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White Pine

ISSUE:  Winter 1995

      The sun rises late in this Southern county. And, since the first thing I do when I wake up is go out into the world, I walk here along a dark road. There are many trees. Also, shrubs and vines—sumac, the ivies, honeysuckle. I walk between two green and leafy walls.

      Occasionally a rabbit leaps across the road, or a band of deer, tossing their heads and bounding great distances. Maybe some of them leap from the earth altogether. Couldn’t there be pastures beside the lakes of the stars? Isn’t everything, in the dark, too wonderful to be exact, and circumscribed?

      For instance, the white pine that stands by the lake. Tall and dense, it’s a whistling crest on windy mornings. Otherwise, it’s silent. It looks over the lake and it looks up the road. I don’t mean it has eyes. It has long bunches of needles, five to each bundle. From its crown springs a fragrance, the air is sharp with it. Everything is in it. But no single part can be separated from another.

      I have read that, in Africa, when the body of an antelope, which all its life ate only leaves and grass and drank nothing but wild water, is first opened, the fragrance is almost too sweet, too delicate, too beautiful to be borne. It is a moment which hunters must pass through carefully, with concentrated and even religious attention, if they are to reach the other side, and go on with their individual lives.

      And now I have finished my walk. And I am just standing, quietly, in the darkness, under the tree.


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