Once More I Were A Careless Child

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The Careless Child

Sonnet: To the River Otter

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Dear native Brook! wild Streamlet of the West!
How many various-fated years have past,
What happy and what mournful hours, since last
I skimm’d the smooth thin stone along thy breast,
Numbering its light leaps! yet so deep imprest
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny ray,
But straight with all their tints thy waters rise,
Thy crossing plank, thy marge with willows grey,
And bedded sand that vein’d with various dyes
Gleam’d through thy bright transparence! On my way,
Visions of Childhood! oft have ye beguil’d
Lone manhood’s cares, yet waking fondest sighs:
Ah! that once more I were a careless Child.


A canoe has a bi-polar personality depending on how many people are in it,  the cooperative nature of those paddling it and the amount of wind you are contending with and the direction from which it is blowing. It can be the most gentle cooperative vessel ever invented, or it can be the most unruly of crafts.  In short a canoe is not for amateurs in rough, cold waters and rapids and yet it can be the best of all possible boats in the hands of competent paddlers and conditions.

Most canoes are not designed to be paddled by one person, except on those mornings and evenings in which there is not even a puff of wind and the lake or stream is a mirror.   One person seated in the back of a canoe lifts the bow out of the water enough that the keel lacks some of its grip and it makes it easily influenced by even the slightest wind.

Enough about describing canoes, get out there and experience a canoe!  And if you are fortunate to tip it over, while wearing your life jacket, be sure to enjoy the adventure of getting it back to shore, the water bailed out and a lesson learned about what you don’t want to do the next time.  There is a certain zen like quality to paddling a canoe. Each person must keep their weight centered over the keel and relaxed. You have to keep your weight low, you need to slow down and be centered and present. As children at camp we were taught how to deal with a tipped canoe by tipping them on purpose in water close to shore under supervision and with life jackets on. I recommend if you have children or teenagers or adults who are first time in a canoe that you teach them those skills sometime in shallow warm summer waters, before attempting cold, fast moving water where you don’t want to tip, and if you do, everyone knows what to do.  But its tippiness is what is part of the fun of a canoe, you have to treat it with respect, know its capability, acquire skill and agility with a pinch of  bravery required.

I have been fortunate to canoe upon and alongside river otters several times in my life.  A huge thrill and a connection with the wilderness that takes your breath away.  Coleridge’s poem brings back pleasant memories.  Since in the last blog entry I mentioned my fondness for the short film Paddle To The Sea, I thought I would share a link and make it easy to find if you remember it as well from 3rd grade.

The poem The Canoe Speaks by Stevenson below is one of those examples of  rhyming poetry where the poet intentionally drops the rhyme for stunning emphasis and clarity at the end.  Some of my best sonnets that I have written drop the rhyme in a spot because the exact word I want doesn’t fit the rhyming scheme and because it improved the flow and meaning of the poem. Remember rules are made to be broken with poetry. Dickinson is a master of going in and out of rhyme with devastating precision.  Do you have a favorite poem that leaves a lasting impression because it is unpredictably changes course, like an eddy in a river in a canoe where the next stanza or couplet is unexpectedly different?


The Canoe Speaks

by Robert Louis Stevenson

On the great streams the ships may go
About men’s business to and fro.
But I, the egg-shell pinnace, sleep
On crystal waters ankle-deep:
I, whose diminutive design,
Of sweeter cedar, pithier pine,
Is fashioned on so frail a mould,
A hand may launch, a hand withhold:
I, rather, with the leaping trout
Wind, among lilies, in and out;
I, the unnamed, inviolate,
Green, rustic rivers, navigate;
My dripping paddle scarcely shakes
The berry in the bramble-brakes;
Still forth on my green way I wend
Beside the cottage garden-end;
And by the nested angler fare,
And take the lovers unaware.
By willow wood and water-wheel
Speedily fleets my touching keel;
By all retired and shady spots
Where prosper dim forget-me-nots;
By meadows where at afternoon
The growing maidens tropp in June
To loose their girldes on the grass.
Ah! speedier than before the glass
The backward toilet goes; and swift
As swallows quiver, robe and shift,
And the rough country stockings lie
Around each young divinity
When, following the recondite brook,
Sudden upon this scene I look.
And light with unfamiliar face
On chaste Diana’s bathing-place,
Loud ring the hills about and all
The shallows are abandoned.

How Shall I Be Taught?

lampman
Archibald Lampman (1861 – 1899)

A Thunderstorm

by Archibald Lampman

A moment the wild swallows like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky.
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight,
The hurrying centres of the storm unite
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe,
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge,
Tower darkening on. And now from heaven’s height,
With the long roar of elm trees swept and swayed,
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash,
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.


