More foxtails on the run,
less contrails blocking the sun.
More stars brighter in the sky,
less cars passing by.
More community chipping in,
less immunity near friend and kin.
More recipes than able cooks,
less crime and story-book crooks.
More coffee at home to taste,
less plastic cups go to waste.
~ ~ ~
Less junkmail, and trips to the mall,
more dog walks and real phone calls.
Less to complain about “before,”
more consideration at our core.
Less of what others perceive,
more of what we actually need.
Less noise and throwing stones,
more of stardust in our bones.
Less contrails blocking the sun,
more foxtails on the run.
April is Poetry Month, and for this I am always grateful, but especially during isolation. Poetry and art connect and converse soul to soul to soul. It is the language that I turn to try to understand our human-ness in relation to all of nature. It has been said (by A. O. Scott, and I paraphrase) that poetry and all forms of art “Shows us something we didn’t know we needed to (hear and) see.” It is also an antidote to political-speak.
The New York Times (thankfully) prints a poem by a published poet every week in their Magazine section, and each poem is chosen by a national or regional poet laureate. The poem sits quietly but squarely between pages of recipes, science articles, ethical questions, current events and the renowned crossword puzzle. I do not enjoy every poem, however the ones that speak to me inspire and ignite my own writing and kindle awe.
The poem Songs and Stones by Jacqueline Saphra was published on October 27, 2019 and chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye, the 2019-21 Young People’s Poet Laureate of the Poetry Foundation, Chicago.
Songs and Stones
by Jacqueline Saphra
This head is heavy
with irreconcilable weights.
These worlds: how to balance
the scales, how to bear the ache.
Love stuns and buds in the bone,
terrors rattle the skull.
Sleep flickers and lifts the lids.
This neck is a buckled pillar.
~ From one eye, tears of rage;
from the other, tears of blessing.
These sobs are stones,
these sobs are songs.
How do I free these oppositions
from my throat?
I no longer know which one
is making it so hard to swallow.
It has been bothering me that this disruption/virus, is a direct result of our disregard and abuse of nature as suggested by Jane Goodall, and unlike Jane, I feel that it’s too late for us to correct our thinking and therefore actions. It depressed me quite a bit, because as contrasted with Ms. Goodall, a true hero and prophet, I am giving up hope on our species ever co-creating with Nature rather than trying to dominate and bully our natural order into submission. Instead of using our native abilities for intelligent and sensitive stewardship, we have abandoned this goal and work for the most part. Thus, we are now dealing with the virus, severe weather and other global dissonance. Quite heartbreaking.
And then I get a message, as I usually do (when paying attention from the Universe), in some form or another. Words resonate with me and often fly in middle of the night these days. On Facebook, a post comes through my feed from Empath Connection which I usually gloss over. This message came in the form of questions and answers from a Native American Elder and is restoring my faith and hope:
“Grandma, how can I live this quarantine?”
“My daughter, quarantine is a special mysterious and sacred period. In my days, newborn children could only leave the house for the first time after their 40th day of life. It is a period of waiting and preparing for a new life. It is the period that produces a great change.”
“And how do you prepare for this change?”
“With simple, genuine and loving actions. Every morning comb your long hair with dedication and untie all the knots, even the most hidden ones that you have always neglected…” [I am shortening/skipping more here to get to the point that really speaks to me].
“Grandmother, I’m afraid that after this isolation nothing will change. Man quickly forgets…” [sic].
“How others react to this quarantine is none of your business. Make a commitment to change and not forget. Make sure this storm shakes you up so much that it completely revolutionizes your life.”
—Elena Bernabe, Indigenous Peoples cultures, April 2020
~ ~ ~
Thank you Elena Bernabe and Jane Goodall for another description of
The Hero’s Journey
I enjoy working with palimpsest poems. Yesterday’s blog was an oldie updated for the current times.
As I was sitting down to breakfast afterward, my muse beckoned, “Write this down.” I said, “Now? The toast is going to burn.” She said, “I don’t have all day—do you want to do this or not?” And with a long sigh, I pushed aside my morning repast, because when the muse calls, it’s always now or never. Elizabeth Gilbert writes about this in her book, Big Magic. The stories of creatives sparring with their muses are sweet, funny and real.
So I am offering another palimpsest written with my muse. By way of explanation, when in that creative flow, music, paint and words come pouring out faster than one can comfortably record. There is little editing to do, and Awe wraps an arm around your shoulder or slaps you a high five when finished. At all other times, the writing/creating ranges from labor intensive to procrastive dawdling. This is why all artists, writers, musicians etc. immediately answer the call when a muse invites.
For Earth Day and all days: Let Spring Breeze: Another palimpsest on the poem Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon. And if you have not read Jane’s original poem—you should. It’s cadence and message are inviting, soothing and moving. Google it and choose The Poetry Foundation’s link to it.
