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“Spirit of the Night”, 1879, John Atkinson Grimshaw

I’ve been working on a poem I began here on this blog. It is a process, a gentle undoing and reweaving. An opening and letting go.

Recently a confluence of events inspired me to write a new ending. First I read an article on the importance of helping children discover a sense of awe and how beneficial that is, making us more curious, more humble and altruistic. Taking them on nature walks was one way it suggested.

Then only days after I learned about my 9-year old granddaughter’s startling discovery that Santa isn’t real. It was a blow to her, although she had begged to know the truth. What about the Easter Bunny? she asked. Horror upon horrors. The Tooth Fairy? she cried in alarm. Even the Elf on a Shelf, alas, poor dear.

I shared her pain. It seems only yesterday I took her for a walk in the meadow behind our home after it had rained the night before. We were searching for toadstools to see if fairies might still be sheltering beneath them. We found patches of bright green moss and ran our fingers along the soft furry carpet knowing how fairies like to danced there in moonlight. We imagined them wearing the silvery, pearl-studded gowns made from the spider webs glittering with raindrops we found nearby.

Why does the mind devise such dreamy comparisons? What is its purpose? To inculcate the capacity to marvel? To help us see beyond the ordinary sense of things (moss, toadstools) to their vast potential? To encourage us to see the fractal similarities between disparate things? There is something important and necessary in such devising. It feeds the soul by giving free rein to the imagination. It helps us to see beyond the surface of things, to look for the invisible within the seen, and inspires us to create our own works of wonders.

To marvel at a tree, to find awe in it, we must see it with new eyes. It must come alive in our minds. We must see the sap flowing upward beneath the bark from root to leaves. We must see the dark labyrinth of gnarled roots below the ground. We must hear the whisper of voices flowing through the neural-like network of fungi as one tree communes with another. We must see autumn leaves like high-wire dancers letting go of all they’ve ever known so they can twirl for one endless moment in the air before falling gently on their sleeping sisters. All of this is true, scientifically speaking. None of it is false.

I wrote the poem Field Notes from Within as if I was a student of physiology wandering through the fields of my own body, looking for those awesome wonders within, noting how well the part serves the whole. Just as we might when taking a child into the forest as that article suggested to discover for herself a sense of wonder in the world that envelopes and sustains us.

What could be more awe-inspiring than the human body? Than a beating heart? Than the twirling atoms that comprise the very substance of all that exists? We, ourselves, are a marvel.

I’ve been searching for a way to end my poem, to perhaps make it more comprehensible to the reader. Do I end it as I did the first time, with “dervishes of devotion“? Or do I add clarity to that as I did in the second re-making? Is doing so like painting a second tail on a dragon, a redundant addition? Or does doing so make its eyes come alive and breath fire?

I do not know. But here is my latest trial and error. We’ll let it sit a moment and see.

I don’t know when this poem will ever be finished.

And that’s the marvel of every living thing that longs to be.

Field Notes from Within

My heart is a staunch defender of all
I am, beating with relentless passion
the wherewithal of my being.

My bowels are alchemists skilled in
diplomacy, sifting silver from dross
passing peacefully away.

My cells are seeds of a pomegranate,
deftly designed for simple pleasures,
lushly dense and sweetly sated.

My atoms are ballerinas, twirling
on ecstatic toes, arms flung wide,
faces like suns, dervishes of devotion.

Marvelous is the kingdom within and
without all things. Marvelous the Mind
that designs such things and marvels.

by Deborah J. Brasket, Revised December 2021