Archibald Lampman was a Canadian poet briefly popular in the early 19th century.  He died young of complications from cardiac issues as the result of childhood illnesses that was compounded by depression from the deaths of several of his children.

One of his most famous poems, Morning on the Liever, was made into a short film.  It has a nostalgic quality for me. It reminds me of some of the slightly corny environmental movies that were popular in grade school in the early 1970’s, like “Paddle to the Sea” that were trying to raise  awareness around environmental degradation and the need for conservation.

What’s the connection between those two movies?  Canoes!  One real, one a little wood carving.  I am a lover of canoes and paddling rivers.  A canoe or a kayak is the simplest and most thrilling way to see a river, gliding along silently, making pace with the current, looking ahead to see what’s around the next bend.  Every summer in July I go paddle a short day trip on the St. Croix, starting at Taylors Falls and floating down 8 or 9 miles. The St. Croix is the river that separates a portion of Minnesota and Wisconsin before it enters the Mississippi.  It is a clean, sandy bottom river that heats up in July to be a perfect place to float, picnic and swim, with only a few horse flies to fend off for the pleasure of it. If you are ever visiting the Twin Cities and have a day for adventure that’s sunny and warm, head to the State Park just south of Taylor’s Falls on the Minnesota side.  There are canoe and kayak rentals there with round trip passage back to your car waiting for you at the take out point.  Wear your swim suit, pack a hat, sun screen and a picnic in a zip lock bag and enjoy one of the great scenic rivers that is easily accessible in the upper Midwest.

Here’s a link to the short movie with a narration of Lampman’s poem.  His description of the thrill of canoeing and his favorite river is spot on from my perspective.

 

Love-Wonder

by Archibald Lampman

Or whether sad or joyous be her hours,
Yet ever is she good and ever fair.
If she be glad, ’tis like a child’s wild air,
Who claps her hands above a heap of flowers;
And if she’s sad, it is no cloud that lowers,
Rather a saint’s pale grace, whose golden hair
Gleams like a crown, whose eyes are like a prayer
From some quiet window under minister towers.

But ah, Beloved, how shall I be taught
To tell this truth in any rhymed line?
For words and woven phrases fall to naught,
Lost in the silence of one dream divine,
Wrapped in the beating wonder of this thought:
Even thou, who art so precious, thou art mine!

The World Is Too Much With Us

williamwordsworth
William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.

William Wordsworth

The World is Too Much With Us

by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

The world has felt too much of late, this year’s mid summer holiday not even registering as a holiday in my mind, it was so completely removed from traditional rituals and celebrations.  I stayed home and social distanced and worked on projects.

Dickinson does have a way of coming up with phrases that register as strangely optimistic in my thoughts;

“Unconcern so sovereign To Universe, or me – Infects my simple spirit with Taints of Majesty, till I take vaster attitudes and strut upon my stem, disdaining Men and Oxygen for Arrogance of them.”

Arrogance was in full regalia this past weekend by Trump in his usual narcissistic ramblings with his absolute lack of empathy for the impact that COVID-19 is having on families, individuals and communities.  I am still energized by the moment that change is happening and pleased to see emblems of white privilege and worse white supremacy under scrutiny, like the names of pro sports teams, finally coming to a reckoning for change.  Let’s hope that it is more than talk and action follows to eliminate symbols of injustice and bias with new emphasis on inclusion and crafting a legacy all can be proud and embrace.  I am hopeful being a patriot is supporting a better, more just path forward.


Of Bronze—and Blaze—

by Emily Dickinson

Of Bronze—and Blaze—
The North—Tonight—
So adequate—it forms—
So preconcerted with itself—
So distant—to alarms—
And Unconcern so sovereign
To Universe, or me—
Infects my simple spirit
With Taints of Majesty—
Till I take vaster attitudes—
And strut upon my stem—
Disdaining Men, and Oxygen,
For Arrogance of them—

My Splendors, are Menagerie—
But their Competeless Show
Will entertain the Centuries
When I, am long ago,
An Island in dishonored Grass—
Whom none but Daisies, know.

The Child Is Father of the Man

Lake Harriet Band shell Minneapolis
Rainbow over Lake Harriet Band Shell in Minneapolis

My Heart Leaps Up

by William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold 
   A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began; 
So is it now I am a man; 
So be it when I shall grow old, 
   Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety


The magic of rainbows is one of the delights of summer.   In Minnesota the best ones are generally in the early evening after a brief shower, the clouds moving west to east so that as the storm passes by you get a glimpse at a rainbow for a few brief minutes in the eastern sky. I don’t believe that rainbows can be explained only by physics.  Physics doesn’t take into account the wonder it casts.  When I was a child and conditions were right we would run outside after the rain had passed over, grab our bikes and see if we could find a rainbow.

