Rules of Thumb, 30x30, and the Laws of Nature

Spring Landscape (Rain), A. Krehbiel My mother had a commonplace book in which she recorded, by hand, in beautiful cursive, proverbs, sayings, and quotes that struck her as interesting, thought provoking, or wise. I also love sayings, and quotes, and mantras, but mostly I’ve collected rules of thumb, those short pithy statements that condense ways of dealing with life on earth in the same way that proverbs give advice on how to behave in prudent, trouble-avoiding ways.  Rules of thumb exist for every field of human endeavor. There are the general ones, such as the 80% rule, or Pareto Principle, that gets applied in sometimes surprising ways—"eighty percent of every thing is trash,” someone will say, or another will say that “80% of your output comes from 20% of your efforts,” for example. The 80/20 ratio is useful in all sorts of contexts. For example, in a perennial garden, the general rule (backed up by scientific evidence) is that about 75-80% of the plants should be native (lo

April is Poetry Month 2011: "Segovia's Every Tree in Its Shadow"

This is poetry month and it shouldn't go by without ackowledgement, since it is the poets who from earliest times have most celebrated our deep connection with the natural world. Here is a poem by Mexican poet Francisco Segovia that I like.

First in English,

Every Tree in Its Shadow

Every tree in its shadow
shelters a different god.
In its uplifted solitude
it rocks him, whispers to him,
confides its secrets in him.

Every tree in its shadow
makes foliage from a faith
that wasn't born with him
and won't come to an end.

Every tree in its shadow feels
the depth of the immaterial
that men also feel
when they watch children from a distance.

And every once in awhile,
when it clouds up they learn
that a deeper and vaster shadow
shelters them too,
and rocks them and whispers to them
as it rains.

Translators Don Share and Cesar Perez

Now in the original Spanish. (My apologies for the lack of accents. When I figure out how to do so, I'll add them in. Update 5/1/11: now the poem is correct, thanks to Don P.)

Cada árbol en su sombra

Cada árbol en su sombra
cobija un dios distinto.
En su erguida soledad
lo mece, le susurra
y a el se fía en su secreto.

Cada árbol en su sombra
hace espesura de una fe
que no nació con el
ni acabara en el tiempo.

Cada árbol en su sombra siente
esa hondura de inmateria
que también sienten los hombres
cuando miran de lejos a los niños

Y solo de cuando en cuando,
cuando se nubla el día, reconocen
que una sombra mas vasta y mas honda
los cobija también a ellos.
Y los mece y les susurra
cuando llueve.

Francisco Segovia                                               

Meanwhile, it has stopped raining, the lettuce is up, and the bees are out--it's time to go out to the garden.

Note: Here is a review of two collections of Mexican poetry in English translation from ReVista.

Related Posts:
Meteorological Winter
Gardeners' Work
National Poetry Month in the Garden


Don Plummer said…
Great poem, Adrian. I was not familiar with it.

I have my comp students read a poem by Pablo Neruda (Ode to the Apple; my own translation). Another poem I use in class is one by Mary Oliver about the wanton destruction (for a shopping mall) of a pond she used to play around as a child.

Regarding accents and other diacritics in Spanish, a Spanish keyboard is the best solution, but I don't recommend it (letters will not be where you are used to finding them). Aside from that, if you use Microsoft Word, you can access them through the Insert: Symbol features. It's kind of tedious, but it does the job. Another option (again, in Microsoft Word) is to use the Set Language command to set your spell checker to Spanish. When you run spell check, the spell checker will often flag words without accents and other diacritics as misspelled; correcting them will add in the diacritics.
Hi Don,

I know the Neruda poem--it's nice you can do your own translations. Don't know that Mary Oliver poem. I saw her read a few years ago.

Thanks for your help with the Spanish. The Word Set Language and Spell Check worked well. I was then able to paste it into blogger with no problem.
Don Plummer said…
What Was Once the Largest Shopping Center in
Northern Ohio Was Built Where There Had Been
a Pond I Used to Visit Every Summer Afternoon

Loving the earth, seeing what has been done to it,
I grow sharp, I grow cold.

Where will the trilliums go, and the coltsfoot?
Where will the pond lilies go to continue living
their simple, penniless lives, lifting
their faces of gold?

Impossible to believe we need so much
as the world wants to buy.
I have more clothes, lamps, dishes, paper clips
than I could possibly use before I die.

Oh, I would like to live in an empty house,
with vines for walls, and a carpet of grass,
No planks, no plastic, no fiberglass.

And I suppose sometime I will.
Old and cold I will lie apart
from all this buying and selling, with only
the beautiful earth in my heart.

From Why I Wake Early, 2004
Don Plummer said…
You're welcome. Lucky you that you got to hear her read!