how I marked the changing of the seasons.

    I miss the trees where I grew up, and all the beauty and stability they brought to the environment.

  7. A beautiful poem, and popular, too...another blogger had it on her website just a couple of days ago...."Great minds think alike"...

    The woods are a place of enchantment for any age. Imagination soars....

    I too loved to climb threes as a child. Being so small, it gives you a tremendous feeling to be up high, seeing things you wouldn't normally be able too. And no matter how rough the treebark was, it never mattered, they always seemed like warm, solid, welcoming friends who loved me...

  8. Oops! Just reread my comment and silly mispelling...of course I meant to say "trees" and not "threes" !

  9. Beautiful post today Pamela. Trees do conjure up so many memories don't they? Thank you for your comments on my blog xx

  10. Am I in the company of a kindred spirit? I think so. I so agree about the power and magic that trees have in our life. It is the reason we bought Cranberry Cottage. I have to be in the city during the week for DHs work but on the weekends, we can escape. It is right on the edge of the woods and I find rest and strength there. To me, 'feeling small is good for the soul' has yet another meaning. I refuse to grow up. I feel my heart is still a child's heart and that makes life a wonder each and every day.

    Hugs ~

  11. Beautiful post. You write so beautifully and I love the images you choose to go with the writings. I'll be back for more!

  12. Indeed, a wise statement; little children have so much to teach us all, don't they!

    thanks for sharing such an inspirational post.


  13. Hi Pamela,
    Thank you for the comment on my blog.
    Your Edward is very handsome!
    Robin is a girl, although she is a bit of a tomboy.

    Nova Scotia

    BTW I tried twice to reply to your comment and got an error message saying "it was rejected by the recipient domain"

  14. I have had a wonderful peruse and as I sit here in my eerie I look down towards a great big shaggy yew which I am told is at least 400years old. From one of its swooping great branches hangs a rope with an old tyre attached. This has entertained a generation already and now my two are enjoying it as well...

  15. We have a venerable old tree in the garden that has provided shelter for may children our own Willow.


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