What I always knew but did not know I knew

Thomas of Celano, one of St Francis’s early biographers wrote of him “he often overflowed with amazing, unspeakable joy as he looked at the sun, gazed at the moon or observed the stars in the sky”.

During the voyage of The Beagle Darwin wrote “I believe from what I have seen Humboldt’s glorious descriptions are & ever will be unparalleled: but even he with his dark blue skies & the rare union of poetry with science which he strongly displays when writing on tropical scenery, with all this falls far short of the truth.  The delight one experiences at such times bewilders the mind, – if the eye attempts to follow the flight of  gaudy butterfly, it is arrested by some strange tree or fruit; if watching an insect one forgets it in the stranger flower it is crawling over, – if turning to admire the splendour of the scenery, the individual character of the foreground fixes the attention.  The mind is a chaos of delight, out of which a world of future and more quiet pleasure will arise’ – I am at present fit only to read Humboldt; he like another sun illumines everything I behold – “

For most of my life trees have just been trees.  I had nothing against them. OK were trees.  But now trees fill me with an acute joy.  Dear friends, dwellers in slow time, kindly giants, faithful companions on our journey, their beauty so still and so unmoving, so gracious an unfolding of their silent souls, it tells us of eternity, sentinels, way markers, havens of rest overshadowing us with peace and blessing.

Great rooted blossomers, wrote Yeats.

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled, quelled, or quenched in leaves the leaping sun, all felled, felled, are all felled; of a fresh and following folded rank not spared, not one – that dandled a sandalled shadow that swam or sank on meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank, wrote Hopkins.

Connie walked dimly on.  From the old wood came an ancient melancholy, somehow soothing to her, better than the harsh insencience of the outer world.  She liked the inwardnessof the remnant of forest, the unspeaking reticence of the old trees.  They seemed a very power of silence, and yet a vital presence… from Lady Chatterley’ Lover.


Why did I not see things as they are, as the poets do? How was it that I looked and looked and did not see?  Yet it is not as if I have made a discovery – more as if I now know what I always knew but did not know I knew.


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