Posted on: Thursday, February 19, 2015

Put on your coat, leave your desk

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?
Mary Oliver

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives-
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey,
hanging from the branches of the young locust trees,
 in early morning, feel like?
 
Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?
 
Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over
the dark acorn of your heart!
 
No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually?
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?
    
Well, there is time left -
fields everywhere invite you into them. 
And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?
 Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!
 
To put one’s foot into the door of the grass,
which is the mystery, which is death as well as life,
and not be afraid!
 To set one’s foot in the door of death,
and be overcome with amazement!
 
To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the present hour,
to the song falling out of the mockingbird’s pink mouth,
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened in the night,
  To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!
    
Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?
 
While the soul, after all, is only a window,
and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.
     
Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses: deny me not, but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them.
Maybe I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.
 
For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!
      
A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves,
and what’s coming next is coming with its own heave and grace.
 
 Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?
 
And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down to think about it.
 
That was then, which hasn’t ended yet.
 
Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.
  I climb, I backtrack. I float.
I ramble my way home.

Posted on: Friday, December 12, 2014

Let me tell you a joke.

I am eager to tell you the joke my daughter made up, if you have a moment. I want you to hear it because I want you to open it up and jump inside of it and delight in it. Because I want you to know that she is funny and clever, and not just a kid with issues. Because she won't look you in the eyes when she tells you her joke, and she will talk with a weird cadence and pitch, and walk nervously around the room.

Q: What kind of a glass does a volcano use?
A: A magmafying glass.

Look at that clever turn of phrase. Look at how she knows things that lots of kids don't. How she thinks about things from a different angle than most. A magmafying glass!

See, I already know you will look at her and think of her as different, so I am eager to recast "different" for you: She's quirky! She is delightful. She is an okay kind of different.

What I am really asking of you, I think, is not to listen to a joke, but to find a place for her in your world. The world of people who generally interact well with others--I want you to make room for her, the kid who prefers to be alone at recess, who is single-mindedly obsessed with her pet cat, who loves Doctor Who and all things math and science. And who doesn't understand when to stop talking in a conversation, and who cannot look at your face if she doesn't know you that well, and who has little tolerance for "silly" and hates the unexpected with a fiery, explosive, emotional kind passion.

Who cannot bear the thought of touching any kind of tissue paper.

Who literally panics when she's near babies.

Who cannot tolerate loud noises of any kind. Or stern voices.

Who hates most music.

Who avoids anything new.

Who abhors elephants to an almost pathological degree.

Who has a funny breathing ritual-thing she does if she doesn't like something, or really likes something, or just can't ignore the sudden slamming in her heart that happens for no reason at all.

Maybe it's not that I want you to hear a joke, or delight in it, or to find a place for her in your world (though that would be nice). Deep down I know that I am asking you, really, to help ease my worry a bit. This kid, this tender-hearted kid. How will she ever be strong enough to handle the world?

Q: What kind of glass does a volcano use?
A: A magmafying glass!

A: She is going to be okay.
A: She is going to be okay.

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