The Swing

Is there any better symbol for childhood than a swing?

Growing up, I had a rope swing hanging from an enormous tree in our backyard. It was the kind of swing that had a disc for a seat, and we could swing and spin high up and over our white picket fence. Sadly, lightning hit the tree during a big Midwestern thunder storm and we had to chop it down. I cried as I stood watching that tree come down.

I still love to swing myself but I also love to push little people on swings. Xavier has just recently graduated from kiddie seats to big swings. It was a big treat for him (and me) to swing with his cousin Mabel on her backyard tire swing this past weekend.

Pure joy.

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

~ Robert Louis Stevenson


A Little Madness

But green after green after green!...
It's spring, Poem, take us outside....
~ "The Poem She Didn't Write and Other Poems" by Olena Kalytiak Davis

This week the cherry blossoms are peaking in Seattle, right on time for the Spring Equinox As we do every year, we took a picnic to enjoy under the indescribably beautiful trees.  Like Christmas cards, I can track our family year by year from the photos we take. 

Pale pink blossoms, universal symbol of the fleeting nature of time, they inspire me to read poetry. I got a little carried away - it can be a rabbit hole: one poem leads to another, which reminds me of a line I have to go chase down and then that one leads to a whole book and then, well, whole evenings can slide by in such a pleasant state...I thought I would select one perfect poem to share, but really, what is the point of restraint?  It is spring after all, the season of exuberance.  So below are a few favorite lines and two wonderful full poems to share. Happy, happy, happy Spring!

A little Madness in the spring
is healthy even for the King.
~ Emily Dickinson

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

~ "The Trees" by Philip Larkin

In Just spring, when the world is mud-luscious...when the world is puddle-wonderful...

~ e.e. cummings

What is all this juice and all this joy?

~ "Spring" by Gerald Manley Hopkins

Another Spring

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.
The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.
The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.
O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever
Slide unconsciously by us like water.

~ Kenneth Rexroth 

    a black bear
      has just risen from sleep
         and is staring

down the mountain.
    All night
      in the brisk and shallow restlessness
         of early spring

I think of her,
    her four black fists
      flicking the gravel,
         her tongue

like a red fire
    touching the grass,
      the cold water.
         There is only one question:

how to love this world.
    I think of her
         like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
    the silence
      of the trees.
         Whatever else

my life is
    with its poems
      and its music
         and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
      down the mountain,
         breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her—
    her white teeth,
      her wordlessness,
         her perfect love.
~ Mary Oliver


One Clover

A while back, I spent a happy afternoon collaging with friends, our host the talented collage artist Veronica Smith who specializes in personal mandalas. Veronica had invited us to drink tea and play with paper, scissors and glue. Collaging is not something I normally do and I found it unexpectedly soothing to cut and sort and paste and create. It felt meditative and exhilarating at the same time.

I was envisioning something full of greens to frame a favorite Emily Dickinson poem I had printed years ago in a letterpress class. And I wanted to showcase a tiny and fragile family heirloom: a four-leaf clover. This tiny green shoot, symbol of the luck of the Irish, was given to me by my father, who received it from a neighbor we called Grandma Edie. She had taped the four-leaf clover on a small card to preserve it and then she wrote on the back in her wispy handwriting:

"Found Friday
June 13th 1975
804 South 1st Ave.
Really was

I love to imagine Grandma Edie that day in 1975. Was she gardening, picnicking, reading in the grass? Did she whoop when she realized what she'd found? Why did she need the luck and did it hold? How long does a four-leaf clover give luck and does it transfer to future hands?

Almost forty years later, this is what came out of my afternoon collaging with friends...

I took this photograph of my creation today in the dappled sunshine, rather pleased with my novice attempt to make art out of something other than words. Now the assemblage hangs from its hook in my kitchen and is a daily visual reminder of luck and hope and spring...and that oh-so-beautiful word: revery.

To make a prairie
It takes a clover and a bee.
One clover and a bee,
And revery.
Revery alone will do
If bees are few.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Happy Almost-Spring!


Nothing Is Lost

Nothing Is Lost

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.

~ Noel Coward