. . . everything inside my wooden body slows down as I enter dormancy. My only work is to prepare for winter, knowing frost and snow will soon arrive and the soft belly of earth under my branches will harden. I shake off my last attached leaves. With no food to make all winter long I won’t need any of them. I will use my stash of nutrients to keep my buds healthy and my cells alive.
The freezing temperatures could do harm, but I will prepare. My cell membranes will change and become more pliable so that water can leave the cells and fill the spaces between, forming a layer of insulation. But that’s not all. Earlier in the fall I converted starches to sugars, and this sweetened, viscous syrupy liquid is my own form of anti-freeze.
Winter is a good time for contemplation. Once someone left a slim, small book titled, Four Huts: Asian Writings on the Simple Life, under my limbs. The four authors, one Chinese and three Japanese, all from different centuries, wrote about the simple homes they built for themselves after they retired from worldly duties. In describing their lives, they conveyed how much they were drawn to live close to nature and how much they appreciated the arts, especially music.
I know what it’s like to get rid of things, to scale back to the necessary. I do this every autumn when I stop thinking about producing, about creating, and am able to settle down, notice more about my surroundings, and focus on what is really needed for survival. After all, my fruit buds are all set; that happened in mid-July. I can be content now with a simple life.
Another man also wrote in the woods near a pond not too far from here.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
This man influenced countless people with his writings, but I have more in common with Matsu Basho, one of the Japanese authors included in that little book. In fact, the farm where I live take its name from one of his poems.
The old pond
A frog jumped in,
Kerplunk! tr: Allen Ginsberg
In describing life in the little hut where he wrote many haiku, Basho said,
And when the sun has begun to sink behind the rim of hills, I sit quietly in the evening waiting for the moon so I may have my shadow for company . . .
I do that too!
Where are you?