Wednesday 30 September 2020

Torild Wardenær: 'Velde', last section: 'Entelechy'










Entelechy, from the Greek: entelecheia, after Aristotle: 

1. The process whereby something realises its potential, or 

2. As a term for the actual end-product of a

     realisation process 






Oak[*]: Acorn


It is July 431 AD, and the bishops have convened in Ephesus.

They elevate the Virgin Mary to Theotokos, God-Bearer, and declare that

the divine and the human shall no longer be two dissimilar natures.

At the same time, and much farther north of this church council, an acorn

has taken root in the fertile East Norwegian soil-pockets. Where the forest-

clad range of hills stretches toward endless Svealand the tree will grow while

Emperor Xuanwu governs the northern Wei dynasty and the West Goths take

possession of Narbonne and Toulouse.





Oak: The World-Tree


In a region where only wind, distant cries and owls’ warning hoots are heard

the vigorous specimen of Quercus robur will stand for many centuries.

The tree is frequented by predatory birds, deer and bears. It is nourished by

strong roots and survives the cold fifth century, which was ravaged by the

Justinian Plague.

It grows slowly through the god-forsaken sixth century and into the dark

seventh. Sacrifice upon sacrifice are borne up to it while the Norse

alphabet, sign by sign, conjures up the world.

Towards new millennia cavities and habitats are formed for over a thousand

species of beetles, mites, birds and fungi. The tree gives shade and shelter to

animals and travellers, and no one shall take it yet – neither time, fire or axe.

So will the oak tree grow, in the east Norwegian forestlands, to Yggdrasil size.





Oak: Bark


And the world spreads out around the tree: King Valdemar takes King

Svein’s place, the battle of Grathe Heath ends, Queen Melisande of

Jerusalem dies, Damascus surrenders to Sultan Nur-ad-Din of Aleppo,

hurricanes hits settlements in Friesland and flood them, and the crusades

continue endlessly.

Up north, the winter cups a cold hand over extensive valleys and forests.

Women collect acorns in their aprons, grind them into flour and bake bread

for the dark months. They collect bark for wound compresses and decoctions

for illness, for in the most poverty-stricken houses phthisis and crisis

will soon claim lives and only God’s mercy and Queen Maria’s loving kindness

can shed light.





Oak: Crown


Trees upon trees have provided material for boats, weapons, houses and temples.

But the oak that is now to be handed over to the future assumes a different form.


A master lays out his irons: A V-shaped iron, a spoon-shaped curved iron,

a flat iron with a straight cutting edge, a spoon-shaped straight iron with a

bevelled cutting edge and many other good irons.


From the carefully selected material he shapes a Madonna with a low

crown of lilies and a falling cloak and for the madonna’s lap – a child.

The torso is carved, then the contours of the Infant Jesus, and finally the

head of the Virgin Mary. Large notches in the recalcitrant wood first, and after

that a face so mild that no one can doubt in the good from now on.


The finished sculpture is painted red, blue and yellow and placed to the right

of the chancel arch in the church, in view of all the paupers. They turn to the Virgin,

for their lives are hard and short-lived in the early twelfth century, and

they pray:

leys þú oss frá illu – deliver us from evil. 





Oak: Throne


Inside the dense timber: Wide growth rings from the warm summers,

invisible traces from bird’s beaks and beetles. All protected by the tannin

that has preserved the oak into this millennium, into the museum of antiquities.


’C.7490 Virgin Mary with child from Enebakk church, belonging to the

category Sedes Sapientia, throne of wisdom. Dating: c. 1230–1250.

Material: oak, painted with  tempera and chalk priming, but all paint

now disappeared, except for a little red on the inside of the cloak.’


The sculpture has no right arm. The hand probably held a sceptre of lilies,

the flower of innocence. The arm possible broke off shortly after the

Reformation, lay together with the sculpture, but separate, forgotten

in a church attic for the next few centuries, before disappearing and

shifting into a different orbit.

The lost arm with the sceptre of lilies must now be in the same orbit as

the unknown master who created it. In the same orbit as the good

irons in the skin bag, in the same orbit as the votive offerings brought

up to the immortal oak, in the same orbit as the prayers the paupers uttered

in the murky church, where the queen of heaven, sitting on the

throne of wisdom, gleamed as powerfully as the light, the light that allows

everything to be.





Madrone[†]: Bones, birds, trees


Dressed in the uniform against death:

skin on top of skin, the leather jacket,

the woollen sweater with holes in it, carded and knitted,

the linen skirt that falls so heavily from the waist.


The boots, with their tough uppers,

protecting my hidden bones:

the ankle bone, the heel bone, the scaphoid bone,

the fourteen phalanges inside the toes.


I walk along the paths, among shadows,

suitably dressed in the uniform against death,

and the Californian forests sough, indulgently.


