31 March 2013


I’m still waiting, two weeks post-planting, for my sweet peas and gladiolus to emerge.  I feel anxious and apprehensive every day as I enter the garden.  Is today the day?  Why haven’t they sprouted yet?  Am I watering enough?  Too little?  How are those seeds and bulbs doing down there, hidden under that dirt?    I gently remind myself that they know far more than I do about what’s happening in this small plot of ours.  I will try not to burden them or myself with too much expectation.

As of this afternoon, they still haven’t sprung through the soil.  But I did gather an early harvest from my garden today:  two slender stalks of asparagus which I’d planted last spring.  I’ve added them to the store-bought bunch I’m steaming for dinner tonight.  I’m certain that I’ll recognize my own, just as a mother can pick her child from the crowd.  I was a bit sad to cut them, afraid that perhaps these two spears would comprise the year’s yield.  Yet, as I knelt with my pruning shears in hand, I saw that more spiky tips had just barely broken through the soil.

As much as I’d like to claim their emergence as having something to do with me, I won’t.  I’d rather just revel in the mystery of it all:  how these plants just know; how they each do their thing silently, but brightly; and how grateful I am to witness, quietly, this spring.

08 March 2013

Linguistic Comforts

Last year for my birthday, I received a gift card for a bookstore.  After spending it in my mind a dozen or more times, I finally settled on Volume One of New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver.  I did this in spite of knowing that it was somewhat ludicrous to imagine even a reader like myself sitting down to read more than 250 pages of poetry.  I mean, who does that?  And so, recognizing the limits of time in the crazy-busy life of a full-time mother-wife-teacher-writer, I hatched a plan to read a poem a day.  Just one.  Each day.

Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s I started my daily poetry dose.  I flip to a random page, usually in the morning before the rest of the house is awake.  It’s just me and dear Mary, a fellow lover of words and nature.  Each poem, while chosen par hasard, speaks to me, symbolic somehow of each day’s specific challenges.  And that was before my challenges included words like carcinoma and recovery, choices like surgery or radiation, and an intimate knowledge of JP drains.

How fitting, on the day after my surgery, to read:

stroke by
stroke my
body remembers that life and cries for
the lost parts of itself -

Or to find this lesson as I was contemplating mortality - my own, specifically - and trying to cradle it in my palms without quaking:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

It isn’t surprising to me that words should and do provide comfort - we’re wired for this a linguistic and social species.  But what has been a blessing, each and every day, is to find meaning and connection and universality in each poem.  What a gift it has been to myself and my own sanity to feel the imprint of this voice upon my very soul.