Monday, September 28, 2009

I remember writing poetry as far back as elementary school, rhyming words about the things little girls go through... most of which were fully illustrated, also by me. When I got to middle school and high school I wrote when I was feeling deeply emotional. My words turned dark, sometimes angry, but mostly they were reaching for something beyond what my rational mind could grapple with. My poetry almost represented my goth and outspoken alter-ego, in direct juxtaposition with my gently glowing, kind, and caring physical self.

As I got older, had a career, children, and more real life responsibilities, I sort of let my glowing self absorb that alter-ego until it practically vanished. I haven't written a poem in probably ten years. That is, unless you count the haiku I posted as a response to my status on Facebook. Is it that I my emotional edge has dulled with use? Is my life more monotone now that I have undergone and emerged successfully from many emotional trials? Or do I just not have time?

Well, maybe it's hormones or monotones or baritones... I don't know. Maybe it's lack of motivation. But now that I have more time, I am using it to write some short fiction, play on Facebook, and go through all the old stuff I used to write when I considered myself a writer. What I did notice was that, even in high school, I was really sensetive to things like social injustice and peace. I found the trip down nastalgia lane very amusing. Here, I brought you back some souveniers!

I think I wrote this one when I was about 11 or 12 years old:

Ding-dong the church bells cried
Hate has taken a bride.
Fear in her black wedding dress
has taken considerably less
time to take a groom than Doom
who screems up in the belfry room
and scares away Sir Gloom.
Happiness has slipped away
upon this Spiteful, Rageful day.
Joy and Love have lived in dread
since Hate and Fear were wed.

Wow, this has a lot to say. I am impressed with my younger self. Good job, little girl!

Here is one that I wrote my first year in college... before I met Jay.

Modern Love Story

Crowded room.
Nervous sweat.
Strangers share cheap beer
and trivial conversation
as the pungent smell of last week's liquer
mixes with inevitable sexual tension.

Stuck somewhere between youth and wisdom.
Somewhere between innocence and knowledge.
Blindly searching for something alien and strange.
Not knowing where to begin or how to end.

Uncomfortable silence,
as potential lovers search within their souls
and within the strained eyes
of each familiar stranger.
Search, passionately,
for something that seems
so empty of reverence.

I wrote this at party, on a bet that I couldn't write a poem about the party in under three minutes. I did it, and here it is recorded exactly as it poured forth from my pen... only in cyberspace instead of on the napkin!

Well, I have embarked on an interesting journey. We shall see where it takes me...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peace in Apples

Yesterday was the International Day of Peace. It was not celebrated in our schools, I didn't hear any special music on the radio or see cards at the Hallmark store. My family, nor my community, has any tradition that marks the passing of this important day, when countries of the United Nations agree to cease fire for one day of the year, a brief but important repose in the tumult around us. When I searched on the internet, I did find some drum circles, concerts and get-togethers at your typical off-beat spiritual book store or artsy marginal coffee shop. But for the average, middle class American mother wishing to focus more on acts of peace than on symbols of those acts, I found very little by way of gathering or instruction.
Are we immersed in a society that only celebrates a holiday if there is a profit to be made from it? If this were a holiday that included the purchasing of gifts and cards, would it be more prevalent in our communities, schools, and media? Probably. And it's not as if I would be excited to see this holiday commercialized. Just as some people now "spread the Christmas spirit" by purchasing garlands and lights, sweatshirts with reindeer, and Dolly Parton's Country Christmas carols on compact disc, I would not want people to feel they could spread peace by purchasing T-shirts, buttons, and decorations sporting shiny peace symbols. These might be great ways to advertise our viewpoint, but it's not how we spread peace, not how we nurture the seeds and help them grow. The way is much simpler than this.
On Saturday my family went to a tiny orchard in Saline to pick apples. Lutz orchard was old, started by the old farmer's father in the 1930's. His sister lived in the house across from the barn, his nephew behind her in front of the corn field. His own home was a big white colonial with pillars anchoring the front porch to the shabby lawn, it's white paint peeling to reveal generations of graying wood. He had no use for television, he read mostly and milked his cows and took care of the trees. The little airport around the corner had no use for folks going anywhere. It was fine just as it rested. The air was clear, blue, and crisp and smelled of apples and Autumn. My family was alone with the farmer, picking fruit from trees over sixty years old. Conversation was slow and warm. My children were smiling. This is where I found a moment of peace. In this place that the times forgot.
I read an article in a popular magazine about simplifying your life. It gave very explicit directions about how to cleanse and organize so that you feel less stress... the whole "less is more" mantra, which is touted in so many of the magazines that clutter our coffee tables. We live in a world cluttered with consumer goods that are supposed to make our tasks quicker, easier, and more efficient. In the process we have forgotten how to do a task with intentionality, how to be in that moment and appreciate the peace that can be found in washing a dish or picking an apple. We have also lost the feeling of integrity gained by doing life-sustaining work with our own hands. We have traded sweat for convenience, peace for efficiency. In the process we have bound ourselves to a lifestyle that is often the fountainhead of our frustration.
It is my prognosis that simplicty is the key to planting seeds of peace. So, yesterday I did my best to commit simple acts of kindness. On my long walk, I looked passing strangers in the eyes and said "hello" as if they were friends. They smiled back and greeted me, and we parted ways carrying that feeling with us. I read my children the story of how the International Day of Peace was created, but they weren't so interested in it. I'm sure they were more effected by my soft tone of voice, my intentional patience and attentiveness, the love that I shared with them that day, the time we spent cuddling together and laughing together... and living together.
I'm not sure if Chailyn felt the peace when he washed the dinner dishes, as he has every day for two weeks now. But I'm sure he feels like an important cog in the clockworks of our family... and that will go much further in propogating peace than a symbol on a t-shirt ever will.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Today I feel content. As I stood at my kitchen counter, the sun shining and a soft breeze drifting through the window, I felt content. I was chopping tomatoes and peppers that I picked moments earlier from the little garden at the side of my house. To those I added cilantro and onion, garlic and lemon juice... just a hint of ground cumin and a dash of salt. The bright red tomatoes were so plump and juicy, they claimed their right to be a fruit.

Next to me on the counter dried pinto beans were simmering in a crock pot. When they are soft I will toss them into the frying pan with a healthy cup of the chicken stock that I made last night from the remains of a roasted chicken we had for dinner. My family will enjoy a Mexican fiesta tonight! But the joy I was feeling was not in anticipation of a party... instead it was satisfaction from knowing that the work I was doing was sustaining the lives of the people I love.

Sure, I could run up to the store to buy salsa in a plastic tub for $4.29... Garden Fresh Salsa that has an expiration date and a bar code stamped on its side. My tomatoes didn't have a bar code. Instead they had the stamp of my love, the hours spent planting and watering and weeding, harvesting and chopping. My work is saving my family money on groceries, it's providing nutitious alternatives to prepackaged foods, and it's saving my mental health all in one shot!

Next year I plan to dig up more shrubs and grass so that I can plant onions and cilantro, potatoes and enough tomato plants to can for the winter. My garlic should provide healthy cloves next year, and the strawberries along the side of our patio should bear two harvests as long as the birds leave them alone. I want to plant enough fruits and vegetables to provide the bulk of our family's produce, plus some to share! I also hope to have my children more involved in the work of the garden, so that they too can feel this sense of importance, of knowing that they are needed, not just wanted.

This is my way of taking smaller steps toward a larger goal. Of course, communal living on twenty-five acres of carefully horticulturally crafted land seems a long way off. But next summer's planting is near.