I will immediately admit that I'm being a copycat. I love the photographs take by Barbara Judge for her blog, Folkways (see and click the side bar here). She has a marvelous gnarled apple tree picture. I took this and another picture of the same gnarled tree during my walk at Long Beach. I don't know what kind of tree this is. I think it was nearly uprooted and blown over on it's side in some gale. But the roots that remain in the soil are keeping it alive. I walk by it often and sometimes think about the complexity of its roots and branches as being something of a metaphor for the human brain. It doesn't make quiet enough sense, really, for me to find a poem here. At least not yet.
Instead I am writing a poem inspired by a blog by Brian Alger, a psychologist who writes about aging. I find I cannot give you the link. I don't understand how he's got his blog set up. Anyway, he wrote about savouring -- meaning taking time to enjoy. Mostly he wrote about savouring intellectual activity but I have begun a poem thinking about savouring the way small children do an ice cream cone on a hot day. Hasn't everyone see the kid slowly licking the ice cream as it melts and runs down his hand and onto his clothes and his mother tells him to hurry and eat it because it's melting? I'm sure I've been that mother.
Most of us un-learn savouring from that kind of sensible adult intervention. Don't linger over the delicious or lovely thing. Get on with whatever is next. Being a walker on a beach in the summer I observe that some people know how to savour the sun, they come early in the season and stay late, they find a spot a bit sheltered from chilly breezes and soak up the warmth. These are a few, not the many. Slow eaters, like the child and his ice cream, take time to chew and taste whatever is on the plate. Oenophiles and gourmets make a point of enjoying, sometimes so loudly one wonders about their sincerity. Gardeners fuss over their plants, stand at their doorway and thrill at the colors and arrangement -- those who do the work themselves. On that same walk to the beach I pass many large, expensive houses. All summer long, I see the landscaperrs planting, mowing grass, trimming. I suppose those home owners are pleased and possibly proud of their tasteful and beautiful plantings. But I think the gardener, the one who visits nurseries and reads seed catalogs in January, who savours the color and scent, not to show their wealth but because they love the flowers and plants.
Mr. Alger was not writing about this, really. He was writing about savouring our intellectual life. That's different. I think the members of the poetry class I take savour the experiences they write about. I am trying to encourage people in my writing class to "read like writers" and savour good writing -- clear, meaningful, graceful writing, some with a sense of humor, playing with words and metaphors and similes and rhythm and even rhyme -- the last two not the sole province of poetry.
But beyond that Mr. Alger is urging people to savour the joy of being alive in a moment, whatever, wherever that moment is. He does not mention Zen but I think Zen is what he is talking about, being present whether we are having a fascinating conversation with a friend or walking alone on a beach, past gnarled old trees or watching your dog dash and cavort when you let him off leash on that beach, knowing inside your own being just what those moments of unusual freedom feel like. Molly, my daughter's late dog, almost always did a little dance when she went out into the yard, knowing she was going for a walk and I always understood, I think, the wordless joy of freedom.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!