Thursday, December 3, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, three friends and I visited the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Rather than describe the grounds and the meticulous planning behind them, I refer you the Reserve's own website above and this detailed account from The Intercontinental Gardener. (photo credit to the Intercontinental Gardener as well) If you live in the Washington area, I highly suggest you go, although 'tis much better to go as the guest of a member, as I did.

Towards the end of our amble, the four of us stood on one end of the reflecting pool. My friend Nicole, reading from the garden guide, informed us that the Bloedels were buried at the opposite end of the pool, and that Mrs. Bloedel's grave bore an inscription from an Emily Bronte poem, "Sympathy." She read it aloud to us:

There should be no despair for you
While nightly stars are burning;
While evening pours its silent dew,
And sunshine gilds the morning.
There should be no despair--though tears
May flow down like a river:
Are not the best beloved of years
Around your heart for ever?

They weep, you weep, it must be so;
Winds sigh as you are sighing,
And winter sheds its grief in snow
Where Autumn's leaves are lying:
Yet, these revive, and from their fate
Your fate cannot be parted:
Then, journey on, if not elate,
Still, never broken-hearted!

Now, picture this poem being read in a grave and melodious voice, with the interlocking branches of pines reflected stilly in the pool ahead, the somber water stretching forward. The fabric of all of this: the words of the poem, the voice, the pool, the wind through the branches. In a moment like this, art feels alive to me - not an unchanging object or record, but rather a thing vigorous and knotted through with life. The moment itself feels alive, and greater than the sum of its parts. It's the poem that ignites this: the laurel on nature; all the while conjuring a bittersweet mortality, the ethereal memories never lost even as the earth, and people, pass through their transitory seasons.

In my own small way, I will always dedicate a part of my consciousness to this awareness; I will always read poetry as a consecration of what we see and feel; fiction will always feel to me more true than fact. I'm glad it's that way. And I'm glad that such moments are completely democratic - they cast a spell; they take everything of the moment and briefly, ever so briefly, the moment is eternal; we share of its flare, and just by listening, we become a part of the fabric, too. We listeners and watchers are lifted in grace by a mere act of receptivity.

Our brains, our delight provide the final element of the alchemy. We ourselves catalyze the transformation.


  1. My French for Brontë's poem:

    Qu'il n'y ait pour toi nul désespoir
    Quand la nocturne étoile veille,
    Quand sans bruit vient l'humide soir
    Ou que le matin s'ensoleille.

    Nul désespoir, car si tes larmes
    Nous semblent les flots d'un torrent,
    N'as-tu point des ans pleins de charme
    Qui ton coeur vont environnant?

    Tous pleurant, tu pleures, c'est sûr,
    Les pleurs du vent tes pleurs escortent,
    L'hiver pleure sa neige sur
    Le sol jonché de feuilles mortes.

    Des feuilles reviendront, princesse,
    Et ton destin ressemble au leur.
    Suis ton chemin, non d'allégresse,
    Mais de la fermeté du coeur.