Bloom and Grow

The unfurling of tiny green leaves and sweet blossoming flowers had me longing to write about personal growth ~ that natural urge to enrich and improve ourselves and our lives. I wasn’t exactly sure where the topic would take me, but I had a great quote from Mark Twain, and I felt certain something would emerge once I sat down to write.

I’ve returned to my hometown the past few weeks to care for my mother while she’s had a series of minor surgeries. She is recovering well from her most recent procedure and was up and about after breakfast this morning. “I think I’ll go to the library and try to write for a little while,” I told her.

Except for wireless Internet, the library hasn’t changed much since Mom took my sisters and me there when we were children. I intended to walk up the staircase to the second floor where I sometimes studied as a teenager, but I got lost in a memory of holding tightly to the oak banister wearing a red plaid dress and pigtails. I nostalgically ran my hand over the railing, worn smooth from use, and realized it had pulled me all the way up to the third floor where the children’s section used to be and still is.

Exchanging pleasantries with the librarian, I asked if I could sit at a small table and do some work. I positioned myself near a window hoping to be inspired by an elm tree bursting with new buds. There I sat in a quaint wooden chair, ignoring my laptop but absorbing every sight and smell of the familiar room.

I rose dreamlike and slowly ran my hand along a bookshelf, lightly touching the spines of Sounder, James and the Giant Peach, The Secret Garden, The Chronicles of Narnia and other childhood stories that still touch my heart.

For nearly an hour I tried to focus on writing, but my thoughts kept turning to a little girl I once knew who sat cross-legged in the corner happily reading Little House in the Big Woods. I shook her out of my mind and read the quote I had jotted down by Mr. Twain.

“What is the most rigorous law of our being? Growth. No smallest atom of our moral, mental, or physical structure can stand still a year. It grows ~ it must grow smaller or larger, better or worse ~ it cannot stand still. In other words, we change, and must change, constantly, and keep on changing as long as we live.” 

Springtime helps us understand what Twain was talking about. The sudden appearance of leaves, grass, and blooms are obvious reminders of the miracle and beauty of growth. The transformation that comes each spring is easier for us to appreciate than the much slower moral, mental, and physical growth to which Twain refers.

One day you’re a child sitting in a little chair reading a library book, and five decades later you’re sitting in the same little chair trying to write something meaningful ~ something that will encourage us to keep growing in mind, body, and soul like flowers in springtime. §

Forever in a Day

Happy Easter, friends! I wrote a poem to celebrate this morning and every morning. I’m far more comfortable writing prose, but I was inspired by springtime, Easter, and National Poetry Month. I hope it offers you a positive message that you can interpret as you wish. Enjoy a week filled with the beauty, promise, and renewal of spring.

Forever in a Day

To see forever in a day, wake up and lift your voice to pray

Watch sunlight spread across the land, just as it’s done since time began

Feel the earth so lush and green, where brown and dormant ground had been

Hear sweet birdsong fill the air ~ Smell the flowers everywhere

 

To see forever in a day, ask for wisdom come what may

Seek timeless lessons to be learned ~ Toil for honest wages earned

Heed tales told by wrinkled eyes ~ Sing a baby lullabies

Reach for a neighbor’s hand in love ~ We look the same from up above

 

To see forever in a day, have faith that stones can roll away

Let starlight fall upon your face, older than the human race

Allow great mysteries to unfold ~ Dream of ancient stories told

Sleep peacefully until the morn ~ Each break of dawn we are reborn §

A Poem as Lovely as a Tree

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree… 

So begins Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees. I was about ten when I first read the poem in a book at school. I was drawn to its uncomplicated rhythm and rhyme. At such a tender age, I was also excited to understand a poem not written for a child. Gazing out the library window, I could see Kilmer’s beautiful trees joyfully reaching towards the heavens.

I find it amusing that Mr. Kilmer’s well-known poem is sometimes disparaged for being overly simple, sweet, and straightforward. Funny, because that’s exactly how I like things to be! There are more sophisticated poems about nature, but Trees was one of the first to offer me a poetic reminder to be filled with gratitude, acceptance, and humility for my own existence.

Trees

I think that I shall never see  

A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

~Joyce Kilmer, 1913

Gratitude ~ Kilmer personified a tree that lifts its leafy arms to pray in appreciation for its life and the nourishment it receives from the sweet earth’s flowing breast. Like the tree, shouldn’t we rejoice and give praise for our creation and the abundance of earthly resources that allow us to live and grow?

Acceptance ~ The poet uses clear imagery to portray a tree that in summer may wear a nest of robins in its hair. The tree gladly accepts its purpose of providing shade and shelter for birds and other creatures. It may be covered deep in snow and pounding rain, yet it stands sturdy through the seasons. Can you and I accept our responsibilities and challenges with as much as grace?

Humility ~ More than one hundred years after writing this poem, Kilmer’s message still rings true. As we try to make our mark on the world in whatever way we’re led, we’d be fools to think our accomplishments could ever match the perfection found in nature. It’s humbling (and a bit of a relief) to remember no matter how creative and productive we become, man-made things will never compare to God’s handiwork.

National Poetry Month seems a perfect time for us to reflect on this poem. It encourages me to humbly, though perhaps foolishly, continue writing about the peace, joy, and gratitude I feel for nature’s beauty created by the greatest poet of all. §

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Write a Haiku

Inspired by a recent spring day filled with happy moments, I penned this haiku ~

April drive with Mom

Yellow forsythia blooms

All roads lead back home

You probably tried your hand at writing haiku poetry in a classroom long ago. In honor of National Poetry Month, could I entice you to explore your creativity and try it again today?

To refresh your memory, a haiku (pronounced hi-koo) is a form of Japanese poetry. Traditionally, a haiku is about nature and has just three short lines that don’t rhyme. The first and third lines have five syllables, and the second line has seven syllables. Do you remember tapping your pencil on the desk to count syllables?

Haiku poetry can be traced back to 9th century Japan and was a way of celebrating the natural world. Matsuo Basho wrote this oft translated haiku in the 1600s ~

An old silent pond

A frog jumps in the water

Splash! Silence again

I always looked forward to teaching a unit on haiku poetry. Even the most reluctant students enjoyed it, especially when I brought out the cardboard box of individual watercolor sets and urged them to illustrate their poems. Their work made the most beautiful spring bulletin boards!

Knowing my love for poetry, my husband often writes me poems. He casually leaves them for me to find on post-it notes and torn sheets of notebook paper. They are written in the same distinctive handwriting that made my heart skip a beat when he passed me a note in high school.

A quiet rebel, he usually breaks the rules of haiku poetry, so we call his poems Mikus. Just like Mike, they are always sweet, often funny, and sometimes romantic like this favorite ~

Wooden rocking chairs

Sitting on the porch with you 

Forever and ever

Nothing would please me more than knowing you were inspired to write your own haiku. Go outside, or look out the window, and find something in nature to write about. Follow the rules, or don’t. Artistic rules are made to be broken. For extra credit, get out some colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors and make a picture to go along with your poem.

National Poetry Month is a perfect time to be creative. I understand if you want to keep it private, but I would love to read your haiku in the comments. I know from experience your poem will spark creativity in others and invite us all to look at the world in a more beautiful, artistic way. §