cars passing all day
the silence of linden trees
— Deborah A. Bennett (USA)
(published previously in Wales Haiku Journal, Spring 2022)
The stark comparison between cars and the linden trees in this haiku is a humble reminder of just how loud and fast-paced human life can be. Without notice, trees quietly and efficiently provide oxygen, store carbon, clean the air, and cool down city temperatures with their shade. I see trees as spiritual giants and their resilience is well-portrayed in this haiku. Trees were here long before humans and they do their work, regardless of human beings polluting the Earth on a daily basis. Ultimately, all human beings come and go, but the regenerative power of trees and forests can stand the test of time and has proven to regenerate, even after nuclear power plant disasters and cataclysmic events. This is partly due to the vast mycelium networks underground. Mycelium are master decomposers; they create more depth and nutrient-rich soil, but they also communicate and connect trees and plants in infinitely complex ways that we as humans cannot fathom.
On the note of interconnectedness, perhaps this haiku can also inspire more people to use alternative ways of transportation that result in less pollution. We are physically made of elements from the Earth. If we see ourselves as not separate from the Earth as isolated individuals, but rather as spiritual beings who are intimately and deeply connected with the Earth and the Great Mystery, then I think more of us will naturally choose to be more mindful and lead better, more meaningful lives.
In short, this is an important haiku that juxtaposes fast-paced human life with the resilient power of Mother Earth and trees. A powerful haiku.
— Jacob D. Salzer
Cars passing all day may be symbolic of the rush in our daily lives that revolves around materialism where one is involved in earning money, making a career, and living up to the expectations of the modern fast-paced life. I also see how these cars passing can be linked with pollution. With more carbon emissions and polluted air, we are running after a materialistic life. I can also see how vehicles are defining our social statuses and our routines. This mechanic life where distances become shorter to destinations creates vacuums internally in terms of health, lifestyles, and relationships.
The second line ‘in between’ demonstrates how miserable this life can be. The silence of linden trees might symbolize how we have muted nature, birdsong, and wind, and brought a pause to the natural cycle which is destructive in many ways. The linden tree is a remedial tree that is good for coughs and colds. We have not only destroyed the growth of trees but also ruined the healing process that usually comes from nature. Noise and air pollution have clogged our minds. Sometimes we cannot enjoy the nature around us or see how deeply it has affected us. The destructive aspects of nature can surprise us, as we are not fully attuned to it. So, our real success or progress is not our fast-paced life or technology that facilitates us, but the nature that keeps us moving on naturally and simply. It inspires us to focus more on our genuineness and real potential.
To me, this haiku is about the balance between nature and nurture, which is significant for a healthy and peaceful life.
I like how this haiku can be read in various ways due to the pivot in the second line. It can be read as one flowing phrase, or as “cars passing all day” (full stop) and then “in between” (pause) “the silence of linden trees.” Additionally, it can be read as “cars passing all day in between” and then “the silence of linden trees” as a juxtaposition. This allows for multiple interpretations.
With the “silence of linden trees,” I believe this haiku might be placed in autumn. Without leaves, the trees don’t make a sound. The poet could also be speaking of the internal quiet of a tree or that it never speaks.
With a lack of punctuation, the pivot line can work its magic. A lot of haiku use punctuation in place of a kireji, or “cutting word.” However, in this haiku, the lack of punctuation seems to be a benefit.
The length of the lines is not standard for English-language haiku. Usually, it is a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. The poet could have placed the current first line as the third line, but that would do away with the power of the pivot in the original version:
the silence of linden trees
cars passing all day
It seems the poet is not so interested in following the standard format and writes haiku organically. This is commonly a sign of expertise.
Sonically, the L sounds carried throughout create a sense of softness. This reflects the silence well. The assonance of the A and E sounds also makes for a mellow reading.
With a combination of a meditative and melancholic feeling, this haiku brings us into a new state of mind that is once relatable and unfamiliar.
Painting by Philipp Franck, Avenue of Linden Trees