I am hopelessly indecisive, & truth be told I've been that way much of my life, from choosing what to eat or what to do with my day. And I get bored easily... so I need to change things up from time to time, including this little blog of mine. When I began writing it during my pregnancy "Carrying Baby Carriere" seemed a fitting title, but now our little babe is 8 months old and carrying him is becoming quite the workout. I dabbled with renaming this blog "Pollywogs and Puddle Jumping" but it just seemed a bit too cutesy for me, as much as I love both fat, little comma shaped pollywogs and jumping into the squishy mud of springtime puddles. So, I was reflecting a bit and chose to start afresh with a title that relates back to one of my favorite poems, Birches, by Robert Frost. In case you don't know it, here it is:
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
Why did I chose this poem for inspiration? There are many interpretations, but it's always made me think about how when we look at the world, we are faced with a choice, without even being aware of it. We can choose to see through the eyes of an adult with a boring, rationalized truth, leaving nothing to mystery or imagination. Or, wouldn't we rather take a different vantage point altogether, like that of a child, wide-eyed with wonder? The next time you're meandering in the woods, or driving past a stand of birch trees in your car, think about it. Would you rather gaze at them knowing they had been bowed from the weight of ice or the caress of the winter's hard winds... or turn your gaze inward and see a child gleefully swinging from the branches, laughter tumbling out & carried aloft by the wind? I know what I will choose.
During the hazy magical days of childhood (they weren't all magical) my twin sister and I perfected the art of seeing the things that adults often miss. We would embark on explorations of the forests, streams, nooks & crannies surrounding us and find the most incredible treasures right there in front of our faces. An old fallen log was actually a horse that we could ride on and bounce. We loved that old "Oak Mare" so much that we would sneak baggies of oatmeal from the house to bring to her. Sure, to the untrained eye she was just an old rotting log, full of woodpecker holes and insect highways, but to us, she was a prize and we visited her religiously. In a stream near our house, we found an oasis under a culvert where a small pool formed and with my deliberation, we called it "Sunny Ridge". Many happy hours were spent carefully overturning rocks in search of salamanders and other hidden wonders. Our feet would abandon their shoes and our toes would sink deep, deep, deep into the soft cushiony moss, the carpet of the forest. Trees were made for climbing, stones for skipping, puddles for jumping and we did it all.
Little twiners, plotting our next adventure
Us much later, hiking Mount Katahdin, still searching for adventure!
What I'm trying to say is that we only get this one life, one chance.
In mine, I want to see the magic, the beauty, the hidden stories in the everyday, those things that we tend to lose sight of a bit too quickly as we grow.
I choose to see the swingers in the birches, because I am one of them & I hope that for my little boy as he grows.