What Can You Learn From a Lake?

One of the greatest joys that we have as humans is our deep and profound connection to nature. For me, there is no better reminder than the season of fall to appreciate both the power and the beauty inherent in nature. The colors of the leaves are rich and intense. The flavors are aromatic and dense–pumpkins, apple cider, and pears. Fall also  offers us golden weather–crisp, cool days, still warm enough for a light jacket or sweater.  I never feel so much a part of life as I do in the fall.

Brunswick Bay in Maine
Brunswick Bay in Maine

Yet there is the reminder of our mortality tucked behind all of the lush beauty of the season. The leaves turn red, yellow and orange, then flutter and spin into brown blankets. The branches of the trees reach up, naked, embracing the sky. And the birds leave for warmer weather.

Poet Jane Hirshfield reminds us of the magic to be found in a lake—water capable of  both taking and returning things.  She invites us into her world to explore leaves and fish, hope and longing. Enjoy the magic of this lovely poem.

Lake and Maple by Jane Hirshfield

I want to give myself
utterly
as this maple
that burned and burned
for three days without stinting
and then in two more
dropped off every leaf;
as this lake that,
no matter what comes
to its green-blue depths,
both takes and returns it.
In the still heart that refuses nothing,
the world is twice-born —
two earths wheeling,
two heavens,
two egrets reaching
down into subtraction;
even the fish
for an instant doubled,
before it is gone.
I want the fish.
I want the losing it all
when it rains and I want
the returning transparanence.
I want the place
by the edge-flowers where
the shallow sand is deceptive,
where whatever
steps in must plunge,
and I want that plunging.
I want the ones
who come in secret to drink
only in early darknes,
and I want the ones
who are swallowed.
I want the way
the water sees without eyes,
hears without ears,
shivers without will or fear
at the gentlest touch.
I want the way it
accepts the cold moonlight
and lets it pass,
the way it lets
all of of it pass
without judgment or comment.
There is a lake.
Lalla Ded sang, no larger
than one seed of mustard,
that all things return to.
O heart, if you
will not, cannot, give me the lake,
then give me the song.

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