In the red branchwork of the madrone trees

the spirits of the Miwok Indians are roosting, 

camouflaged as birds.

Everything looks as if it is earthbound,

but is probably supernal: bones, birds, trees.





Scots Pine[‡]: Alliance


We lean up against the trunk, claim that by standing like this we will be hardened

by resin and bark, and that we, like the birds,

will therefore also be able to become thick-skinned against death, courageous in life.

But soon, as expected, we start to fear, err and doubt.

Is our bold assertion to be trusted?


The tree has six thick boughs that form a crown, five fixed stars

above it, and on the hottest summer days: a cool Mediterranean-like

shadow under it.


We take all this into consideration, come to our senses.

Collect our scrap of remaining courage, lean up against the trunk once more,

and the pine bids us understand that from now on we, together with it,

the birds and the five stars, already form a perfect alliance.





Downy Birch[§]: Violet


We ask again, inquisitorially: Where are the dead?

No one answers, as expected, and we have no good enough definition of life,

no fundamental theory about nature. But just hereabouts trees have

grown and fallen, lightning has zigzagged over birches, bogs, moths,

eggs and blood.

A poor person has leant against a long-since ploughed-in tree,

dogs have dragged themselves along the roads, children have slept beneath the

returning light of the moon, and the moon has blocked out the sun

again and again.

No one saw the gleam from Sirius the winter’s night some travellers

gathered round a bonfire. A knife was unsheathed, a young woman struggled

an old woman mumbled, in a different language, names of healing herbs:

Affenblume, Milchstern, Ochsenherz and Götterduft.

(Maidenwort, Star of Bethlehem, Bullock’s Heart and Pink Fountain)


It is possible that the universe has existed since eternity and that

eternity has existed for all eternity.

The atoms move as far as we know, they manifest themselves elsewhere,

unsentimentally, so we pluck up courage,

see that the birches are standing close to us,

lightly camouflaged, like young warriors in a slender, pastel-coloured phalanx.


Around us it is half-light and hard times, and they stand together, are without

weapons, but they intertwine their branches until they form a matted violet script,

a crown of strange, obscure dicipherable signs, but

they hold out their leafless crowns, offer violet upon violet for us to make out.





Paper Birch[**]: ‘I have wasted my life’


For miles around black spruce, white spruce and balsam fir stand.

In the undergrowth beaked hazel and mulberry grow, all of them so green

among the light trunks of the paper birches. They stretch in a wide belt

across the northern continent, and quietly give me permission to harvest some

fine pieces of bark from them.


I place seven of them out to dry in a shady spot. The thin, writable

sheets with their caramel sheen curl into silk-like rolls, and I

write a quotation from James Wright on one of them: ‘I have wasted my life.’

But I do not really mean this, do so more as a penance for poetry,

which once seized hold of my life, and since then has left me possessed.


I let the first sheet float off down the wide St. Lawrence River,

the river that divides two countries.





Paper Birch: The bitter logic


I follow instructions on the Internet, make an origami box of thin

cellulose. On the next sheet of paper birch I write: ‘The bitter logic’,

place it in the box and give it to L, say he can do whatever he wants

with it.


L takes the sheet of bark back to the forest and glues it with wood glue to

the trunk of a fifty-year-old paper birch. He makes no further comment, but

says that he first ate a piece of the bark out of sheer solidarity with

the tree, and that it tasted, precisely, bitter.

His almond-shaped eyes make me want to write one love poem

after the other. All of them were to deal with the power of good deeds, and

with revering humans and insects, birds and trees.





Paper Birch:      The heart

                            in its lonely, lonely 



The heart

in its lonely, lonely



is what I write on the third sheet, and give it to I, say she can do

whatever she wants with it. She knows at once what she is to do, and goes

off to the graveyard, the one sloping down towards the north side of

Mosvatnet Lake, where the trees each evening throughout the winter receive

the great crow migration.

She places the bark on the grave. Then she writes about the dear, dead

female friend, that it is as if she

‘…lay asleep, an interminably long time and interminably lonely

down in the grave, outside the world, but that poetry (…)

even so could reach her, was the only thing that could do so,

and comfort her.’


I admit she both knows and does not know if this is possible.

But in the tops of the tall trees at Mosvatnet Lake the birds caw,

in unison and knowingly.

And in the Canadian forests all the paper birches, every single one,

are at the same moment transformed into antennae.





Paper Birch: The neural circuits are still crackling


I give the fourth sheet to T and say she can do whatever she wants with it.

It is left lying for a long time in a room with low afternoon sun. From time

to time picks up the bark, reads what is written there: ‘The neural circuits

are still crackling’, and thinks she must do something else than just sit with it

like that.

But the demanding text I have written on the sheet causes her to fall asleep

with it in her lap. When she wakes up, she hopes that after Easter something

will announce itself. But after Easter the afternoon sun has become even warmer,

and T is on the barricades day out and day in, and once more she has to sleep

on the green sofa. When she wakes up, she places the sheet in a drawer, and knows

that the paper birches in Saskatchewan will nevertheless remain silent, approvingly.





