Living in this World

Saturday, March 17, 2012

#109 Trees in winter

Dear all,
We are enjoying a long visit from our youngest son and his wife and new baby, finding relaxed time for extended family, and wondering at the mild winter and very early spring. Soon my attention will turn from the beautiful bare branches of the trees to spring flowers--so here is a little collection of poems from over the years about trees in winter.
(If you would like to read our annual family letter, which we send out as a Valentine's Day greeting, just let me know.)


The sycamore is bathed in sunlight
Stone church behind in deepest shadow—
Light on dark.

Then a line
Where the branches reach out
Past the church to open sky—
Dark on light.

The tree is whole, unchanged
The background that we choose
Makes all the difference.


Winter’s end
a tree stands lone and bare
arms outstretched
aglow in slanting sunlight
ready to receive
new life.

Trees of Winter

I am humbled
by the trees of winter.
I do not know them
yet they are knowable.
In this flat land
each stands out.
I try to paint them in my minds eye
as we drive by,
learn them by heart.

The bold trunks
with zigzagging branches
yielding to bunchy lace,
the slender fingers
that rise and spread
like a fan,
branches that jut out
those that droop,
some open and reaching,
others smoothly closed
like an egg.

(How do they know
where to reach,
when to stop?)

One could call them all trees and be done—
well maybe in summer
when all is green.
But in winter
laid bare for all to see
they stand separate, distinct
crying out to be named.

I would know each one.

A new economy is possible!

The recent unanimously-affirmed Pittsburgh city ordinance to ban shale gas drilling within city limits counters the legal rights of corporations by creating legal protections for communities and the natural environment, affirming a
“fundamental and inalienable right” to water--not just for residents, but also for ecosystems. It legally recognizes that "all power is inherent in the people, that all free governments are founded on the people’s authority and
consent, and that corporate entities and their directors and managers shall not enjoy special privileges or powers under the law which make community majorities subordinate to them.”

Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

Seattle's ex-police chief, who is now fighting to end the war on drugs.

How the experience of Occupy Philadelphia has built lasting and mutually beneficial relationships among members of the homeless and religious communities.

The work of the Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan, using unarmed civilian peacekeeping to reduce violence and increase the safety and security of civilians affected by violent conflict.

The unanimous vote by City Council of Berkeley to not renew its contract with Wells Fargo Bank, and look for a more socially-minded institution to hold its $300 million account.

Check out:, a home for all the parenting
writing I've done over the past 20 years.

Also: START: a way to study and work together with
others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to