I’m fond of these little girls, watched from a distance as they pretend, conspire, and tell each other secrets. They come as they are, or however they feel like being. An outfit built around a frilly mesh skirt with pink tights serves just as well as a hand-me-down tee shirt from a brother or dungarees and cowboy boots. Tiaras and wands are optional.
They can be a bit exclusive. They have their own things going on and no need for some old lady, benign as she might be, to ask them silly questions or document their antics. But I do know this. The one whose name is Millie, when asked what she wanted for Christmas, said: a suitcase. I keep thinking that’s like a little poem in itself.
There was also a poem in the bobcat who strolled up our driveway on Christmas Eve, in no hurry at all, then detoured into the orchard and was last seen scampering under the fence along the creek. Those persimmons were like poems, heaped in a blue bowl, and that crazy moon above the hills last night proliferating shadows and lozenges of light. There was a visit with 95-year-old Mr. Harbor in England, blinking through a computer screen. There was Monte standing at the shore, reading the waves, paddling out.
And I heard a poem in the little voice that called to me as I passed our neighbor’s house in the course of my walk yesterday. I turned around and looked up to the deck and it was two-year-old Virginia, waving at me and saying my name in crystal clear tones, as excited as if she’d glimpsed a wild parrot. (I remember her grandfather Lee calling out to me from that deck, not too many years ago, when I pedaled or walked by, although his shouts were usually accompanied by an offer of a beer or Margarita, because it was hot outside, and that hill looked steep, and really, was I nuts?!)
Well, yes. I always was. Nuts that is, in a mostly harmless way, although sometimes there is collateral damage in my missteps. I just try to keep moving, make sense of things, find some sort of equanimity. And when I pay attention, all sorts of little poem-like wonders are revealed.
Speaking of poems, I heard a wonderful podcast interview (Krista Tippett’s On Being) with poet Paul Muldoon as I walked, and he talked about poetry as a process of revelation. And when Krista asked him what he had learned about life (a question I am fond of asking when I interview people but which often tends to silence them) his answer was basically, “The thing I know now, and I’m sure this is true of many, is how — not even how little I know, but how I know nothing, in fact.”
I happen to be exactly the same age as Paul Muldoon, and I have lately been feeling just that way. He talked a bit further about all the mysteries and questions, the potential existence of universes, plural…in fact billions of them, and concluded: “To try to take that in is almost impossible, yet, I suppose, we must try, on this tiny planet…to do our best while we’re here. And I think, really, our impulse is to do our best, however often we might lose sight of it, and we can try to be kind-ish to one another while we’re still here.”
I like that. Be kind-ish to one another while we’re still here. And also, be open to the poetry, the little shifts in thinking, the new ways of looking…that unearth revelations. Like those little girls on the field by the sea, whispering secrets, one of them wishing for a suitcase. I wonder what she will pack. I wonder what journeys she will take.