Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Grace Butcher: "Learning from Trees"

If we could,
like the trees,
practice dying,
do it every year
just as something we do—
like going on vacation
or celebrating birthdays,
it would become
as easy a part of us
as our hair or clothing.

Someone would show us how
to lie down and fade away
as if in deepest meditation,
and we would learn
about the fine dark emptiness,
both knowing it and not knowing it,
and coming back would be irrelevant.

Whatever it is the trees know
when they stand undone,
surprisingly intricate,
we need to know also
so we can allow
that last thing
to happen to us
as if it were only
any ordinary thing,

leaves and lives
falling away,
the spirit, complex,
waiting in the fine darkness
to learn which way
it will go.

"Learning from Trees" by Grace Butcher. Text as published in Child, House, World (Hiram Poetry Review Supplement No. 12, Hiram College, 1991). © Grace Butcher. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Pierre Pellegrini.

Poet photograph credit: Hale Chatfield (digitally altered by curator).


  1. An irresistible invitation to make a new doorway and step through it.....

  2. Evocative of links to nature.

  3. So beautiful. As a child, I knew Grace Butcher. She was a dear friend of my father, Hale Chatfield. I love the idea of learning from nature and accepting our mortality as just another season.

  4. Quite an interesting idea. I would like to re-read the poem many times, but white type on a pale beige background is nearly impossible for me--visually handicapped--to see. I will try to find it somewhere else online. Keith

    1. Keith: Your browser must not be displaying the page correctly. There is a dark brown overlay atop the beige, against which the white type should be very legible. I'm sorry for this. If you email me at phyllis @, I'll send you the poem's text. Deep peace to you.


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