As we move to winter Betula Pendula or Silver Birch will soon begin to dance from side-to-side, tick-tocking in time with the rhythm of the wind.
Like lightening rods, these weeping trees signal the unspoken thanatological imperative of nature, and yet do so with silver bough and twiggy hands – the silver associated with ‘luna’ – of the translucent moon.
In winter the Betula mouths at us from its empty canopy, the leaves having falling, and yet she waves with a joyous fatality; her branches swing rapidly, ceding the ending of the year like a pendulum insistent on the popping of one’s clogs. This is the essence of mortality and time.
More optimistically, the pendulum reminds me of the process of psychotherapy, whereby the client finds some balance – in the middle. This is what Aristotle called Eudaimonia or the’Golden Mean’. A virtuous life aims for such a place.
As Plato says of it: The good composed of all goods; an ability which suffices for living well; perfection in respect of virtue; resources sufficient for a living creature.
I have two twin Betula birch outside in the garden. One is called ‘Plaza’. The other ‘Dofe’. Both are named after cats: the latter name was short for Sophia: the Greek Goddess of female wisdom. Plaza? After the Plaza hotel in New York.
I have often wondered why the weeping birch is known as ‘Pendula’ though it is easy to see the branches hanging as opposed to being ‘upright’. The rock n’ roll tree oscillates in time like a groovy 60’s flower-child pendulum.
While the female seeds hovercraft down, the male catkins punctuate the air like semi-colons; their soft downy seeds falling on fallow ground, blanketing chilly tree feet.
The flawed branches, moreover, repeat the transformation to winter, with the silver bark flagging up the approach of snow. But mostly the symbol of the Pendulum forms an image of Time measured by the skeletal, leafless tree.
Yes I think immortality comes into it. “It tolls for thee,” said Ernest Hemingway in the 1940’s novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls”. The title was taken from John Donne, the metaphysical poet’s series of meditations (while he was dying) on health, pain and sickness in 1624.
Hemingway, living in sunny Cuba, quoted Donne’s meditation using the original spelling, which in turn refers to the practice of funeral tolling:
“No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
We can locate, perhaps, our mortality passing when Betula keeps time with nature. Each pendulous branch again winding down to shed immortal catkins preparing for spring.
A pendulum clock that goes forever without the weights running down.
This is a species of clock whose hands move unceasingly, and, since there is obviously no loss due to friction, it is a perpetuum mobile , an everlasting movement in a circle. Here we meet with a “metaphysical” attribute. As I have already said, I use this word in a psychological sense, hence figuratively. I mean by this that eternity is a quality predicated by the unconscious, and not a hypostasis. The statement made by the dream will obviously offend the dreamer’s scientific judgment, but this is just what gives the mandala its peculiar significance. Highly significant things are often rejected because they seem to contradict reason and thus set it too arduous a test. The movement without friction shows that the clock is cosmic, even transcendental; at any rate is raises the question of a quality which leaves us in some doubt whether the psychic phenomenon expressing itself in the mandala is under the laws of space and time. And this points to something so entirely different from the empirical ego that the gap between them is difficult to bridge; i.e., the other center of personality lies on a different plane from the ego since, unlike this, it has the quality of “eternity” or relative timelessness.