I Descend into the Beauty – a video poem

I wrote the following poem from the perspective of a dying maple leaf. Several years ago I was driving along Interstate 81 heading toward Roanoke, Virginia. It was autumn and the leaves were absolutely gorgeous. I pulled my car over to the side of the road to enjoy a breathtaking view that overlooked a valley filled with white farmhouses and green pastures. The surrounding trees were brilliantly splotched with every color that autumn could possibly render. As I stood there drinking in the scene, I noticed a maple tree on the side of the ridge beside me. Its head was stretching in the wind. The tree grew out sideways over the valley and as a result it had lost almost all of its leaves. I took special note of one bright yellow leaf that hung on tight, shivering all alone in the wind. That leaf held fast when almost every other leaf had given way, falling hundreds of feet into the valley below.  I wrote this poem with that leaf in mind. I cling to life.  Just like that little leaf. I hang on with the vain hope that I will live forever, scared to death of the “undiscover’d country, from whose bourn no traveler returns.”  Yet, a day will come, sooner than I realize, when the Autumn Daystar (the beloved Savior – Jesus Christ) will call me to let go of that which was never mine.  As that day moves closer, I am learning how to die – how to bear the Cross, how to die to myself, how to die to sin, idolatry, selfishness, and anger. I am learning to surrender to the call of Christ’s sacrificial love.  I am learning to surrender to the music that will one day sound my departure from this life.  Until then, may Christ prepare me for that day, so that I may release my grip with joy and worship, singing “Autumn Daystar, bid me come.”

3 thoughts on “I Descend into the Beauty – a video poem

  1. Before Thomas Merton committed himself to the solitude life as a Trappist monk, he was, for a period, an adjunct English professor at Columbia University in New York City. In his autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain,” commenting on teaching an English composition class, Merton stated, “Now, if people are going to write, they must first of all have something to write about.” (See, The Seven Storey Mountain. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, Publishers, 1948, p.304).

    I hope Tim keeps writing, because I’ll keep reading. Tim’s words (and others) should pique our spirits to seek the Living Word – Jesus.

    Tim found something to write about – have you?

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  2. Awesome! Please do more these! The line that struck me the most: And so the ice breeze whispers through my tender brittle frame as I tremble with the yellow that creeps into my veins, compelling me to slip.”

    So much here! For the brittle frame, I think of Pascal calling us a reed. The whispering icy breeze reminds me of Shelley’s ‘To Wordsworth’, when he said: “Thou wert as a lone star whose light did shine
    On some frail bark in winter’s midnight roar:
    Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood
    Above the blind and battling multitude”

    As far the poem as a whole, it’s almost a Christian rebuttal to Tolstoy’s recording of an Eastern parable in his Confessions when death just scared the crap out of him, how death (or worrying about it) loses its sting in Christ, even though it’s still scary to think about. If you haven’t read it, I’ll post it here:

    “There is an Eastern fable, told long ago, of a traveller overtaken on a plain by an enraged beast. Escaping from the beast he gets into a dry well, but sees at the bottom of the well a dragon that has opened its jaws to swallow him. And the unfortunate man, not daring to climb out lest he should be destroyed by the enraged beast, and not daring to leap to the bottom of the well lest he should be eaten by the dragon, seizes s twig growing in a crack in the well and clings to it. His hands are growing weaker and he feels he will soon have to resign himself to the destruction that awaits him above or below, but still he clings on. Then he sees that two mice, a black one and a white one, go regularly round and round the stem of the twig to which he is clinging and gnaw at it. And soon the twig itself will snap and he will fall into the dragon’s jaws. The traveller sees this and knows that he will inevitably perish; but while still hanging he looks around, sees some drops of honey on the leaves of the twig, reaches them with his tongue and licks them. So I too clung to the twig of life, knowing that the dragon of death was inevitably awaiting me, ready to tear me to pieces; and I could not understand why I had fallen into such torment. I tried to lick the honey which formerly consoled me, but the honey no longer gave me pleasure, and the white and black mice of day and night gnawed at the branch by which I hung. I saw the dragon clearly and the honey no longer tasted sweet. I only saw the unescapable dragon and the mice, and I could not tear my gaze from them. and this is not a fable but the real unanswerable truth intelligible to all.”

    Of course, we know Tolstoy eventually saw that Christ was the answer to all of this. Through life though, the Eastern Parable and ‘I Descend into Beauty’ fight in me daily. Kind of like the beginning of The New Man (Merton) that we read together, how he talks about the battle for life and death happens in all of us daily. Read that chapter again and tell me what you think: The War Within Us. Your poem really reminded me of it. Big time!

    Thanks!

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