An Article About Poetry

I was scrolling my Twitter feed yesterday and came across this article, which happens to discuss one of my favorite poems, WS Merwin.

To participate in Mental Health Awareness Month last month, I read a biography of Sylvia Plath. This month I read a revised edition of her Ariel. What I did not know was that Merwin and Plath were contemporaries. And since I had the amazing opportunity to meet Merwin in 2011, transitively I also met Plath. It counts, right?

I digress.

The article analyzes one of Merwin’s shortest poems, “Elegy.” And author Devin Kelly hooked me with this gem:

I’ve learned things from poems for the same reason people learn about anything: because they’ve spent quality time with it. When you sit with a single poem for a long time, when you type it out, when you speak it, when you try to unpack a line or feel the way a phrase fills your mouth, you begin to notice more about what the poem offers outward. When you pay attention — to anything, really, that has also been paid attention to in its creation — then the act of attention does not serve as an act of narrowing. Rather, it’s an opening — a givingness, to use that word again. All these doors open up the more you pay attention. They open out to light. They open to other rooms, other floors. They open to a hidden staircase. Another door.

Quality time is one of my love languages. Sitting with someone or something and letting it unravel, or actively unpacking it is one of my favorite things to do.

And I haven’t come across a single poem in my very limited experience with them that hasn’t invited me to spend time with it. I wouldn’t call them friendly nor aloof, but perhaps … alluring. And there hasn’t been a single poem I haven’t learned from.

Poems offer a chance to choose your own adventure. Or at least to hang on for a ride.

Read the whole article. Pay attention. You won’t regret it.

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Today after our main church service I attended another meeting, sort of like a Sunday school class. The teacher led a pretty good discussion, and a thousand thoughts entered my head at the same time, reacting to everyone else’s thoughts.

I hadn’t attended a class like this since March 2020. And even pre-pandemic I didn’t raise my hand very often to contribute to the discussion. Without rehearsing I get really nervous speaking in front of people, especially after 15 months of not speaking in front of them. Yet today I felt my throat opening up and my vocal cords readying for air to pass through them as my brain prepared my lungs to expel this air as actual speech.

Which, at the same time, my adrenaline levels had significantly increased, causing my armpits to heavily perspire.

So I made my comment. And then I was done. And I listened intently to the rest of the discussion while wondering if I had said something wrong or offensive. Adrenaline was still pumping so I remained sweaty, but I was also sitting underneath the air conditioning (and close to a floor vent), so I was also freezing. But my shivering may have also been residual nerves?

I don’t know.

After class, someone made eye contact and said she was glad to see me. And that I made a great comment and had nodded the entire time I was talking.

I was grateful for that. She made the fear sweats worth it.

A Park Today

A family of old trees stand together. Their trunks shoot straight up before branches spread out the sky. I love their shade. Their calm presence. Their steadiness.

These trees help obscure an old house adjacent to the park. The house looks scary. Signs along the fence read, “No trespassing.” The trees in that yard are also old. The other foliage is overgrown. Branches gnarl and twist and canopy what might be a lawn.

Large arches signal entryways (NO TRESPASSING), but simple chainlink lines the perimeter. Between long, stamped-down stretches of rusty webbing, it stands somewhat upright.

The family of old trees serve as sentinels. They warn against going past them. They are a much more effective fence than the janky wire barrier. I do not go beyond them.

The straightness of the trees gives me strength. Bestows courage. Grants power.

The will to stay away from that creepy, old house.

A Successful Day

Today our family went to the dentist. And it was probably the best Z has ever done in her few years’ experience of biannual unpleasant visits to someone who went to school for years to learn how to probe teeth. We were proud of her. But: she has a cavity, and she has another appointment to have it filled. We don’t know how she will handle this. All her other teeth look great, though.

Oh! I also made the bed this morning! And passing by the bedroom a few times today, I looked in and saw a made bed and felt a little less stressed out. It’s also very nice slipping into a bed without having to tug at sheets to make sure my whole body is covered.

Back in December my cabin fever compelled me to cut off all my hair. It’s been slowly growing back, and now it is in the middle of an awkward mullet-like phase. I have two cowlicks at the base of my skull, which keeps the hair from lying flat against my neck. It just sort of half-fluffs out. So I’m sort of in the middle of willing my hair to grow faster so that the mullet-thing will calm down. I’ve pinned and clipped my hair down at the neck. It’s long enough to tie back into a ponytail, if the pony was tiny. Another month, and maybe it won’t be as bad.

Vain, perhaps. But I never said I wasn’t.

girls’ night

right now my husband and my brother are attending the first playoff game (in a best-of-seven series) between the utah jazz and la clippers. this is the next round of the championship tournament. i’m watching the game on tv, and it’s not looking that great at halftime.

i’m rooting for the jazz, by the way.

while z was taking a bath today i decided to make my bed. i read a blog article a long time ago referring to oprah’s advice to make your bed every day. something about discipline and starting your day right. something like that. my mom is a professional at making beds: super tight corners and everything. i used to make my bed every morning. i used to be good at it. now: not so much. if i’m lucky, i’ll get around to making the bed once a week.

i don’t hate making the bed. in fact completing this chore feels pretty good. it makes the room feel calmer. i feel more motivated to do other housework.

so yeah, while z was in the bathtub i’d begun straightening the sheets and blankets. i aligned the pillows then checked in on z’s bath. then afterward i set out some clothes for her when she finished her bath. then i came downstairs to get a few minutes of work done in the office.

then i checked on z, and we decided to drain the tub. she got dressed, and i brushed her hair, then we decided she could watch (rewatch) a bug’s life while i wrapped up my work for that day.

maybe an hour later i walked back upstairs and opened my bedroom door to a semi-made bed. i’d forgotten that i started making it a few hours earlier. already well into the afternoon, i decided to leave it. no guilt: i’ll make it another time. and when i do, it’ll feel awesome.

but now i’ll wait for halftime to end, watch a couple minutes of the second half of the clippers-jazz game, then check on our child. she’s the best child, and i’d rather snuggle with her than stress out about basketball. that the jazz are trailing right now means that the guys who drove all the way up the arena may not be having the best time. but i still hope they’re having at least a little fun. (as of this very sentence, the jazz have closed in five points on a 10-point clippers lead. hope the momentum keeps up.)

speaking of fun, we’re going to the dentist tomorrow morning.

