Bay Leaf Shadows

Our bay tree had to be trimmed back. It’s a sad fact. When we first moved in, almost seventeen years ago, it was a neat little tree, reaching just above my head. I loved it. I still do. But it evolved into a giant that was wrecking the gutter, the roof, the paving stones that run along the side of the house and threatening the foundations of the extension which is our living room. In the winter, covered in snow, our bay tree looked like Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons. It blocked out the light, condemning us to permanent shadow, so that during autumn and winter the lights were on permanently. On windy nights, the branches creaked and scraped against gutter and roof, tapped on the windows and disrupted television programmes. On sunnier days, it throws magic shadows on the wall, which Mojo the cat loves to chase.

On Friday, a very tall ladder was delivered from a local plant hire shop and left on the grass behind the bay tree. My heart sank. After our evening meal, David put on his work boots and disappeared out the back door. Over the weekend, the cats and I have listened to sawing and rustling.

birds have moved their nest
from the bay to the willow
spicy scent of spring

Kim M. Russell, 2017

Bay Tree 

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Haibun Monday – the shadow knows

This week Toni introduces the prompt with an interesting quotation: ‘Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.’
― Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

She also tells us about a book she read, In Praise of Shadows, by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, a long essay on Japanese aesthetics and culture. She says it moved her so much that it sparked her immersion in the Japanese Culture.

She has given us another quotation from the book: ‘Whenever I see the alcove of a tastefully built Japanese room, I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of shadows, our sensitive use of shadow and light. For the beauty of the alcove is not the work of some clever device. An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into its forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway.’
― Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

Toni would like us to write a haibun about shadows: sitting in a dark room with the fireplace or candles flickering, taking a walk at night under a full moon or in the snow, the way raindrops dripping from the eaves cause shadows to form on the ceiling during the night, street lights reflecting on a wet street, dark times in your life in which some light was shown….anything to do with shadows.

The only rules are that it must be written in Classic Japanese form with one to two tight paragraphs with a seasonal haiku to wrap it up, and it must be true and have actually happened to us.

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43 thoughts on “Bay Leaf Shadows

  1. A tree becomes a living companion when close to the house. So sad to see that ladder come….knowing the life of the tree shall be adjusted to accommodate our lives. But — better that and to appreciate its spicy spring scent rather than curse it for clogging gutters and the like. Well done! 🙂 I feel I visited your yard today 🙂

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  2. I always feel like I lose a part of me when a tree dies in my yard, or needs to be removed, or even pruned. We are connected to everything in nature, and trees, and all of nature, are a constant reminder of impermanence.

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  3. I mourn with you for your bay tree. My mother loved trees, and when a windstorm took down half of a Chinese elm she had planted, she convinced my father to bolt it back together, which he did. I drove past the home of my childhood last year, and that elm still stands. I’m sure somewhere within its sturdy trunk is the bolt my father put there all those years ago! Let us hope your bay is as lucky!

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  4. Love that bay tree and Mojo chasing its shadows. It is a sad day when trees are pruned. Better it is pruned than totally cut down. I liked the visit to your garden and house. We had to have a huge red oak cut down this past summer because it had contracted some sort of oak disease. But it has provided us a couple of years worth of firewood. Trees are so giving in all their stages. How I would love to smell the wood from it.p

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    1. That’s what is happening to ash trees over here, with ash die-back disease. It makes me so sad to see swathes of woodland chopped down – I imagine the trees weeping.

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  5. I have had to take a tree down too close to a home we used to live in. Now in a town home, I am not allowed to touch any of the vegetation outside. One of the trees near us was taken down because of some infection. The town replaced the tree but I regretted seeing it removed.

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  6. I love trees…just not too near the house that will disrupt or will fall on the side or roof of the house ~ I really like how the shadows take on a character, like doing magic tricks on the walls on sunnier days ~ Also admire the smell of that spring haiku ~

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  7. your words echoed Toni’s introduction so beautifully, there’s beauty from the shadows and beauty that needs to be explored under the shadows. i like reading when nature can teach us more about being human and loved your words here.

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  8. Cutting down a tree, for me, is like kicking your dog–yet when dog or tree needs it, discipline must be applied; tough love, I guess. We have a tulip tree in our back yard that grown into the fence, purging it over; grew right around the posts. A gardner had to do surgery for us.

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    1. We have some huge silver birches at the end of our garden, which our neighbour asked us to fell. We refused but conceded to a little trim when a storm bent them so low, we thought they might crash. They are still there and growing back majestically.

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