Sit With All Your Senses Alert

Thank you to my friend Kim Woodland for this guest post. I met Kim in Carolyn Flynn’s writing group and have had the pleasure of hearing her work for many years now. A naturalist and retired teacher, Kim shared the experience of outdoor education with kids from preschool to high school, and now I’m delighted to share with you a view of my garden through her poetic eye.

photo of garden

My Friend’s Backyard

the sun

bathes my skin in warmth

like the steam curling up

as I sip my morning chai

on this cool spring day

photo of chard

winter rains have resurrected

last autumn’s chard,

dark green leaves flutter

on four feet of ruby red stems

individual asparagus

stand like sentries

in the oblong wooden rimmed

garden bed

some tipping their heads

like snakes ready to strike

the oak titmouse,

a small gray bird

with a fancy crest,

flies proudly from tree to tree,

a chickadee visits the suet feeder,

turning like an acrobat

to find the choicest bites,

a golden crowned sparrow

flits nervously in a bush

waiting for its turn

while the Bewick’s wren

trills a daring song

and waggles its stiff,

upturned tail feathers

I sit with all my senses alert

photo of oxalis

as I observe the neon yellow

petals of the oxalis

reflecting the sun’s color

back to the giant star

the smell of jasmine

arrives on a warm breeze,

my feet are solid on earth

as I sit in my friend’s garden

breathing it all in

each atom  

vibrating its own story

connects me

to my place

within the infinite

and the microscopic

as they swirl and twirl

into one.

By Kim Woodland

Give Back Your Heart to Yourself

From trellises and branches the gray-haired woman hangs bells shaped like birds throughout the garden – not because she wanted to cross an item off her to-do list, but because the breeze on this foggy June afternoon called her outdoors, because the boysenberry vine craved an ornament, and the bower flower wanted company.

It took her a long time to learn that you don’t need a spreadsheet of garden chores or a master calendar of when to fertilize and mulch, that it’s better to study leaf color, light, and rain. Yet she has a compassionate fondness for the younger self that planted those roses by the book and nourished that baby bougainvillea after a rough transplanting. Who knew roots could be so delicate, so fragile?

The woman’s hands know the soil in her garden now, the clay where the oxalis thrives and the soft earth under the old bougainvillea fed by its own fuschia-colored bracts fallen year after year. She has dug deep, so she knows the roots and burrows too. She abandoned her spreadsheet long ago, for the calendar is in her head now, in the angle of sunlight and the arrival of shadow.

Title from “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott

All Things Sing You

yellow roses climbing up archHuman ears hear

the chittering of squirrels

and the here I am coos

of the mated mourning doves,

the breeze playing

in redwood boughs,

bamboo fronds,

and ponderous birds of paradise,

each tree as distinct

in the fingers of the wind

as instruments in an orchestra.

But could I ever learn to hear

the spit spat spurt

of asparagus cells eating sunlight

or slow my vision to catch

those green spears soaring to the sky?

Ordain my senses

that I may eavesdrop

on the love song

of the vine to the rosebuds

and the petals’ pleasure-soaked sighs

as they unfurl their delicate curves.

May I too sing You

ten thousand ways

in the ebb and flow

of silence.

Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, 1,45

On the Eve of Spring in a Time of Plague

It’s true, the hush that has fallen over the world is wrought of disease and splintered by anguish, but with no competition from cars, the neighborhood birds take extravagant delight in their morning song, and the oxalis says thank you to the sun and late winter rain with a carpet of yellow blossoms.

yellow rose

Already vowed through their roots to this particular plot of earth, the roses and the redwood continue to shelter in place with equanimity, while the squirrels show flagrant disregard for the order of the public health officer, racing along their private highline. Of this I am privileged to know a small segment – the piece that runs along our roof, five feet through the air to the tips of the privet, through its leafy thicket, and onto a limb of the redwood, possibly with a quick game of chase around its trunk, before disappearing into the neighbor’s backyard.

Our neighborhood acrobat

Each day the persimmon tree takes another step in her dance with the seasons. The crone who presided through the winter now wreathes her bare limbs with maiden leaves and drinks her fill of sunlight and the mycorrhizal ambrosia twined round her roots, already dreaming of the bees she will seduce – but not yet of the luscious fruit she will birth. Those golden orbs, a feast for humans, squirrels, and crows, are seasons away in an uncertain future.

Spring garden, oxalis in bloom

In this time of plague we knit our hearts to the sorrow and fear that now unite us, but let us join too with the humble psalm of the oxalis. Thank you for the rain, the sun, this greening. Thank you.