I can’t escape the irony that on this anniversary of Earth Day, humankind is forced to retreat indoors because of a raging virus and we must leave the natural world to nature. As a result, the air has become cleaner, the water clearer, the animals free and unharassed. I embrace nature as it exists in my back yard, feeding the birds, rescuing honey bees that fall into the birdbath, breathing in the plants, the vegetables and the herbs growing in pots all around our patio. And I turn to poets who have deep roots in nature, like Wendell Berry:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
“The Peace of Wild Things,” Wendell Berry
Ash on an old man’s sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.
T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets
Our worlds have shrunk, have concentrated, making us focus on what is immediately around us. For my husband and I, we were fortunate to plant our potted garden in the back yard before we all had to retreat into our homes. Those plants, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas have become our sanctuary. I’m also taking shelter in poetry and poets.org is offering to mail you a poem a day during April to celebrate Poetry Month, and they also offer Shelter In Poems: “This National Poetry Month, we ask our readers to share a poem that helps to find courage, solace, and actionable energy, and a few words about how or why it does so.”
This particular poem was emailed to me today, “The Way We Love Something Small,” by Kimberly Blaeser. This poem resonates with me, even more so now as my photography often focuses on small things because it has been my experience, like Blaeser claims, that using one’s camera, like writing poems, is an “act of attention.” And these are the things that save us. These small things have always saved me, having the power to change me.
The Way We Love Something Small
The translucent claws of newborn mice
this pearl cast of color,
the barely perceptible
like a ghosted threshold of being:
here not here.
The single breath we hold
on the thinnest verge of sight:
not there there.
A curve nearly naked
an arc of almost,
a wisp of becoming
tiny enough to change me.