April 2018

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Lucky to be alive!

Today, Seattle is beautifully Spring. It is sunny. The birds are cheerful, and so am I. More often in Spring, Seattle is grey and rainy with the crocuses and daffodils poking cheerfully into the gloom, mocking its seriousness.

But today, there are no clouds. There is no gloom. Today is the day that Perry Como sang about:

"The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle 
And the hills the greenest green, in Seattle…."

It seems to me that Spring is the time for poetry, for its hope, its presence, its music. Though it's true that a lot of my favorite poets are more melancholy poets of autumn, Spring has its music, too. 

You may know that in front of our house, down by the sidewalk, is my Winged Words box, a poetry exchange for neighbors and other passers-by. This was my perfect 50th birthday gift from my partner, Ann. My friend Karen painted it with butterflies, a heron, and feathers, and my friend eL calls it "my flying box." I like that.

Yesterday, as Ann rounded the corner to our front steps, three African-American guys—young teenagers—sat on the steps. They seemed alarmed as she approached:

"Are we on your property, Ma'am?" one asked. 

She replied, "You're fine," and they relaxed.

"We're waiting for a friend," one said.

"While you're waiting, you can reach in that mailbox and pull out a poem if you want to."

One did, and he read the poem aloud to his friends on the steps. When he finished, one of his friends said, "I like that."

Who says my teaching career is over? It's just morphed and doesn't pay in money anymore.

For the past two lovely days, I have been quoting ee cummings: "How Lucky to be Alive while Spring is in the World!" Only Google doesn't think cummings—or anyone else—wrote that. So maybe you can attribute that one to me. 

cummings is my Spring poet. You may argue that Mary Oliver is a Spring poet with her wonder in nature, and I love Mary Oliver, but she has an older soul, like I do. 

cummings is a young soul, but he’s no babe in the woods, no naive lamb. I don’t know what this means, but I know that it is so. Sometimes he dips into the darkness, but mostly his poetry sings of the moment. I love this one:

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for eachother: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Maybe my man Walt Whitman is a Spring poet, too. Like cummings, he is no babe in the woods--after all he was an ambulance driver in the Civil War and saw too much death--but his spirit is of Spring. What does that mean exactly? He studies the grass and learns from a child, and what he learns is that "Death is different / Than anyone supposed--And luckier." (At least that's how I remember itI'd recommend that you check any quotations from me, as they're often how I remember them and maybe not how they are.) And this from Whitman's young spirit, too :

These I singing in spring collect for lovers,
(For who but I should understand lovers and all their sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?)
Collecting I traverse the garden the world, but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side, now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences where the old stones thrown there,
pick'd from the fields, have accumulated,
(Wild-flowers and vines and weeds come up through the stones and
partly cover them, beyond these I pass,)
Far, far in the forest, or sauntering later in summer, before I
think where I go,
Solitary, smelling the earthy smell, stopping now and then in the silence,
Alone I had thought, yet soon a troop gathers around me,
Some walk by my side and some behind, and some embrace my arms or neck,
They the spirits of dear friends dead or alive, thicker they come, a
great crowd, and I in the middle,
Collecting, dispensing, singing, there I wander with them,
Plucking something for tokens, tossing toward whoever is near me,
Here, lilac, with a branch of pine,
Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I pull'd off a live-oak in
Florida as it hung trailing down,
Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage,
And here what I now draw from the water, wading in the pondside,
(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me, and returns again
never to separate from me,
And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades, this
calamus-root shall,
Interchange it youths with each other! let none render it back!)
And twigs of maple and a bunch of wild orange and chestnut,
And stems of currants and plum-blows, and the aromatic cedar,
These I compass'd around by a thick cloud of spirits,
Wandering, point to or touch as I pass, or throw them loosely from me,
Indicating to each one what he shall have, giving something to each;
But what I drew from the water by the pond-side, that I reserve,
I will give of it, but only to them that love as I myself am capable
of loving.

I am an old soul. You may have guessed that. I'm not sure what that means, but I know that it is so. My mom said so. Also, I'm a Pisces, born at the end of the astrological chart, I hear. Lao Tzu (who was born old) and John Keats ("Ode to Autumn" is my favorite), and Mary Oliver (Check out "Wild Geese") are my soul mates. 

And yet, we old folks love to sit on the bank in the shade with our dark black fit-overs protecting our eyes from the sun and to watch the young ones water skiing in the sound, like my grandmother and her siblings did each summer at the North Carolina beach. 

Sometimes they would eat watermelon, and I imagine that they would taste in its sweetness the yelping joy of spring and all that is young. I don't think they had seed-spitting contests, though. That would have been improper. 


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