I have some amazing memories of rainbows, a particularly glorious one recently with my daughter in Scotland that went on and on and on across the Scottish countryside.  If ever there was going to a pot of gold hidden, it was there. The treasure was the adventure with my daughter.  Do you have a particularly vivid memory of a rainbow?  What was your hidden treasure?


The Green Mountains

by James Lowell

Ye mountains, that far off lift up your heads,
Seen dimly through their canopies of blue,
The shade of my unrestful spirit sheds
Distance-created beauty over you;
I am not well content with this far view;
How many I know what foot of loved one treads
Your rocks moss-grown and sun-dried torrent beds?
We should love all things better, if we knew
What claims the meanest have upon our hearts;
Perchance even now some eye, that would be bright
To meet my own, looks on your mist-robed forms;
Perchance your grandeur a deep joy imparts
To souls that have encircled mine with light, –
O brother- heart, with thee my spirit warms.

 

The Golden Apples Of The Sun

yosemite-firefall-glacier-point

Ulysses

by James Joyce (1882 – 1941)

Excerpt from Molly Bloom’s final soliloquy

…..O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down Jo me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.


When my Mother and Father were in their early 20’s, over 60 years ago, they would go on long car camping trips each summer.  The kind of trips most people only dream about today taking 2 or 3 weeks and traveling all over the west.  To define how different those days were is nearly impossible. There was no working remotely back then, vacations were a vacation, you couldn’t be reached. My mother had several favorite memories of Yosemite;  My Mother and Father met her sister and husband.  They had corresponded by mail, lining up the date and time and approximate camping spot they would rendezvous.  That might seem archaic in this age of hyper connectivity.  For two adults to simply agree to meet months in advance at a spot on a map, and then without any further communication both arrive within hours of each other at that spot. How glorious it would be to return to those days!  For all the convenience of a cell phone it is also a curse.  We are never out of reach of our everyday life.   We are constantly at the mercy of the next teleconference.  We have relinquished the peace and rejuvenation that a vacation afforded the generations before under the banner of productivity.

My Mother also fondly remembered an earlier visit, when she went alone by train 10 years prior and  visited Yosemite with her sister and then boyfriend.  Yosemite still had the nightly performance of what was called Firefall.   Firefall consisted of a large bonfire set ablaze before sunset on top of the canyon wall with a sheer face that overlooked the central valley. And then shortly after sunset the park rangers would push the fire, embers and aover the ledge, to create a stream of fire falling all the way to the canyon below.  It is impossible to contemplate something like that today.  First the fire danger would be out of this world and second, having park rangers set fires for the enjoyment of campers entertainment is not the education message the national park service espouses today around conservation.  But it was incredibly beautiful and strangely safe in its day.  It was nightly ritual during certain times of the year for decades, enjoyed by millions who visited.   It was a celebration of our connection to something visceral about fire and nature and lighting up the night.  It is something that will never return again except in the memories of those who tell the story from long ago.

My girlfriend is off on an old fashioned wander; car camping and hiking in the west.  She has that need of connection with nature, with the mountains, with the west.  It is an ancient calling that rings in many of our hearts, the primal need to connect with the beauty of nature and the connection that we have with the wilderness.

Safe travels for all who are headed out on a car camping trip this summer.  What are the stories your parents or grand parents tell about their experiences in National Parks over the years?


The Song of Wandering Aengus

by W. B. Yeats (1865 – 1939)

I went out to the hazel wood,  
Because a fire was in my head,  
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,  
And hooked a berry to a thread;  
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,  
I dropped the berry in a stream  
And caught a little silver trout.  

When I had laid it on the floor  
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,  
And someone called me by my name:  
It had become a glimmering girl  
With apple blossom in her hair  
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.  

Though I am old with wandering  
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,  
I will find out where she has gone,  
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,  
And pluck till time and times are done,  
The silver apples of the moon,  
The golden apples of the sun.

Waves Lie Still And Gleaming

Sunset ocean
Florida Sunset

Stanzas for Music

by Lord Byron

There be none of Beauty’s daughters
With a magic like thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charmed ocean’s pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull’d winds seem dreaming:

And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o’er the deep;
Whose breast is gently heaving,
As an infant’s asleep:
So the spirit bows before thee,
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer’s ocean.


