Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Monday, September 28, 2009

Honoring Nature

Our connection with nature is a strong one. Henry David Thoreau felt that we can never have enough of nature. I agree! We take comfort in her coolness, warm ourselves in the heat of her sun, are awed by her beauty and amazed and frightened by her power and anger; and we respect her wisdom. What person has not longed to "get away from it all" when life's pressures become too demanding? And what are our first thoughts in the search to escape life's burdens: to the woods, the lake, the beach, the mountains and the sea—to nature! It's like coming home.

In his book, My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), John Muir states "We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of sun—a part of all nature...".

I believe, as the physicist, philosopher, G.C. Lichtenberg once remarked, that when we look at nature, we are observing ourselves. I also believe that there is but one Architect of the entire natural world, that when we honor nature, we honor ourselves, and ultimately, we honor our God. It was from the earth we came, and when our lives here end, it is to the earth our physical bodies will return, for we are kindred...

"Honoring Nature", a Video by Monica E. Smith
(music: "Night Rain" by Jim Brickman)

Oh, To Be a Noble Tree

Oh, to be a noble tree
And never have to bend a knee
In the bonds of slavery

Or know the pain of poverty

Regarded as a thing of beauty
Lovely for the eye to see
Not concerned with vanity
Each accepted as he would be

Oh, to be a noble tree
Akin to sun and stars and sea
No fear of inequality
For such royal pedigree

With difference each one’s majesty
And color, just variety
To live a life forever free
Oh, to be a noble tree

Come October

Copper and gold, these riches I treasure
More than any earthly pleasure
Come October they shimmer in fields of grain
A harvest of color, in nature they reign
Behold their beauty, store the memory, look fast
But the blink of an eye and the season has passed

Her Majesty

In the midst
Of her evergreen entourage
Stood the Maple
Majestic brilliance
Glowing as if ablaze
Yet not consumed
By her radiance
Nor could October’s hoarfrost

Cool the intensity
Of such perfection
And I, how blessed
To have gazed upon
Such royal pedigree


a solitary leaf,
lovely in death
as it was in life,
tinged with tears
from an early autumn
frost flutters, featherlike
to it's resting place
on the gelid ground,

it has given its life
that winter might once
again draw breath

Reason and Rhyme

Where is the reason, the rhyme
in a world that honors force?
Look to the wind.

in a world that glorifies might?
Look to the mountains.

in a world that praises power?
Look to the sea.

in a world still seeking beauty?
Look to the flowers of the field.

in a world struggling to be free?
Look to the birds of the air.

Where is the reason, the rhyme
in a world desperately in need of love?
Seek God within yourself.

(poems and some text excerpted from Kindred: A Family Portrait by Monica E. Smith)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Haiku for You and Tanka, Too

I love shorter poems for their ability to tell a story, or set a scene (that furthers one's imagination) with just a few words. So it is only natural that I would be drawn to Haiku and Tanka. These ancient Japanese poems have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, and I find the forms can be brought into the present without any difficulty at all.

Haiku are an ancient form of Japanese unrhymed poetry. They usually will contain a season word ("kigo"), and capture the essence of a moment; they deal with nature itself, or human nature. Older than Haiku, Tanka are similar in nature in that they evoke a moment or mark an occasion, and do so with brevity and musicality. They are always written about nature, the seasons, love, sadness or other strong emotions. There are many specifications for writing these little verses, which I won't go into here. (if you would like to know more about them, there is a wealth of information online).

Autumn has always been my favorite season, and it seems to be so with many writers. There is a seemingly endless supply of writings when googling "autumn". I'd like to mark the passing of yet another summer with a few verses of my own.

Here in Ohio, we're experiencing an early autumn this year. And I couldn't be happier! It seems like we always are in a hurry to get to the next new thing around the corner. But by doing that, we lose sight of what's happening now, and miss so many gifts given by the present. I will not rush autumn away this year with expectation of other good things to come. I intend to enjoy each new colorful day as it unfolds before me.

I have always loved the preparation, the anticipation of things to come almost more than the actual happenings themselves; and it is no less so than with the changing of seasons. Autumn is a death of what was, yes, but also a new birth. Actually, autumn, more than any other season, is a preparation for new life (as is death, I believe). I see it in the changing colors, the dying off of vegetation, the birds and other animals flying or scurrying here and there seemingly planning, organizing, preparing for what is to come.

On a recent camera shoot, I was in awe of what I heard and saw when I actually focused on what was going on around me. I felt I was in another world. Rather than simply walking through nature, taking it for granted, almost ignoring the life around me, I put myself into the picture and became a part of it, celebrated life with all my senses. Leaves were falling, and I enjoyed their smooth windings and turnings and the whoosh as they floated to the earth below. Rain was ever so lightly patting down the drying grasses; and rather than trying to escape it, as we so often do, I welcomed and enjoyed each cool droplet on my skin. Birds and other animals were in a rhythm of busy-ness, calling out to each other and the wind seemed to speak to all of nature, telling it to hurry, hurry, prepare, prepare...

Seemingly, nature gave the call to change course, and all responded. This is remarkable to witness, and no less exciting year after year. I hope your autumn will be as joyful and joy-filled as mine this year.

Two Tanka

I wipe away drops
of moisture from my forehead
the heat of August
steadily fades into fall
as I slowly age with time

the cicada's song
shortens with each passing day
the cycle completes
as his days come to an end
in the waning August heat

Four Haiku

autumn comes calling
mother nature cleans her house...
scattered maple leaves

the tree frogs call out,
serenading each other—
summer is over

gray clouds break apart
cold wind blows in from the north
autumn has arrived

flower petals fade
as autumn approaches

little by little

(music excerpt in this video: The Song of the Japanese Autumn
(Yasuo Kawahara)
from The Concert at the Church of Villamediana (Spain)
recorded August 25, 2005

Early Autumn in West Liberty, Ohio

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sweet Oleander

Oleander, also called rose bay (Nerium Oleander), assbane and in Persian, kahrzarah, is a lovely and sweet-smelling white, purple or pink flower. The bush on which it grows has leathery lance-shaped leaves and long seed pods. Oleander is a native of India, but is now naturalized in many warm countries. It grows wild along the sides and hollows of ravines in Afghanistan. Ironically, despite its beauty and sweet smell, it is among the most poisonous and deadly of plants.

Lament of a Soldier Son
(for Patrick)

Sadly, it is not the aromatic lavender I remember
That suspends me in this mystifying languor,
But only the sweet, deceptive oleander

As deadly as it is fragrant
That cunningly deceives me into believing
I walk among the flowers of my mother's garden.
Oh, to know such blissful tranquility again!
Here, when I lie, I lie in fear
In parched and withered deserts.
No verdant fields gracefully swaying in the breeze
No mellifluous birdsong awakening me from sleep
No dulcet tones of wind through pine
No misty rains to cool my heated brow
Only longing and ephemeral dreams of home,
And that wicked perfume of wild oleander
Wafting through the unsettling sands of Afghanistan.