“I hear it among treetop leaves”


We were on the upper deck yesterday morning, arranging tomatoes in their final places before John set up strings suspended from hooks in the fascia and from a long pole hung horizontally in front of the sunroom for the tall tomatoes to climb when I looked down to where the greenhouse sat partly in shadow as the sun came fully up over Mount Hallowell to the east. We were on the deck in full sunlight, cups of coffee on the table, the sound of bees in the daylilies and roses, and I was caught on one of those wrinkles in time when I forgot for a moment where I was, and when, and how. Whose was the wheelbarrow filled with soil? The yellow bucket catching water from the tiny eaves-trough? I could see it all from a great distance. It was as though I was above everything, floating in the air as light as dandelion seed. Was it a trick of the light, the way the side of the greenhouse was somehow a mirror, a portal? The trees were alive, deeply alive, and a western tanager shot by me at shoulder level, heading for the maples down the bank where I think a pair is nesting. Sure enough, moments later, their song, short phrases, 3 notes mostly, raspier than a robin’s, breaking the brief spell and bringing me back to the work at hand, which was finding more string for John to loop through the tomato cages and up to the hooks, around the pole.

I am sitting at my desk, wishing for that moment again, as I listen to rain in the wisteria vine just beyond my window. More sun was promised! But instead, a grey sky, a Swainson’s thrush whit, whit, whitting in the woods, and yesterday’s laundry, left on the line, drooping with the rain. The yellow bucket is in place, the beans all planted, and I am still remembering yesterday’s moment when I was dizzy with light, with birdsong, with possibility.

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves before mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown, follows clouds away. Deepened

Colors grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain — and lingers on past noon.

                          –Du Fu, translated by David Hinton

7 thoughts on ““I hear it among treetop leaves””

  1. what a beautiful poem! I do connect with this feeling–outside time. not often but unforgettable.

  2. oh gosh, you had me right there with you — again.
    I hadn’t realized just how large that greenhouse was that you and John worked so hard at putting together.
    (I’ve been weaning myself from Twitter so have been rather sporadic as I make the rounds 😉 )

    1. Diane, it’s not very big. 6′ x 10′. But somehow it’s exactly the right size. I started so many things out there in the past month and a half. Peas, beans, peppers, eggplants, salad greens, squash and cucumbers. Tomatoes were begun earlier inside but I put them in the greenhouse as soon as it was finished and they thrived. Now I’m experimenting with peppers — half will spend the summer inside the greenhouse and half on the upper deck. Eggplants inside. Olives inside (because deer like them, I understand). I have tubs of basil and cilantro to move outside. And I think we’ll try growing greens inside for the winter too. I love the greenhouse, love the dimension it’s added to my life.

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