Darkness (Excerpt)

by Lord Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;

Leave Me Like This Night

 

George Inness Moonlight
George Inness, Moonlight,  Weisman Art Museum

When Night Saved My Life

by Ruben Quesada

After “Moonlight” (1893) by George Inness

Come! Come and draw your loose lines
of light against and into my open mouth
like the fine lines of a web being built
along my heavy face; led bellied, blood
clotted clouds of night’s sleep borne
brooding of your bright breast keeping me
from rest while you lay onto my chest—
the weight of your body spread,
your coarse beard presses into my neck.
Give me leave. Leave me like this night
of my marriage to the moon’s urgent flight;
leave me outright for the day’s light—I can’t
bear to close my eyes tonight because
I may not wake to see the end of this night.


 

The Riots

by Ruben Quesada

We were given a curfew on the second day.
Clouds filling windows were replaced by soot
and ash from the burned out market on the corner.
We lost the smell of buttered beetroot, Wissotzky tea
and kishke; a tendril of root infiltrated a crack
in the floorboards. We kept our distance and let it grow
in disbelief. Someone said we should kill it
before it gets too strong. Hours, maybe even days,
went by as we hid waiting for attacks and looting
to end. At times, when the door opened, a waft of wind
made its way to those unfolding leaves
waving like the curtains out of blown out windows.

Whoever You Are, Holding Me Now

Quesada
Ruben Quesada

 

Matthew 5:4

by Ruben Quesada

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Take me. Take this. My wasted life and all
its bliss—the sea of your waking body

dawning with its warm grip on night’s wrist.
Your lips once curled into me. Your eyes

set me loose in a foggy lake. Loons call
to fill my deadened heart. To know

what loss is like you must lose everything,
you must lose even yourself, you said.

I am alone. Each night I lie and learn
to sing the dead back to life. Only they

can see what has been taken from me.
You are the bloodied cracks in my skin

so deep; I keep my hands together to hold
you in. Hear the damned prayers I reap.


Among the chaos of the 24/7 news cycle this week was this little gem: the 3M corporation raised a rainbow flag to honor Pride on Wednesday at their corporate headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.  If we are looking for small signs of change on how we treat each other as humans across the entire spectrum of our diversity it may seem a bit trivial, but it was in my mind none the less significant.  That the flag will hang there for less a week is not important.  This small step is not something that would have happened 5 years ago.  It sometimes takes pain to foster change and healing.  3M is in the spotlight for providing masks to the world to protect ourselves during the pandemic and with the Twin Cities metro area in the global headlines for the wrong reasons, George Floyd’s murder, it is reassuring to see one of our corporate citizens do the right thing, take a risk and acknowledge in a public way the contributions of its LGBT scientists, employees and customers.   It is a modest milestone that should be saluted.

Today’s poems are excellent examples of why not to read poetry literally.  When I read the poem below it is obvious its about how readers take his poetry into their conscious and subconscious.  How Whitman’s words are the essence of his best self.  How poetry is sublime in ways that can cross metaphysical boundaries, but in the end, no matter how conjoined you become with a poet’s words, Whitman commands his independence and asks you, the reader to do the same.  Even if you have been intimately moved and changed by what you have read and considered, you stand apart from the poet.  Poetry can be a penultimate act of intimacy between two human beings but it remains personal in what we give and take as writer and as reader.  Poetry in my opinion is procreation with our own souls. It is part of what I would consider  essential living, the fulfillment of an exciting, passionate and considered life, whether writing it or reading it.

Another milestone this week:  John Prine hit the charts with his first Billboard #1 hit with the last song he recorded before his death called I Remember Everything.   He recorded it in his hotel room in London while under quarantine during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly isolation wasn’t enough and this insidious virus took his life. Prine’s song writing has always been a source of solace and inspiration to me.  I smile that he is going out on top.  Enjoy.   

 


Whoever You Are Holding Me Now In Hand

by Walt Whitman

Whoever you are holding me now in hand,
Without one thing all will be useless,
I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.

Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?

The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive,
You would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be your sole and exclusive standard,
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,
The whole past theory of your life and all conformity to the lives around you would have to be abandon’d,
Therefore release me now before troubling yourself any further, let go your hand from my shoulders,
Put me down and depart on your way.

Or else by stealth in some wood for trial,
Or back of a rock in the open air,
(For in any roof’d room of a house I emerge not, nor in company,
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any person for miles around approach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea or some quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,
With the comrade’s long-dwelling kiss or the new husband’s kiss,
For I am the new husband and I am the comrade.

Or if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus merely touching you is enough, is best,
And thus touching you would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.

But these leaves conning you con at peril,
For these leaves and me you will not understand,
They will elude you at first and still more afterward, I will certainly elude you,
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.

For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book,
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,
Nor do those know me best who admire me and vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love (unless at most a very few) prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil, perhaps more,
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit, that which I hinted at;

Therefore release me and depart on your way.