Let Spring Breeze
Let the tart of rhubarb
tongue the sweet of strawberry, moving
from fingers down to belly.
Let the asparagus thrust forth
as a young suitor who begins courting
his heartthrob. Let Spring breeze.
Let the Crabapple buds unfurl
to the soft sun spray. Let pink pink
and streams swell over stone and silence.
Let fox cubs chase and tumble.
Let dandelions interrupt. Let the light
storm shades. Let Spring breeze.
To the worm in the compost, to the robin
on her nest, to the lilac in our lungs,
Let Spring breeze.
Let it come, as it will, and give
thanks. Not for Winter’s end,
but for what’s to begin. Let Spring breeze.
(Palimpsest: a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been expunged to make room for later writing but of which traces remain; using the bones of the original writing as the basis and springboard for the new piece).
In this version, I slightly altered my original palimpsest/poem to align more with current events:
Let Chaos Be
Let tongues wag 140
characters on Twitter feeds,
#hashtag words rife knife.
Let emotions loose
like mice in a field with summer
on their feet. Let chaos be.
Let red and blue placards sprout from neighbors’ lawns. Let fake news
rupture the resounding silence.
Let traffic halt. Let deer graze.
Let great trees fall apart.
Let chaos be.
To the microphones on podiums,
to science debates, to viral statistics
let chaos be.
Let it be, as it explodes. Fear not.
The pandemic is here to correct
our naiveté, so let chaos be.
A bouquet is defined as an arrangement of flowers. Often given as a gift or carried by a bride on her wedding day, a bouquet has come to signify thoughtfulness and beauty in one form or another. Bouquets tender our souls and our spirit and come in all forms and sizes. I would suggest that bouquets also come in any form of kindness or tenderness when flowers are unavailable.
Yesterday, and on other days when completely isolated, I received phone calls from friends just at the right time when I needed some comfort. Their voices carried caring, solace and laughter—bouquets of kindness. I would posit that holding a hand, hugs, smiles, a soft or strong shoulder, a listening ear, and withholding judgement to name a few are also gifts of bouquets during difficult times.
Last night I received via text, a photo of a few wood violets with the words: “This reminded me of you.” A very simple and thoughtful bouquet that lifted my spirit and quelled loneliness.
There are heroes on the front lines in hospitals and behind cash registers in grocery stores and others delivering mail etc. who are deservedly getting accolades and attention for their service and sense of responsibility. However, it’s easy to forget at such a dramatic and chaotic time, that small bouquets of concern and virtual hand-holding can and do ripple into rivers of kindness and grace for all.
Looking at my calendar, (an old fashion desk calendar with photos and sayings), there are many events cancelled—my 50th high school reunion is a big one that was supposed to come up this month. It’s been moved to October. Birthdays and anniversaries are acknowledged, albeit in a more subdued manner; a book club meeting lost in space and sundry other to-be occasions never even recorded. However, I find myself marking in the (mostly) little stuff like COVID-19 isolation begins; my last food shopping trip; tree smashes car; Lucy calls to check in with me; Barbara texts hello; Carol from Maine and I reconnect and chat. Last I spoke to her and saw her was on a serene lake in Maine three almost four years ago; Mary is sending videos of groundbreaking but never acknowledged female artists; and Roger from grammar school posts a video of a virtual road ride through Branch Brook Park showcasing its Cherry Tree blossoms in all their splendor—all the more magnificent due to the road minus tourist traffic. This Sunday park drive brought to the forefront shared childhood memories and reacquaintance. Rather small recordings in our pre-pandemic world, yet significant post-pandemic and isolating in place. Also recorded: my first Zoom meeting with a bunch of right-brain fun and creative artists of a certain age trying on the look of “computer-savy;” my first self-haircut along with a tornado watch and sad passings of friends’ loved ones. All in a three week period that feels like a lifetime. Time is fluid now.
I want to remember the significant insignificant details which usually float into the ether except for this journaling and some Facebook posts. Life is in the details and paying attention takes time and silence. For these moments of remembrance and connection—I am grateful.
Sad news abounds. Death is close and remote at the same time. I now know of three deaths of the siblings of friends. There will be more. Communities grieve for the larger loss. Handshakes and hugs are bygone. Tears flow, and for this I am grateful. When Death and its companion Grief, visit—I turn to the wisdom and sage counsel of poets and prophets. Kahlil Gibran is always a comfort. His healing words from The Prophet::
“Then Almitra spoke, saying, We would ask now of Death.
“And he said:
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun?
“And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its relentless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
“And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.
“And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
Gibran is asking us to understand this both metaphorically which applies to life and physically for those called to death.