Live Virtual Group Session: 7pm EDT May 1st 2020

What a wonderful, warm, and far-flung group convened for our session – from around the country (Pittsburgh, the Bronx, Martha’s Vineyard, and beyond) and around the world (Morocco, Greece, India at 4:30 am!).

Our text for this session was “The Trees” by Philip Larkin, posted below. We discussed the poem, which in true Larkin fashion, reveals itself, with close reading, to be far more complex than one first imagines. And so our collective reading revealed the layers of this wonderful piece – like the trees’ “rings of grain.”. Our discussion was energetic and far-reaching. Participants pointed to the poem’s language, drawing a connection between Larkin’s “greenness” as a “kind of grief” to the opening lines of TS Eliot’s “The Wasteland:”

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire…

 We discussed the complexity of man’s relationship to nature – in that we turn to it for solace and reassurance, finding only confirmation of our solitude and our mortality. One participant pointed to the “Russian doll”-like nature of the poem, the ways in which layers of meaning are embedded in its three short stanzas. And a comment about the end of the poem itself being a beginning – “afresh afresh afresh” – not only affirmed this notion but also echoed, with its sonorous repetition, in our participants’ subsequent writing.

We offered the prompt: Write about what roots you. And the pieces it inspired were indeed as multifaceted as the poem itself. Our participants shared generously, and many have posted here. (Thank you!) We look forward to gathering again with you soon.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured. If you chose to draw, your are welcome to share as well, simply email your visual file to narrativemedicine@columbia.edu and we will add and credit it to the post here.

Please join us for our next session: Sunday, May 3rd at 3pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

The Trees 
By Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

from The Collected Poems (Faber, 1993), by permission of the publisher, Faber & Faber Ltd.

15 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 7pm EDT May 1st 2020

  1. Allison Zuckerberg

    What Roots You

    All the others sitting on the planet,
    We share a chair.
    THey give me the knowing,
    I may be unmoving,
    But I’m not the only one here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janine Mariscotti

    What roots me, you ask
    Sun and earth holding me here and now
    a shared laugh with my children – they’ll
    grow old too
    the pink tree peony that blooms each spring

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stephanie Adler Yuan

      Fantatstic, Janine. Earth, love, laughter. And in your allusion to the circle of life — your children too growing old — I see a lovely connection to the Larkin.

      Like

      • Janine Mariscotti

        Thanks, Stephanie. These words have been echoing for me these past few days, taking root is a way I hadn’t imagined. I appreciate your words of affirmation!

        Like

  3. Sarah El Halabi

    Like the ending of a Jane Austen novel where everything somehow works out, I watch the faces on the screen, smiling, laughing, coming together in stubborn joy after having endured so much. Like a Woolfian character that watches time ebb and flow against a lighthouse, I don’t want this moment to end. New York, you have given me joy, fear, dread, sanctuary, danger but above all you have given me people, this moment, my faith that if I only look closely I can see everybody’s happy ending as they close the last page of this story, as the sirens evaporate into bird song, and the people find one another, the space of an embrace, a perfect fit.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Maureen

    A time that propels us forward into the wind against our sails.
    A day that dawns birds sing but no movement occurs.
    Only the rustling of the newness of the leaves.
    To serve to do to go to run to swim, to act as if the day is sweet and all is as has been is the hardest blast.
    Coming back, going deep, I dive into what propels me forward, service, service, service.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Caroline Quan

    Social distancing?
    No.
    Physical distancing.

    I am still here.
    We are still here.
    Still in our social spheres,
    but maybe
    taking a step outside
    of our normal lives,
    reaching into the unknown
    and grasping, at a distance,
    at the whisps of life.
    Roots are in the sun, the breeze, the daily sharing of highs and lows,
    music, happiness.
    Roots are in the seemingly intangible,
    but also in a face sore after a day of
    subconscious smiling.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What roots me~~

    I look to Nature in all its grandeur.
    I am in awe of its immensity and its ability to touch the heart.
    How do I fit into this grand scheme of life?
    I am but a small speck in the universe, so vast beyond belief.
    To witness its renewal is a gift from the Creator, a true blessing to receive.
    I am empowered when I realize that I, too, am part of this same Creator’s plan,
    His grand scheme of life and rejuvenation.

    And so my roots embedded into me from my ancestors are now transposed into my children and into my children’s children.
    And so my roots sink deeply into Mother Earth,
    for she sustains me and, as the rings of life ever multiply, I offer thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I consider reading to be the ultimate grounding experience. Perhaps even more so when revisiting literature from my teenage years when I devoured plays, poems and novels about growing up (the Judy Blume genre). The possibilities and infinite futures that played out in those texts probably reassures me, especially now when current uncertainties disturb our sleep and serenity.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Derek McCracken

    Roots

    I hold the babies born from mothers
    who were babies I once held,
    in their squalls I hear a grandmother’s “tsk, tsk, tsk”
    and the protests of our immigrants from Antrim.

    We gather to feed, to renew
    our space, this place
    that expands beyond me.

    Hush, little one — pace yourself.
    The family crest is your shield to carry.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. al3793

    Write about what roots you…

    My beloved…
    My love for you…
    The way you love me…

    LOVE…

    Francisco said the irony of this world is that

    LOVE is not loved…

    LOVE was nailed to a tree
    LOVE is what kept
    LOVE’s hands there…

    My beloved, may my love for you
    and your love for me keep our hands and hearts
    united in LOVE…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Mary Hume

    What Roots me. . .

    There was a maple tree on my front lawn in Brooklyn for a very long time. It was there decades before I was born. I grew up with it and it became an old friend. Last year, it started to look withered and sick. During wind storms, heavy limbs fell onto the sidewalk. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Upon examination, the wood was rotted through. With great sadness, I knew the tree was dying and had to be taken down. This happened on St. Patrick’s Day 2019. Beforehand, I said my good byes; I put my hands on the tree, said that I was sorry, and hoped that she wasn’t in pain. I slowly got used to her absence. Each November, her leaves would turn a brilliant golden yellow. I would marvel at the beauty of it from inside the house looking out from a third floor window. I still miss her. Her memory is a blessing.

    Like

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