I Wake Up In Your Bed

 

Adrienne Rich
Adrienne Rich (1929 – 2012)

Twenty One Love Poems

II

by Adrienne Rich

I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I’ve been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.


Knowing there is no one measure of compatibility in human relationships, I still offer this: in my experience it is the quality of sleep that I achieve next to a partner that cements the bond between us as strongly as anything in the waking realm.   Sleep can be messy; drooling, bad breath, restless legs, periods of wakefulness and brief conversations in the middle of the night in which one or the other partner has no waking memory.  It is an anti-dote and mirror to our wakefulness and when it is gentle and accepting it makes the messiness of consciousness more accepting.

It is Pride Week.   Pride festivities are likely to be a bit more subdued this year, social distancing and all, but I hope the momentum towards social justice keeps marching on, seeping into all the cracks that need to be filled in our social fabric, still allowing it to stretch into a bigger and bigger tent.  Adrienne Rich is an important voice in LBGQT poetry and politics.  Her poetic genius was not so much political it was an expression of love.  I have several of her books from the 1970’s, relatively early in her career, her voice is one of confidence, one of courage, one of power; the power of love.

What are you doing to mark Pride this year?   Marching?  Dancing?  Calling old friends?  Doing something that celebrates we are all wonderful shades of the rainbow?


VII

What kind of beast would turn its life into words?
What atonement is this all about?
—and yet, writing words like these, I’m also living.
Is all this close to the wolverines’ howled signals,
that modulated cantata of the wild?
or, when away from you I try to create you in words,
am I simply using you, like a river or a war?
And how have I used rivers, how have I used wars
to escape writing of the worst thing of all—
not the crimes of others, not even our own death,
but the failure to want our own freedom passionately enough
so that blighted elms, sick rivers, massacres would seem
mere emblems of that desecration of ourselves?

Countless Silken Ties of Love and Thought

IMG_8718
The magical world inside a tent.

The Silken Tent

by Robert Frost

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightlest bondage made aware.


I have used this time at home to continue the purge of belongings I began 10 years ago. There is something healthy about going from 3,000 square feet to 710 square feet of living space.  It puts a premium on prioritizing what belongings have value.  In cleaning out my garage this week, I came across the REI six man tent that was my car camp tent when my children were small. It accompanied us on many adventures.  It is now 30 years old and despite multiple attempts at re-water proofing the fly, the last few times it has been used it has proven disappointing in its ability to function as a tent should.  It also is bigger than I need now and weighs more than I want for hiking, so I decided it was time to part ways.  I ran a CL list ad basically giving it away to a family as a kid fort in the back yard, to serve as some outdoor summer fun.  I had an immediate response and it has found a better home where I hope it can create for another child some of the memories I have of the family tent as a fort in the back yard for daytime adventures and the occasional fair weather sleep over with a friend.

It is surprising to me there are not more poems written with tents as a metaphor for something grand and mystical. But then I have to remind myself that those of us that have been lucky enough to grow up with tents as part of their summer adventures are not in the majority, too many families either weren’t capable of vacations or parents ideas of vacations did not include biting insects, sand in your underwear and burned hot dogs over a fire.  I am so grateful my parents did.

Do you have a favorite memory regarding a tent?   What’s happened to your family tent?  Is it still serviceable?  Do you have plans to use it or is it time to let it find a new home and another purpose?


The Tent

by Naomi Shihab Nye – 1952

When did hordes of sentences start beginning with So?
As if everything were always pending,
leaning on what came before.
What can you expect?
Loneliness everywhere, entertained or kept in storage.
So you felt anxious to be alone.
Easier to hear, explore a city, room,
mound of hours, no one walking beside you.
Talking to self endlessly, but mostly listening.
This would not be strange.
It would be the tent you slept in.
Waking calmly inside whatever
you had to do would be freedom.
It would be your country.
The men in front of me had whole acres
in their eyes. I could feel them cross, recross each day.
Memory, stitched.  History, soothed.
What we do or might prefer to do. Have done.
How we got here. Telling ourselves a story
till it’s compact enough to bear.
Passing the walls, wearing the sky,
the slight bow and rising of trees.
Everything ceaselessly holding us close.
So we are accompanied.
Never cast out without a line of language to reel us back.
That is what happened, how I got here.
So maybe. One way anyway.
A story was sewn, seed sown,
this was what patriotism meant to me—
to be at home inside my own head long enough
to accept its infinite freedom
and move forward anywhere, to mysteries coming.
Even at night in a desert, temperatures plummet,
billowing tent flaps murmur to one other.