More on My Mental Health

Last night a friend texted me. She’s the kind of friend who composes lengthy missives describing what’s going on in her life. We don’t text every day, but when we have time. Or when we remember. Sometimes a week or two pass before one of us responds to the other’s most recent texts. Which is fine, because when we do text, we are thorough. She’s a much better writer than I, but I often reciprocate in length and efforts at thoughtfulness when I reply to her.

When I received a series of long texts from this friend last night, she asked how my June was doing, and that it took a long time before a certain difficult month for her became significantly less difficult.

That’s when it hit me.

My erratic sleep. My lack of motivation. My blanking out a lot of the time. My distraction.

I replied that she just might have gotten to the bottom of my depressive behavior.

My subconscious self still seems to be grieving.

Coming off that very first day of June–our wedding anniversary but also that extremely mournful day in 2019–a lot goes on this month that trigger layers of different feelings.

That’s the main cause, and that’s what makes the most sense. I generally love summer. The heat. The sunshine. All the quality time with loved ones. But June this year feels off. I don’t know if I’ve processed things enough, or if I have guilt from not moving on or moving on too quickly. Or that I have grief appropriation: she wasn’t my mom, but my feelings somehow can’t compare to Carla’s actual relatives.

And I know I shouldn’t be comparing feelings. And I have feelings about that.

Anyway, I guess sadness waxes and wanes, and this month in particular is waxy. And has a high pollen content.

I’m so exhausted.

Quick Sunday Thoughts

I let another day get away from me, and there’s so much on my mind.

We did return to church in-person today, and it was really interesting. I enjoyed seeing familiar faces after not seeing them for a really long time. We think Z loved seeing all her church friends. I know they loved seeing her.

Reilly and I got to know our new Sunday School class. They seem like a great bunch of youth.

What I really wanted to ponder through writing was my thoughts on being a little bit depressed. It seems possible, and I’ve been mulling over … symptoms(?) I’ve been experiencing lately.

I gotta get on top of my writing. Which is one thing: I’ve been going through the motions with daily journaling and not feeling motivated to think or express more deeply. Gotta get to the bottom of that.

More later.

Cemetery Time

We visited Nana again last night, June 1 being the second anniversary of her passing. In addition to the many bouquets of flowers left at her gravesite, we launched some balloons in her honor.

It’s a lovely idea, really: the releasing, the floating. The beauty of the symbolism.

And the evening was perfect: the coolness, the breeze, the perfect sky.

Reilly’s sister picked up the balloons. She chose colors that match Carla’s favorite rose from the front flowerbed. Reilly’s dad; his sister, her son; his two brothers, his sister-in-law; a close family friend; me, Z, and he. Each of us held two balloons.

Z counted us down, and then we let our balloons go. They drifted away together. Upward, joining the heavens, becoming sky.

An Undeniably Complicated Day

(Mostly from Instagram)

Perspective shifts. Broadens and deepens.

We also celebrate nine years of marriage today.

Nine years are a big deal because it’s right before 10, which is always a big deal.

And this year in particular feels hopeful on the ever-so-slow upswing from the COVID-19 pandemic. We got through this year together. Like we can more robustly support efforts in increasingly struggling countries, because we have the reassurance of vaccination. We want to use our privilege to help others gain leverage. 

And we are on a sluggish yet fortunate political upswing since the election. Yeah, I went there. We’re lucky to support each other in this. Progress is observable and more measurable. This adds to our hope.

Grad school. Child. Homeownership. Loss. Healing. Compassion. Love. Love. Love. Love. We are happiest together. I love you, my man.

Nine years.

Let’s push for 90.

June 1 Eve, 2019

Two years ago today I weeded one of the back flowerbeds in the afternoon. My mother-in-law’s condition had taken a drastic turn for the worse. Her life in the balance–one foot in mortality, and the other beyond–weighed heavily on my mind. I thought of all the things I wanted to say to her. I knew we’d be heading down to visit her at home that evening. Thrusting the shovel into the soil and crying. Pulling weeds and crying. Standing in the middle of the flowerbed, feeling the most profound sadness.

We drove down. Nana lay in bed, writhing from pain. I said some of the things that crossed my mind earlier, not knowing if she was lucid. She seemed to have heard me and calmness swept over her.

We came back home. Got ready for bed.

Reilly got a call around 2am.

We drove back down.

Seven hours later she was gone.

We wouldn’t really sleep again that whole week.

We visited the cemetery last night with Reilly’s family. The entire grounds popped with bouquets on every gravesite. Memorial Day weekend.

As we pulled next to Reilly’s mom’s plot, Z said, “Hi, Nana.”

We all sat by Nana. Papa watered her bouquets, and we told stories. Z sang for us and kept us laughing.

There’s a lot of people to remember this weekend, but we’re always going to remember Nana first.