“Poetry is the beauty between the lines that we can only feel but never really explain.”
~ Irish poet Michael Hickey.
I’ve been feeling like a frayed rope, strands flying loose, each ending with a question mark or beginning with ‘complete this sentence.’ I’m strong at my core, crystalline & heart-centered. I know what I’m good at. And yet, those bedeviling threads.
Then last night the strangest thing happened.
I’d received unsettling news about work. Anxious, I jumped to what does this mean for me, I need to make a plan, solve it now. I need answers! Truth. I saw myself jangling and I didn’t have what I needed to comfort myself. That’s when the angels stepped in with an intervention. Really.
A cloud of peace & calm enveloped and filled me. I heard a voice say ‘It’s gonna be alright.” I didn’t try to figure it out. It was so palpable, I could only observe with wonder the feeling and the smile on my face that lingered so easily & sweetly. Feeling no hurry or stress, only gently whole. Wow, Thank You my only prayer. It lasted 30 minutes.
This morning familiar anxiety hovered at the edges of my Being. You know the feeling, right? I thought about the stories I’ve been telling myself. How they’ve been isolated, singular, like the wild threads of the frayed rope. And I realized I missed how the threads have been bundling. Not as fast as I like, or in a way that’s clear to me yet, and still, bundling. I considered it might be time I do what I guide others to do: Follow the story. Trust.
A few weeks ago I wrote how life is full of found poems. I knew I’d been living this perspective for years. In fact, my found poems were the core of the poem I wrote that was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I wondered, though, if anyone who isn’t a writer read that blog.
For most folks, poem means written verse that includes meter, images, stanzaic structure, metaphor, symbols, words carefully arranged and chosen for their sound or beauty. And yet, at its heart, a poem is something that stirs the imagination, thoughts, and/or emotions of the viewer. Something that awakens memory, or feelings of awe & wonder. Life and the world around us is full of them when we think this way.
For me, it’s observing with an awareness so we see with new eyes. Or so something’s awakened inside us that shifts or transforms us in some way.
This week it was robins in my yard. There were eight. Tho I’m told they visit other people, these were the first I’ve seen in New Mexico the entire 25 years I’ve lived and sojourned here. And there were 8! They reminded me of my Asheville home, the one I designed. I’d been pining for the Appalachians lately, too. (weird, as I couldn’t wait to leave all that capital G Green) Watching those robins walk, punctuated with a pause every few steps (step-step-step-step-stop), I remembered the phalanx of 15 I saw hop into my yard one day from the trees on the left. Once in the yard, they turned in tandem, faced the house, and hopped forward together in a line, stopping 7 ft. from the picture window where I stood. They stared up at the house for minutes. An extraordinary moment that left me wide-eyed, hunting for meaning.
…the ordinary is what the extraordinary yearns to be. ~ Bayo Akomolafe
Days before my NM robin gang appeared, I’d seen author Richard Powers speak about his journey writing ‘The Overstory,’ how it changed his life (his words). It started with a walk thru the redwoods in the hills above Palo Alto, CA when he came upon a massive giant unlike any around it. Surrounding it were second growth trees, and this one lone tree had somehow miraculously escaped the chainsaws. It was as wide as the middle section of the theatre, he said. 12 theatre seats wide. Rising straight up-up-up to the sky beyond what he could see. It is a 1200 year old tree! He was gobsmacked in awe.
He crossed the country to the Great Smokies National Park to walk in one of the few remaining old growth forests on the planet. This was where he pulled me in.
He could feel the moment he stepped from second growth forest to old growth. The sounds and light and air are different. The ground and understory are different. The sensations run deeper, there among those ancient trees of the eastern tribes – birch, poplar, hickory, sourwood, oak, maple. In my mind they became people. And I thought of the pictures I’d seen of the American Chestnuts before the blight wiped them out in the 1940s & early 50s. And how I felt deep within me the land, the bones on the savannah, the voice of the breeze in Africa. I wanted to leave immediately, walk that forest in the Great Smokies. I felt chastened I’d not done it while I lived so close for 15 years, in Asheville.
The next morning the two great oaks in my Asheville yard visited me. One in front I called Grandmother oak, and one in back I called Grandfather oak. I felt again the shock I experienced when I saw the new owners had cut Grandmother down. I realized what I hadn’t before – the shock was of memory. The shade that tree gave, the way the light filtered thru, the color of the air under it. Seeing the daddy bluebird sit on a limb year after year above the house where his little family grew. How I watched cicadas fly like tiny birds in bee-lines under the canopy the year they rose from their 17-year sleep. The shock of seeing that tree gone was the flood of all that. I realized, too, that in the shock, I forgot to see if the bluebird house still stood.
That 1,200 year old giant sequoia is a poem. Richard Powers’ journey was a found poem, and the robins in my yard. And all the memory they sparked. Because found poems are the things that arouse connection within and between us. We don’t have to write them down. We just need to be present.
Richard Powers ended with this: “We can’t tell the story of us humans without telling the story of place. There has to be a change in the way we look at things that are not us.” Look. Find the poems.
Getting to Wise. A Writer’s Life.
The photo at the top of the page was taken at St. John’s College (Santa Fe, New Mexico). When I see it, my heart travels to Taiwan, bending to the water with my then tiny grandson to feed the fish.
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