Tuesday, May 17, 2016

From Venus Until Galaxies

Not yet a year after I learned to form letters
In the wide glowing green of an evening backyard
The apple trees whispered to me
"Wake up"

"Sit still, little soul, and see"
"Rest from your play, learn to love awe, wonder at being"
It was then that I found my spirit didn't fit
Came squeezing out my eyes
And grasping for a something to catch it
I picked up a pencil and laid it in a notebook
"The apple trees are beautiful," I wrote
And it was enough

In seventh grade I stole the barstools from the kitchen
And draped them with a blanket so I could sit for hours
Beside my bedroom window after dark
Because there were stars beyond the apple trees
Because the stars and the trees and the mystery whispered
"Wake up"

There was a solitary tree in the plaza in the city
Bricked in it stood grieving beneath my dormitory window
Too burdened to whisper under the orange glow of city night
With ceaseless sirens and never a star

Sometimes the hills of Massachusetts whispered
Once in the fall the yellow leaves lifted my feet and my spirit
Down a settler's stone path to the ocean's edge
And the wide bright sky on the wide blue waves
Held my breath
And whispered, "Wake up"

In the irony of motherhood I never slept
And yet I slept for nearly a decade
Slept in the necessity, in the doctors and the dishes
In keeping everyone alive

Once in every while, usually with a child strapped on
I walked away alone and listened
Listened to the willows weeping where they stood
Sentenced to adorn retention ponds in the stifling suburbs
Listened to the endless cornfields ripple in the Iowa desert
And nearly screamed at the silent, treeless yard of the subdivision
Where no amount of fertilizer could make that green grass live

When my soul was nearly deaf from silence
We moved beneath five ancient battered pines
Beneath an ivy-drenched elm and an ash that had been lost to beetles
After a century of shading a farmhouse that barely remembered it used to be white
They solemnly watched a horizon where fireflies blinked
Where the sun always called to me as it left each day
"Wake up"

"Sit still, weary soul, and see"
"Love awe, and wonder, and being"
Until I gasped and breathed
Until I felt my soul couldn't fit
Until I found a paper to lay it in again

I rested there
Rocked my last baby long after he was asleep
From Venus until galaxies
Humming, thanking, grieving, writing

The pines turned their backs to hide their grief
When I left that porch
Left it for necessity
For a better place to do laundry and dishes
And keep everyone alive
"I can't see the sunsets here," I said
And my husband sighed
Because he's not the type to talk to pines

Sometime in the winter I stopped at the sink
Noticed the frozen branches of the plain maple against the sky
And marveled how the pattern differed from the oak peeking over the privacy fence
And from the half-dead elm with the holes in the top where the sparrows slept
When the green buds lined their patterns in spring
I marveled more and hated the maple less for not being a pine

"Did you ever have a favorite tree, mom?"
My daughter asked me today
"What did you name it?"
And I laughed to see that the apple tree's apples hadn't fallen far
"What is that maple's name?" I asked her
"That's Lucy," she grinned as if she knew her well

Tonight I took a paper and a pencil
Sat still on the new sunporch
That I thought a little too new to speak just yet
And looked to Lucy
"Well…" I said
To my delight she replied
"Wake up"

And when my spirit dripped over
I caught it here
And for tonight
It is enough

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