Learning From Trees by John Whitney Steele

Learning From Trees

Late in the day, sitting at roof’s edge,
legs crossed in Guan Yin’s posture of royal ease,
I’m clearing the gutter of autumn’s castoff leaves,
tossing them down to mulch the cedar hedge.

Grateful to be alive through my seventieth fall,
I’m learning from the trees how to let go
of all those things I can no longer do.
I’m tired of clinging, prepared to relinquish it all.

Later, in front of a mirror, I catch a glimpse
of something unexpected: a kindhearted soul
is looking back at me, his face aglow
with the light of the full moon—absolute bliss.

My candle, though under a bushel, still burns bright.
It’s the lantern I carry through the long, lonely night.

by John Whitney Steele

Editor’s Note: This sonnet creates a contemplative moment from a chore and reminds the reader that even in autumn there are still lessons to be learned.


3 responses to “Learning From Trees by John Whitney Steele”

  1. Phil Hebert Avatar
    Phil Hebert

    At 80 I find this especially poignant. I wish I had learned this sooner.

  2. volatilemuse Avatar


  3. John Maynard Lee Avatar
    John Maynard Lee

    The first six lines set a contemplative mood that values and enhances life by the poet being present with the mundane task cleaning leaves from the gutter of his house.” But in the last two, he makes a choice to be defeated, not really contradicting the previous mood, but just sad. To me, “Tired of clinging” doesn’t honor “Guan Yin’s posture of royal ease.”

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