Living in a Poem

Our hazy 80 degree Augtober days are coming to an end. The rains march inexorably closer, and will put out fires, clear the air, and bring… what, I don’t know.

Covid came to our house, an unwelcome stranger forcing its way in. I can’t say it’s gone for good. I escaped this time, though not unscathed; I am unsettled, looking over my shoulder. Some days I can only wonder what it’s all about, what just happened, where it’s going. Then I go outdoors to look around.

Naomi Shihab Nye says, “You are living in a poem.”

So I walk, this time in Elk Rock Garden, where plants are thirsty, the ground is cracked, the hillsides are strewn with dead branches. Even the moss is crinkly dry. Summer has faded here, autumn not quite stepped in, and I think about living in a poem.

Nye goes on, “When you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.”

Imagine. Perched on a quiet bench above the Willamette River, its surface smooth and green. Pale blue sky above, smoke in the distance. A murder of crows flies overhead, perhaps fifty of them, raucous and unsettled. They fly east over the river and disappear into the haze. The shriek of a distant freight train rolls across the water’s surface, up the hill, landing in your lap. A Bewick’s Wren sings with abandon from a hidden branch overhead. A slew of others, cedar waxwings, robins, golden crowned kinglets, nuthatches, juncos, flit among branches or graze in the meadow. You walk among yellowed oak leaves, the sound of autumn in their crunch. Spots of color catch your eye, pale crocuses, a lone lily ablaze, the wide winding river. Maybe that’s all there is, this moment, this poem.

Elk Rock Garden is a repeating poem – I’ve written about it in fall and other seasons, here, here, and here

4 thoughts on “Living in a Poem

  1. You slept in your clothes,
    Which is convenient since today is trash day.
    You make a tray of coffee, half and half and a buttered English muffin
    To take to your mother,
    Who yells down the stairwell,
    “Have you taken the trash out?
    It’s almost six.”

    You sweep leaves from the driveway
    To put in the green bin before it is light.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a year this has been. I especially love one of your last thoughts here: “maybe that’s all there is, this moment …” This is an idea finally sinking in for me, finally beginning to take hold as I consider my life. Everything eventually changes and all we can do is put one foot in front of the other (another quote of yours) and learn to appreciate where we are in any given moment. As for poetry, I love REST by Wendell Berry. Well, truth be told, I love so many things and maybe that itself is the gift*

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘That’s all there is’ is something I just have to come back to over and over. Like enlightenment. 🙂 And to quote the old Peggy Lee song, “If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing.” I can’t find that poem, you’ll have to send it to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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