Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sometimes, Abundance is Just a Matter of Taking Notice

I grew up in the Southern Appalachians where my father’s family has lived for generations. They were masters of making do with little or nothing. From quilting to toy making, canning to music making, these people lived artfully and joyfully – and none more so than my father. A stonemason by trade and musician at heart, my father instilled in us a sense of abundance- even in the face of what most would consider to be a meager existence. He filled our house with a love of music and had an eye for beauty. He found great pleasure in small things – and was quick to share his wonder and gratitude. He marveled at the intelligence of honeybees and his children, at how many different shades of green you could find in one garden, the beauty of a freshly sliced beet. He showed us how to whisper a doodlebug out of its dusty hole and how to talk to a news bee. From the porch alone, he could point out a dozen reasons to be thankful: hickory nuts, chinquapins, blackberries, black cherries, gooseberries, persimmons, poke salat, scuppernongs, muscadines, raspberries, elderberries, wild scallions – all gifts for the taking –all you had to do was notice and enjoy. He taught me to appreciate tinkering, puttering or just sitting quietly to watch trees dance in the wind. He taught me that, if you look for the best in people, people will show you the best in themselves, and that to be without money does not mean to be poor of spirit. These many years later, even from my home in the suburbs, I am continually reminded to notice the abundance that surrounds all of us. And I am delighted to find that the reminder comes most often from those we usually assume have nothing at all. In my poem The Gleaner, I salute those who, like my father, value the beauty of trees dancing in the wind.

The Gleaner

Brought forth from a long line of stalwarts
steeped in the pride of knowing how to make do
(with naught or less than)
possessing a steeled jaw, nose well suited -and used to –
holding firm and long to the proverbial grindstone
brow and long-angled back pitched ever forward in hearty plow fashion
he scratches through the supposed detritus of his neighbor’s lives
a perpetual infusion of wondrous and revealing artifacts
discarded in a steady stream and strewn
along the suburban curb

From amongst the reeking remains of
vacuum-packed family occasions, he gleans
conjuring baubles, novels, cord, glass blocks,
lamps, just today, a ladder
(made sturdy with the help of a crossbar found in a neighboring can)
three yards of snowflake cotton print folded
together with a hand embroidered tablecloth and six napkins
a can of hominy – still under warranty


“Ah, yes.” the footstool he’s been awaiting

“All things come…”

burrow-packed back
bent and straining over quick feet
eyes darting,
he hums along home

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