Paper Birch: Alphabet for the dead ... a ? n x l © μ, e, °F 


The fifth sheet is exquisite, with several layers of cohesive gossamer-thin bark,

shaped almost like a little book.

I write an alphabet for the dead on page 1 and give it to R,

say he can do whatever he wants with it.

Ha, dead!

What sort of a misconception is that?


R spends some time with the alphabet, especially the sign for Fahrenheit

and the letter x, but refuses to be influenced. He cycles off in the rain

with the sheet of paper birch in his backpack, runs down the slopes at forty

kilometres an hour while making some bold lines of connection

between the fourth industrial revolution and his next art project.

Before he arrives home, he has eliminated death as an option, and thereby

wiped out any alphabet for the dead. And the bark is left at the bottom

of his backpack, literally pulverised

under a bottle of champagne

and a water melon.





Paper Birch: The moon, at its apogee at the time of writing,

farthest from the earth 


’The moon, at its apogee at the time of writing, farthest from the earth’

is what I have written on the sixth sheet of Betula papyrifera.

I give it to B one evening with a full moon, say she can do whatever she 

wants with it. But B does not reveal what she will do, goes off stag-hunting

and is away for a long time.


And the moon moves to its apogee and perigee time and time again.

Perhaps the paper birch sheet has been burnt or thrown away, or B may have plans

to do something ceremonial with it when the moon, not until March next year, is

at its perigee – closest to the earth, and at that time, on top of everything,

will also have super-moon status.

But this is nothing more than a guess. Perhaps the sheet has simply been lost

or forgotten, and that it thereby now finds itself in the same circulation as

other objects, actions, thoughts and memories that are never made known.

And along with tons of berries, ripened in the forests, shed antlers of

cloven-footed animals, countless bird skeletons, and the almost invisible traces

of the threatened small dormouse, all this will remain lonely universes.


Even so there is much that a vanished sheet of paper birch can accomplish.

It changes into atoms that are not lost in the great circuit, and

the earth continues to spin undaunted on its axis, the moon rolls above us

like a demented satellite, near and far, far and near.





Paper Birch: There are still openings into the third millennium 


I write, resignedly and with reservations, on the last and seventh sheet:

‘There are still openings into the third millennium,’ and give it to A,

say that she can do whatever she wants with it.


She tears it into thin strips, but lets all of them remain part of

the piece of bark, so that they form a tangled vase. The sheet is thereby

transformed into a light, voluminous sculpture, with the text running

intact out along one of the strips.


A arranges this bark sculpture in various tableaus.

With each tableau she places physical objects which she calls ‘the helpers’.

She photographs them, and in the first picture some verdigris-green frog figures

can be seen, the bark encircles them like a dense hedge. What are they

doing there in the middle of the paper birch architecture? The frogs hold empty jars

in their amphibious fingers, are changed from a threatened species into

anthropomorphic doorkeepers at the openings into the third millennium,

‘a mysterious future,’ A says.

Here and there the strip of text winds into a conch, as if it is

searching for the sound of the sea. In another picture the butterfly-like

leaves from Oxalis triangularis are hovering over stripped sheet of

paper birch.

A orders and moves around the helpers: frogs, leaves and conch, and

she does so with the underlying seriousness characteristic of all playfulness.


At the same time the paper birches stand in a broad belt across the northern


They stand, trunk next to trunk, form an army and shed leaves and bark so

that water and earth and air and fire will be able to convert fibres and sap, and

so that the future will be able to continue – and let this be clear, for

evolution has shown us this: Solvitur ambulando, everything is solved by motion. 





Password III


Particles fall from the galaxies, and crackling comes from the star

as from the sound track of an old science-fiction film.


We believe this – just as the creationists believe, simply and naively, but

we are soon forced into sobriety, to concede that we do not know for sure

if the stars can crackle, and if at some point a spark will be able

to form from this improbable friction. If the spark will be able to ignite

words, and if words will be able to transport the small light, preferably to

where we now find ourselves. If this light will be able to pass on its gleam,

to the world itself. If the world, animated, such as we, child-like, hope it is, will

thereby be able to see us, and also light us up faintly, till we become visible.


For we do not know if the trusty chlorophyll will reach us in time, conjure up

life once more. If the birds will see us again. If the beloved trees or the

inarticulate lake or the unexpectant shiny mountain will look after us,

and not find fault with us. If the iris will be able to stay green in colour

for some time still from having so profoundly been recognised by spring.

And if our hands, lashed to the mast of time, will be released.


[*] Quercus robur

[†] Arbutus Menziesii

[‡] Pinus silvestris

[§] Betula pubescens

[**] Betula papyrifera

No comments: