in the Bee Loud Glade

Yesterday afternoon, Kendell and I had an appointment with an attorney.

You see, after his mom died we learned something: it’s difficult when people die without a will. Even if there are no family arguments about who gets what (there were none), there is an extra expense and a whole bunch of extra work involved in parceling out the remaining money to the family. As Kendell was the executor, we know it’s not a pleasant job. It is rough having to meet with lawyers, go to court, fill out paperwork, keep track of the time limits, and do everything else that probate involves, especially as you have to do this right after someone you love has passed away.

We decided we don’t want that to happen to our kids, and that we needed a will. And yesterday was the day.

As I sat in the lawyer’s office, my fingers and wrists swelling with a combination of heat (the air conditioning wasn’t working yet in his new office) and anxiety, I had one of those out-of-breath moments. Nearly panic. Because one day, one of us will be on the other side of that will. One of us will sit in an office somewhere, discussing the details of the will.

The other will be gone.

And I don’t want it to be me who dies first.

I also don’t want to be the widow discussing the details of the will.

I don’t want death to be a truth. And while we were being mature grown ups about the process, what I really wanted to do was curl into a big, fetal-esque ball. And bawl. About how much I miss my dad and Kendell’s parents and about how once it was my sister who was the widow in a lawyer’s office and how one day I’ll be in a lawyer’s office discussing my mother’s will. And one day my sisters will die. And my friends. And people I don’t even know yet who I will, when they finally make it into my life, love desperately and not want to lose. I thought about Sheila and my cousin and the sweet old lady in my neighborhood who died last week. And I thought about J and what he might think and if I’ll ever see him again before it’s my turn to leave, and what my kids will feel when I’m gone, and whether or not I’ll get to do the things I want to do with my life before it is over.

My rings were tight on my fingers, and my watch was stuck to my plumping wrist, and I had to tell myself to just breath and act normal because probably lawyers don’t like it when people have meltdowns in their new office.

When we got home I was filled with thoughts of death, and the terror of not existing.

So while Kendell was talking to the neighbor about the new roof we need, I did this:


At first I doubted the peace-bringing possibilities of this decision, as I confess: I am terrified of bees. The tree, with its branches loaded with blossoms, was also loaded with bees. So many that you could hear them buzzing from the driveway. But instead of freaking out, I just lay in the grass, feeling my heart pound, trying to slow down my breathing.

And it started to work. As my natural those bees are all going to swoop down on me, with their creepy dangly legs, then crawl all over me and sting me to death response faded, I started listening. (Even though I was ostensibly reading.) The hum of the bees, busy at their work, was the perfect soundtrack to the cool, finally-green grass and the grey-blue sky.

It was peaceful.

And I filled up with it. It trickled into all of my dark corners and brushed aside the fear of dying. The bees’ hum was a sort of chorus, with an undertone of yes you’ll die one day but a resonance of you’re alive now. The grass under my back, the sky above me, those gloriously pale pink blossoms and their faint, delicate scent: I was alive for all of it. I am alive right now, with my still-sore ankle and my greying hair, in my house that is twitching and pinging as the sun starts to warm it, the sun that is just pushing through the slats on the window blinds. I am breathing and happy and I am alive, right now, which is all anyone ever gets. Right now.

I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.

The antidote for the fear of death is to live as hard and as real and as thoroughly as possible.

on Reading Poetry

One of my new year's resolutions this year has been to read more poetry. I'm annoyed with myself that poetry even has to be a resolution—because I love it, but somehow I have gotten out of the habit of reading it very often. I can't say why, exactly. Part of it is that, working as a librarian, I am exposed to so many, many, many books. There are so many things I want to read. (Right now, for example, I have 89 library books checked out just on my card. Fifteen of those are overdue. Ten or so are Kaleb's, four are Nathan's. I probably won't get through 10% of them.) I've started having a sort of reading ADD: there are so many choices that I can't settle on one thing. This week, I did finish a book (Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, which was good until I realized I was being strung along to the incomplete, this-is-a-trilogy ending that all teen fantasy has these days), but I also started two different novels (Finding Camlan by Sean Pidgeon (loving so far—a literary adventure about Arthur) and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (which I'm certain I need to save for another time when I'm not feeling so distracted.) I started a biography about the Bronte Sisters (The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef), a book about writing (Good Prose by Tracey Kidder), and three recipe books. Not to mention flipping through the most recent Typography Annual. Oh! And Miss Peregrine's Home for Unusual Children, which I am trying to read on the Kindle app on my cell phone just to prove to myself that I can actually get through an entire e-book, a feat I have never managed before.

I need a better system for prioritizing my reading desires. And that's the entire problem right there: I want to read it all, right now. So I bring home too much and get overwhelmed and then don't finish anything.

Ironically, while this is the thing that pushed the reading of an abundance of poetry out of my life, it is also a frustration that poetry dissolves. Because here's the thing: you read a poem, and then you are finished. You might not read the entire book of poems (which is OK because not every poem is going to connect with you anyway), but you finish the poems you do read. Even if you read a poem three or four times, and think about it for awhile, and maybe put a sticky note on one you want to keep with you forever (or bend down the corner of the page, depending upon whether or not it's your book or the library's), you have time to finish it. A poem is a very small, concise, and contained reading experience.

Why haven't I had more of it in my life?

But since January, mixed in with all that other frustrated reading has been poems. I've read poems out of the 2012 Best American Poetry (one of my overdue books) and The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine, and a few out of The 20th Century in Poetry, which weighs perhaps five pounds. I have a line stuck in my head from a poem by rachal Hadas that I cannot say where I read: "proceeding down the avenue clutching a clue, love’s puzzle not yet, not ever done" which at odd and random times has been a sort of comfort. Somewhere else I read a poem that said our entire life is simply one word, spoken so slowly from our birth to our death that no one can hear it but God. I can't find the poem, though, and perhaps I have changed it in my head, but that is OK because the image stays with me.

Some poems I don't understand completely but I love anyway, like "Shabistari and the Secret Garden" by Robert Bly, from the May 2005 Poetry Magazine, which is partly about Sufi philosophy but includes these lines:

When a poem takes me to that place where
No story ever happens twice, all I want
Is a warm room and a thousand years of thought.


Those high spirits don't prove you are
A close friend of truth, but you have learned to drive
Your buggy over the prairies of human sorrow.

And what I don't understand or connect to doesn't matter because I have those images to play back in my mind, to think about, to puzzle over, to welcome as phonemes in my life's one word.

Others I understand in their entirety just as their one perfect image breaks me open:

Down here, with my long wait for wings to grow
I'm slow accepting the stars' chart for me,
the blind track written in my sky at birth
(from "More than Twice, More than I Can Count" by Peter Cooley)


Isn't her silence, finally, loving? And yours
not entirely self-serving? Hasn't the time come,
                         once again, not to talk about it?
(from "The Imagined" by Stephen Dunn)


I am variable, exquisite, tough,
Even useful; I am subtle; all this is enough.
I don't want to be a temple, says the tree.
But if you don't behave, I will be.
(from "Anti-Romantic" by Marie Ponsot)


Only in calendars that mark no Spring
Can there be weather in the mind
That moves to you again as you are now
(from "Eight Variations" by Weldon Kees)

And I am reminded by reading poetry why I love reading poetry. Yes, it is the finishing of something. But more, it is the discovery of the bits of my own wrecks in other writer's worlds. It is the deep peace of knowing: oddly enough, and in ways that hardly match, someone else knows. It is the tribe I want to be a part of.

on Snow

Unrelentingly dry and sunny winter days send me for a tailspin. To my mind they are the canary in the coal mine, the obvious death that should be a sign to us that disaster is imminent. The combination of feeling like I'm the only person in the world who thinks that and the dread of coming disaster make me anxious. I yearn and hope and pray for the snow to finally come, Snow, delicate snow,/that falls with such lightness/on the head,/on the feelings,/come and cover over the sadness/that lies always in my reason (Unamuno). For the clouds to roll in and blank out the too-large-for-January sky and for the world to act like it is supposed to.

When did this anxiety start for me? I'm not certain. With the dawn of adult consciousness, perhaps, or the ecology class I took as a college freshman. And all the snow that never falls is now/back home and mixed up with other piercing/memories of childhood days (McClatchy). The winter I was in fifth grade we had one of the largest snowfalls ever. In the summer all that snow melt caused the lake to rise and flood the freeway; now there are dykes in place that hold it back. I remember driving to gymnastics and watching the slurry walls of sludge and concrete being nudged into place. Even more clearly I remember the snow day, and my mom was at the doctor with Suzette so I had to walk home by myself—I don't remember at all where Becky was—which wasn't a long walk, but cold in my thin corduroy coat with a hole in its satin pocket. Remember the quiet of the large snowflakes and how you could nearly hear them piling up.

I don't love snow sports. I tried skiing a couple of times but never had any proper lessons so it was a disaster. (There is an echo of the conglomerate of people I tried to ski with behind that sentence, entire autobiographies I could start from my small snow skiing forays.) I don't like driving in it, either; I am tense and terrified. I don't especially love sledding. I don't know how to snowshoe or cross country ski, the two snow sports which do seem appealing; the not-knowing-how has kept me from doing either one.

What I love is the falling, the piling up, the deepening layers. The transformation of sharp, dry edges to rounded lumps. The contrast between the literal coldness and the metaphoric blanket the snow covers the ground with. That was the deepest/I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it/when I stare at paper or into silences/between human beings. (shihab nye) I love listening, still, to the stillness. Love the way it conveys peace without ever saying it; peace while holding the potential, in fact, for destruction and ruin. I love the coldness of the transformed world, which tries to say nothing but what it is; The trunks of tall birches/Revealing the rib cage of a whale/Stranded by a still stream;/And saw, through the motionless baleen of their branches,/As if through time,/Light that shone/On a landscape of ivory,/A harbor of bone (Smith), love the light---the tiny bits of moonlight that seep through the dense clouds like snowflakes themselves---that makes night's bitter darkness less menacing.

At last, this weekend, the dry, sharp brownness of my world lost itself in whiteness. Not enough; barely a skiff. But enough to make me take a breath. To make my parched soul drink deep. To let me listen to the relieved whispers of my trees. mustn’t what lies /behind the world be at least /as beautiful as the human voice? (doty) The voice of the snow is also what lies behind the world and when the snow falls I hear a whisper of eternity.

on Scars

Last Saturday, a girl came up to the desk where I was working. She looked about 14, a little dowdy in that haven't-found-my-way-yet thing that girls her age have. "I'm working on a project," she said, a little nervous. "Can you tell me where the pregnancy books are?"

I walked her over to the section and showed her some of the newer ones, and tugged out a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting because it seemed easiest to digest for a 14-year-old girl. "Good luck with your project!" I said, gave her an encouraging smile, and then went back to my desk.

Two hours later, she came back to the desk. She took a deep breath. And she said, "OK. If you thought you might be pregnant. How much do pregnancy tests cost? And when would you take the test?"

One of those projects.

So I explained pregnancy tests to her. And I told her to wait until she was at least a week late. "So if you were already, like, two weeks late, you'd just take it now? Like, today?" she asked in a quiet voice and I looked her right in the eye, hoping my gaze would be true and she would know that this complete random librarian had nothing but compassion for her. "Yes. You go to Target today, and get the store brand test, and take it in the morning. And then you tell someone who can help you, OK?"


Haley texted me today:

A boy in our school named Jeremy killed himself this morning.

And even though I've never met this boy in my life, I wanted to weep. For such sadness in the world. For a young person whose despair couldn't be overcome. For his parents—What they must be feeling is completely unimaginable to me.


There are so many wounding surfaces in the world. Some literal, some metaphorical. The metaphorical wounds take longest to heal, I believe. The combination of these two young people's experiences bumping against my life has reminded me of some of my own old scars. Of how sharp the world is and how sometimes you feel you are wandering alone in a landscape of shards, and sometimes a friendly face is the one softness you need.

Of how I hope I can be that softness whenever life presents me with the opportunity to do so.


       ~ William Stafford

The tell how it was, and how time
came along, and how it happened
again and again. They tell
the slant life takes when it turns
and slashes your face as a friend.

Any wound is real. In church
a woman lets the sun find
her cheek and we see the lesson:
there are years in that book; there are sorrows
a choir can’t reach when they sing.

Rows of children lift their faces of promise,
places where the scars will be.

on Poetry

For her honors English class, Haley has to put together an illustrated anthology of some of her famous poems. I pointed her towards, which is an awesome resource full of American poets and some of their poems, arranged by topic (if you wish) to make things easier and less overwhelming. I also told her I'd share some of the poems I used when I was teaching poetry.

Even though I was an idealistic first-time teacher, I wasn't so silly as to think that the majority of my students would like poetry. In fact, I made sure to teach poetry to all of my classes because one of my goals as a teacher was to help students learn that poetry isn't scary or necessarily hard. It requires you to think and, most importantly, to feel, but its reputation of being difficult and unfathomable is one I was determined to break.

So I collected poems I thought my students would like. I looked for accessible poems, topics that related to their lives, imagery that was especially visual. I wanted them to experience poems that moved them---that made they feel something they wouldn't have any other way. I don't know if I managed to do that or not. Probably I just came across as that crazy poetry-loving weirdo of a teacher my students had to suffer through an entire 90-minuted period with.

Last night I pulled out my old poetry lesson plans, looking for some poems to share with Haley. As I re-read ideas and thoughts I'd tried to express and revisited poems I had forgotten, I realized that even if I failed at teaching them anything other than the fact that real people read poetry (well, if they were capable of seeing their English teacher as a "real person), I succeeded in some small way. Because, you know, I did find some pretty good poems to share with them. I taught them to think about what writing might mean to them as individuals, not the oft-spouted concept of "what the poet was trying to say here." (As if the poet failed at saying what she meant.) I showed them poems that make immediate visual images and then tied those pictures to how they might have felt. And, in my blathering and ecstatic way, I taught them (I desperately hope) that even if you don't understand it, if a poem makes you feel something then it is a poem that you relate to.

All of which has reminded me that I haven't been sharing as much poetry on my blog as I had originally intended. While I'm not, obviously, teaching anymore, I still have this wish: that more people might love poetry. That I could share what I know about poems: some you'll never, ever understand or even love, but others can, if you let them, change you; that understanding isn't always the point; that beauty in language is sometimes its own excuse. And that the moment when a phrase hits you and you realize I've been wanting to say that exact thing my whole life but didn't know how? Well, that moment is the best part about poems.

Take this poem, for example, which I meant to share in October but didn't:


~Carolyn Smart

Those fallen leaves, pale supplicants,
have much to teach us of surrender,
how, wrapped in autumn's incense
they unfurl their flags to the wind
Every year I want to kneel in damp soil
and say farewell to blessed things:
the swift geese as they shout each to each
above the treetops, the white nicotinia
at my door, still releasing its fragrance
against the chill of evening,
the memory of a much-loved hand the last day I held it
There was early morning light rich as silk,
the flash of late fireflies
amidst the cedar,
cows' tails whisking in the amber fields,
the chiaroscuro of a moth's wing
Goodbye, brief lives,
ablaze with tenderness;
today the glory of the leaves
is enough, for I am learning anew
to release all I cannot hold,
these moments of luminous grace
saying Here and here is beauty,
here grief: this is the way to come home

Oh. That ending—and today, the last day of November when the wind is grabbing, at last, the last dead leaves from my sycamores and that is enough to make me notice what is luminously graceful.

I know myself. I know I don't share poetry on my blog because there's that voice saying "no one really cares, no one is interested, right now whomever is reading this is rolling her eyes because you sound like a stuck-up, pretentious know-it-all" and I listen. But today the other voice is stronger, the one that knows that here and here is beauty and that by beauty we find a sort of home, so I am giving it its vocal range, its space to speak.

And I might just do it much more often.

Delicious Birthdays

Sunday was Kendell's birthday and today was Kaleb's, so we celebrated both on Sunday with the traditional Grandmas Party. I made two desserts, since Kendell doesn't love cake and Kaleb doesn't love grown-up desserts. Everyone (except my inner thighs) was happy!

Last year, on Kaleb's fifth birthday, we didn't call this event the Grandmas Party. It was the Grandparents Party, because Kendell's dad still came. In fact, Kaleb's fifth party was the last one Kent came to:

Kaleb kent 5th bday 

As I sat at the table for this year's party, I looked at my mom and my mother-in-law and wondered: how long will it last? What birthday will it be when it is just one grandma, and then none? I hope we get in a good run of Grandma Parties before that happens, but I still felt a deep, unexpected sadness settle down on me. Maybe it was because of the weather: warm at last, the sun lowering and that delicious summer-night coolness wafting through my hair. "There are moments when the body is as numinous as words," the poet Robert Hass says in a poem, "days that are the good flesh continuing." That moment in the angled sunlight felt like that poem, a thin wire of grief wrapped up in all the happiness.


And sweetened, of course, by two desserts. Here are the recipes, just so I don't forget:

Lime Icebox Dessert

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cups butter

1 cup lime or lemon juice
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
zest of one lime or lemon
2 cups whipped cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
dash salt

Combine graham crackers and melted butter; press into a 9x13 pan. Zest the lime or lemon, then juice enough for one cup. Whisk juice and sweetened condensed milk together. In a separate bowl, whip the cream till stiff; add the sugar, vanilla, and salt to the cream. Fold the cream into the juice mixture. Pour over the crust, then chill for at least four hours.

Bask in the adoration.

Perfect White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

1 bag white chocolate chips (11 ounces)
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup butter
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla
3-ish cups powdered sugar

On low heat, preferrably in a double boiler, melt chocolate. Add whipping cream and stir until smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature. Beat with butter, salt, and vanilla till creamy; add enough powdered sugar to reach desired stiffness. Enough to frost a two-layer cake with leftovers for graham crackers. This frosting is best if you allow it to chill after frosting the cake. So deliciously flavored!

Holiday Hodgepodge #11: "Magi"

During the years between finishing my Associates and starting to work on my Bachelors, I was determined to keep on learning about literature. I read every book at the library about writing, critical theory, understanding novels, and anything else that seemed English-major-ish. There weren't a lot of choices (it's a public library, after all, not a university one), but we do have several collections of feminist essays, and feminism is the approach I wanted to focus on. During those years I might have been the only person checking out these books, but I would take one home every three weeks or so. One of my favorites is Language in her Eye, a set of essays by Canadian women writers subtitled "writing and gender." Perfect! There are many things I could say about how much I love this book, but today I just wanted to share a poem I found in it. I probably first read it in 1992 or 1993 but I continue to be haunted by it.

~Mary di Michele

At sixteen she would be old,
in another culture. She feels
old, unwrapping another gift
in the blanched light of the bay
window. Winter light, no warmth in it.

She takes the bow off the package
sticks it on the window instead
of the paper plate with ribbons
she is meant to decorate and wear.
A small unconventional act.
As if to decline the crown.

A bow bright as the spot of blood
she prayed for. A bow the red
of poinsettia. (How they simulate flesh!
How they burn in the treetops of Mexico
like the campfires of primates!)

Her belly, full and elliptical,
moves as if with sudden light.
Unexpected connections. Her eyes
strain to see the star predicted

The boy she hardly saw, the apparition,
so thin. Stroking his back, she sensed
through the sharpness of his shoulder blades
the stumps of wings.

She pulls out, as if
dreading, perhaps, the nip
of something feathered, something furred,
simple garments: a sweater and cap
knitted in a knobby weave
as if in braille.

Her fingers sniff for the scent of the child
about to be found. To discover
the arm in the shape of a sleeve.

This poem taught me something about what poetry is (that complicated definition) and what it can do. Mary at a baby shower, with a sort of contemporary feel—like an unwed mother, full of uncertainty about her choices. It is a Christmas poem in perhaps the loosest sense of the concept, but it is still my favorite one because of all the unexpected connections it makes for me. It is a sort of a gift, one I return to (I eventually bought the book) over and over.

Holiday Hodgepodge #9: Star-Silver

Yesterday, trying to find my Christmas-card address list, I stumbled upon an old file I'd saved years ago, full of holiday poems. Holiday poems with the qualities I admire in poetry, that is. (You'll not find forced rhymes and maudlin sentiment, for example.) I think I will share one for the next few days, just because I think they are beautiful. This one I first read during my university days, and it continues to stick with me. Why does the story never grow old? Because it is, I think, like the silver light from the star, ultimately about hope, which our hungry hearts are hungry for.

      ~Carl Sandburg

The silver of one star
plays cross-lights against pine-green
And the play of this silver cross-wise against the green is an old story.
Thousands of years.

And sheep grazers on the hills by night
watching the woolly four-footed ramblers
watching a single silver star.
Why does this story never wear out?

And a baby, slung in a feed box back in a barn in a Bethlehem slum
A baby's first cry,
mixing with the crunch of a mule's teeth on Bethlehem Christmas corn
Baby fists, softer than snowflakes of Norway

The vagabond mother of Christ
and the vagabond men of wisdom
all in a barn on a winter night
and a baby there in swaddling clothes on hay
Why does this story never wear out?

The sheen of it all—is a star, silver and a pine, green
For the heart of a child asking a story
The red and hungry, red and hankering heart
Calling for cross-lights of silver and green.


Second Day of Thanksgiving: Autumn

I think I've probably said this before: fall is my favorite season. The changing trees, the gorgeous colors, that chilly-warm thing the weather does and the blue the sky turns. The scorching days are past, but there are still flowers; we hike and rake leaves and go on random walks, just to get outside. Plus, it's full of anticipation, and in some sense anticipating the Big Three holidays is better than the actually holidays themselves. Plato suggested that we only desire what we don't have—once it arrives, we have it, so we don't need to desire it anymore. But there's something about that desire, that looking forward, that tingles autumn for me.

This autumn has been especially perfect—nearly too perfect. Indian summer for weeks, golden afternoons that were perfect for running through. A few big rainstorms, and then the warm days came back.

Fall 2010 
In fact, it was such a temperate fall that my sycamores, which usually just turn bronze (euphemistic for "boring brown"), turned dark yellow, the leaves edged with sienna and burnt umber. They've never turned this color before.

I'm grateful to live where there are seasons. I know that the places where it's eternally summer are desirable by lots of people, but not me. When the world is always changing, you notice the world. I am happy here, in this landscape, with its inconsistencies and changing temperament. I am grateful that fall exists and that I get to experience it by walking through the world.

"In Heaven it is Always Autumn" ~John Donne
      by Elizabeth Spires

In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near
to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking
heaven's paths no longer feel the weight of years upon them.
Safe in heaven's calm, they take each other's arm,
the light shining through them, all joy and terror gone.
But we are far from heaven here, in a garden ragged and unkept
as Eden would be with the walls knocked down, the paths littered
with the unswept leaves of many years, bright keepsakes
for children of the Fall. The light is gold, the sun pulling
the long shadow soul out of each thing, disclosing an outcome.
The last roses of the year nod their frail heads,
like listeners listening to all that's said, to ask,
What brought us here? What seed? What rain? What light?
What forced us upward through dark earth? What made us bloom?
What wind shall take us soon, sweeping the garden bare?
Their voiceless voices hang there, as ours might,
if we were roses too. Their beds are blanketed with leaves,
tended by an absent gardener whose life is elsewhere.
It is the last of many last days. Is it enough?
To rest in this moment? To turn our faces to the sun?
To watch the lineaments of a world passing?
To feel the metal of a black iron bench, cool and eternal
press against our skin? To apprehend a chill as clouds pass
overhead, turning us to shivering shade and shadow?
And then to be restored, small miracle, the sun shining brightly
as before? We go on, you leading the way, a figure
leaning on a cane that leaves its mark on the earth.
My friend, you have led me farther than I have ever been.
To a garden in autumn. To a heaven of impermanence
where the final falling off is slow, a slow and radiant happening.
The light is gold. And while we're here, I think it must be heaven.

What is your favorite season?

Ah! Bright Wings

The city center of the town where I live contains the library, the city building, the courts and police station, a handful of baseball/football fields, the senior center and an arboretum. A library errand I needed to run today found me walking the length of the block, from the library to the senior center. It was chilly;  I was grateful for my scarf and wished for gloves and a coat. But the walking warmed me, and the expanse: still-green grass dotted with trees the late-afternoon sun lit on fire. I could have walked on the sidewalk, but I chose the leafier route and crunched through all those yellow skirts around the trees. I walked quickly so my meandering route wouldn't take much longer, but I concentrated on enjoying scuffing through every length of leaves. That delicate sound of scuffing leaves, a crackling susurrus; the hint of woodsmoke in the air; the chill on my hands but the warmth of the light on my forehead. Deep, cold breaths. It was exactly what I needed to lift my black mood, which had been scrawling itself across my psyche all day, making me doubt the efficacy of my existence. Say you could replace me with a laundry-doing, kitchen-cleaning, errand-running automaton, without pesky things like emotions and needs and foibles—wouldn't that be better? I felt, all day, like gathering up anything of mine and tossing it into the recycling bin, ridding the world of the evidence of my existence. Erasing myself. My walk pencilled my outlines back in, and while I perhaps still feel the futility of my efforts just as strongly, my hurting edges were smudged, made bearable.
I walked and scuffed the leaves, thinking of this poem (which I have blogged about before), which I always think of on certain bright-cold fall days like today, even though it is not a poem about fall, really:
      ~Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge & shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast & with ah! bright wings.
Hopkins does this thing with praising the world that I so relate to. He was an ecstatic, able to see the joy in the small and the large aspects of the world. He wrote poems like that one, full of praising the world, of the setting forth of the world as a place of joy, but he also had his darknesses, too. (He has a whole series of poems we now call the "terrible sonnets," not because of the quality of the writing but by weight of the darkness in them.) I relate to that, too, and that combination—myself flayed black all day, then healed by goldenness and a long-dead poet's words who was, himself, flayed black but gilded—is what makes me love poetry.