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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

National Poetry Month, and so what?

via Academy of American Poets

It’s no secret that I adore National Poetry Month. For one entire month, I’m not a nerd: I’m in tune! I can post poetry to my FB. I can talk poetry to strangers. I can confess I love it!

This is no small thing, as you probably guessed. ;)

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So… Why is poetry a big deal to me? What does it have to do w/ beginner’s heart, and why should you — why should all of us — care?

Poetry is the language of the heart. I firmly believe that. When even the least publicly poetic of us hurt, suffer loss, are in love…we turn to poetry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to write a poem for someone’s funeral, for a grieving friend. It’s a natural language — mother tongue — for children, who often scribble poems for any occasion. No self-consciousness, just a happy sharing.

As we ‘grow up’ this changes. We no longer hand our poetic offerings to any & all. We may admit to liking lyrics (just poetry set to music, quite often), but we don’t ‘read poetry.’

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But I do. And I always have. As a little kid, I submitted my poems to a children’s magazine of the times. Each month, I would turn to the Table of Contents to see if I’d been published. But I also wanted to read what the other kids were saying. Because even the lightest of ‘verse’ has meaning, and gives us a window into someone else.

via google

via google

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As for what poetry has to do w/ beginner’s heart…? Everything, for me. Reading the poem of a refugee, an ageing man, a child confronting loss, a black woman struggling to stand tall against racism & sexism… These all stretch me. I’m none of the above, but through a poem — and for me, poetry works better than fiction — I catch a true glimpse, it feels like. My poetry mentors are rarely ‘like me': they’re a black man, a gay white man, a gay Englishman, several black women, 2-3 Poles (both men & women), long-dead Chinese poets… The list is long and as colourful as the words in a good poem.

For the rest of the month, I’m going to include — at least now & then — a link to a poem I love, that I hope you’ll love, as well. Try it — the worst that will happen is you’ll like it. And have to live for this one month, every year.

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In a Station of the Metro (Ezra Pound, 1885-1972)

The apparition of these faces in the crowd

Petals on a wet, black bough


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farmers’ market, family, and magic

the author's

the author’s

Today was the FIRST DAY of Farmers Market! Always a kind of holiday for me: the return of a Saturday ritual. I get up, throw on clothes, hop in my car, and drive to midtown. I don’t worry about my hair, or what I wear, knowing that although I’m sure to see someone I know (and I did :) ), the kind of people who go to Market don’t care. Me either.

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My ‘baby’ sister joined me today. We walked up & down the closed-off street, where stalls of pea shoots, mint, bronze fennel, & lavender jostled w/ green onions, berry tarts, local honey, and fresh-baked bread. After we’d thoroughly exhausted the various offerings, we bought coffee and sat down.

Something almost magic there is about a crisp spring day (it went from 36° to 48° in the space of an hour), hot drinks, and the braiding of those conversational ribbons that women have done for centuries. We watched little girls in hand-knit tutus & elf hats dance to the fiddler. Despite the no-dogs rule, a brown lab & a small terrier mix walked w/ their families. And through it all, my sister & I caught up.

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I told her about pea shoots. She told me how her classes are going. I processed my beloved’s health; she processed her responsibilities (are these something I need to worry about?). And we sipped latte & café con leche, happy to be outside, at the Market, together.

I came home w/ a couple of bags full of plants to set out today, as well as mint & pea shoots. I also came home w/ a full heart, lifted from its winter doldrums and quite ready to begin this new season fresh & happy. It’s the best possible product from the farmers’ market, and the one thing you can’t buy.

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inside/outside: it’s that ageing thing, again

glen & britt late 70s

the author’s

 

When I was about the age of the picture, I asked my grandmother (who was probably 10 years older than I am now) how it felt to get old.  She laughed ruefully & shook her head. I look in the mirror, and I wonder: who’s that old lady?? I don’t feel old on the inside.

Me either. I feel far closer to the age of the picture than I do to my grandmother’s age then! And when I look at my beloved, this is who I still see.

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Today we looked at cars. Our elder son wants the hybrid hatchback we currently own. And my beloved — who has been a car freak since he picked me up for our first date in a well-cared-for Mustang convertible — wants a nicer car. He apologised for still being a gear head. Why is that something to apologise for? I asked. Some things really don’t change. On the inside, at least…

via pixabay

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On the inside, he & I are still this young couple — newly married, getting ready to go 1/2 way around the world to live. A pattern we’d repeat again later, w/ our first son in tow. Loving to see new places hasn’t changed, even if we now have to consider more physical limitations. Like remembering good walking shoes & reading glasses. :)

So much of life is like this. What things look like on the surface is rarely the whole story. And yet we judge each other on these superficialities: race, gender, age, ethnicity & dress. Things that are only a part (& sometimes a verrry small part, in the case of dress, for instance) of who we are.

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My beginner’s heart is tickled that my husband is still the gear head he’s always been — just an older version of the kid who restored an old convertible to cherry condition. The guy who always drove a car he loved, or at least a motorcycle. Greying hair and reading glasses are no more who he really is than my work clothes make me a ‘real’ grown-up.

So I’m working (again) to remember when I meet people to smile, say Hello! and let them be whomever they like. The inside heart of you is, often, the best of you. I, for one, am not only going to try to coax others to share: I’m going to try to share my own girl on a porch swing, dreaming. She’s still alive & well, that girl. Some things really don’t change.

 

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the Zen of whatever

the author's

the author’s

I love to cook. At least most of the time. And when I’m happiest doing it — making something I like to eat, w/out a deadline or people I worry won’t like it — cooking feels much like meditation. So does gardening, or making tea. I’ve never gotten to where washing dishes does this for me (despite what the beloved Thích Nhất Hạnh says). I’m not good enough to make beauty out of chores. Although I’m hopeful…

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Laundry, for instance: not the Zen. Nor vacuuming, nor making the bed. But weeding can be, and certainly writing or working in my journal are.

There’s an underlying music to everyday life, a kind of almost-audible melody that takes over when I’m immersed in the now of the action. If it’s cooking, this often happens as I crush garlic, or when I dice onions. If I’m making tea? The laying of the cloth, the warming & filling of the pot — these become movements in some larger piece. Sometimes, I swear it sounds like Pythagoras’s music of the spheres.

the author's

the author’s

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I wish I could reach this state of mind more easily, and w/ forethought. For now, I’m happy when it finds me, as it did when I was making the marinade for chicken yesterday. Or even making a salad for lunch: what will I add? My mother’s salads were legendary. She added all kinds of things, but they were always wonderful. Radishes, cucumbers, green onions, shredded carrots. Lemon juice to brighten it all, paprika to add a fuller flavour. I try to follow her apron strings. :)

Whatever you do, if you do it with good intention and mindfulness, I think it becomes a kind of meditation. A way to tune in to this moment, this now. Even if it’s dicing green onions, or slicing lemons. Maybe especially lemons; they smell so good!

Seriously — what is it you love to do that absorbs you? What makes you happy in the simple doing? Next time you’re stressed? Make time for it. You (& everyone around you!) will be the happier for it.

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