Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Poetry Around Us

It's National Poetry Month, so naturally poetry has been on my mind.  It has sort of been falling into my lap recently, which is lovely and unexpected and a gift.

Yesterday I came across a story on NPR about a man who bicycles around town leaving handwritten poems for people.  A delivery service for poetry!  How wonderful!  Isn't that just the most beautiful simple thing?  Listen here, if you'd like.

Luckily, I have many people in my life who are readers and thinkers and poetry lovers, people who have a line at the ready when something is particularly perfect for the moment.  That's something I try, perhaps unsuccessfully, to pass on to my students -- the power of knowing poetry by heart.  A beautiful line can help usher in calm when the seas of anxiety threaten to drown.  It can remind me to breathe and find rhythm when my world feels off its axis.  Jane Kenyon urges us to keep good sentences in our ears. She is wise.  Often poetry rescues me from myself.

Last evening was perfect for a walk.  It had rained for the better part of the day, but by evening the sun emerged.  I love the smell of the woods after a fresh rain.  A friend I often ask too much of indulged me with an evening trail walk through the woods.  I'm always surprised by how much light there is in the darkness.  Even when it's cloudy and overcast, the moon spills through.  The gravel path was illuminated.  Silhouettes of deer against the backdrop of the glittering lake were poetry in their own rite.  On our walk, we crossed paths with a runner who stopped to warn us about some nudists he'd encountered up ahead.  He was so kind in his warning, describing the whole experience simply as startling.  It was hilarious. There's poetry in everything.

Later my friend shared Robert Bly's "Wanting Sumptuous Heavens," a poem I'd never heard.  Again, it is apt.  I am rarely the oyster, the lobster, or the heron.  I strive to control and shape my existence. The walk and the poem remind me that the world is beautiful and perfect and heavenly even, just as it is.  Perhaps it's time to worry less about what opposable thumbs allow me to do and practice more contentment with the small perfect miracles that can be found each day, if only I'm willing to look.

Wanting Sumptuous Heavens
by Robert Bly
No one grumbles among the oyster clans,
And lobsters play their bone guitars all summer.
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
There is no end to our grumbling; we want
Comfortable earth and sumptuous Heaven.
But the heron standing on one leg in the bog
Drinks his dark rum all day, and is content.

This is very much a time of transition for me.  I experience a host of emotions each day as I think about the next stage.  I look out my gorgeous wall of windows and see students gathered on the lush front lawn, pick-up games of frisbee forming organically. Students at random intervals sigh deeply and tell me they're going to miss me.  Former students, adults now, reach out to express their devastation that I'm leaving Roosevelt.  Even when it doesn't impact us, a disruption to our sense of comfort in things remaining as they've always been can be a bit of a jolt. Coworkers come to offer silent hugs.  I'm trying to take it all in, to fully appreciate the beauty of the many things I've taken for granted, they've been part of my landscape for so long: the speckled terrazzo floor, the richness of the wood that lines the halls, the sounds of chatter and friendly teasing and laughter that reverberate during passing period.  I'm being intentional about practicing gratitude and appreciation for each of my students, grateful for the ways in which they shape me.  It will be hard to leave such a beautiful place filled with so many beautiful people, but I'm trusting that, with time, I can be the heron and find comfort and beauty everywhere.

I came across Luci Shaw's "States of Being" and it brings solace and lessons, too.  I think it speaks to the cycles we experience, often in a day for me.  We can be all these things.

States of Being
Better to be soft as water,
easily troubled, with 
at least three modes
of being, able to shape-
shift, to mirror, to cleanse, 
to drift downstream,
to roar when he encounters
the rock.

This morning I am grateful for good friends and walks and truth, for the moon and the deer and poetry.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow and to take risks, even when its scary.  I don't know how the future will unfold, but I know that poetry will be there.

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