Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kudzu and honeysuckle

Some dreams never seem to die as definitively as others, maybe the beauty of those vagaries is that they remain hopeful after years of neglect. Like an antebellum home with white paint peeling artistically from the walls, with kudzu and honeysuckle growing into and out of the windows, embroidering the edifice with green knots, coral and saffron blooms. Beautiful and hopeful, inspiring lovely visions of summer days spent repairing swinging shutters and decaying floorboards, inspiring even lovelier visions of future Christmases gathered in the ballroom around a grand piano, friends from all corners of the globe gathered to see your miraculous recovery of something nearly forgotten. Naturally, the vision is much more beautiful than the actuality would be. In actuality, the building would probably crash around you. But maybe the vision is enough.


At night,
the universe, so large by day,
so spread out and confident,
breathes silence and bundles itself,
curls in on itself,
becomes small,
hiding itself like a child beneath a blanket,
peeking out into the darkness of night.
A blanket, soft and heavy,
spreads over us all;
you are over there,
head resting against a pillow,
I am over here,
tucked coolly beneath cool sheets.
A blanket, soft and heavy,
wide and long,
stretching from one state to another,
piling atop cities and suburbs,
a worn blanket
scattered with bright holes
where small fingers have pulled at yarn,
where small fingers have rubbed the fabric for comfort.
Night, covering the universe so that it curls upon itself,
obscuring all distances,
making infinity as small and delicate as an infant;
making the long trip from here to there
the distance of a narrow bed.
We are where we are,
tucked coolly beneath cool sheets,
heads resting side by side against a pillow,

Friday, June 11, 2010


Wading across the night black street
through the heavy damp haze
of a summer storm
the thick air currents
still and silent,
you whisper
that darkness is a giant
who steps in front of our house at night,
and I take your small hand,
and we face him together.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Beneath the dogwood,
its gray branches reaching out across us,
protective arms,
a thin gypsy mother,
dangling shell and silver windchimes,
tucked into translucent chartreuse leaves
tangled and glossy as a mass of gypsy hair,
we lie and listen,
I listen and you giggle,
I ask you to listen, straining my own ears;
you manage silence for a moment
before the thousand questions begin,
and in that moment,
a mockingbird leaps and fiddles,
a wren scolds and chides,
a bluebird whistles and spins,
a mourning dove weeps and moans,
a meadowlark warbles and croons,
a symphony of crickets and cicadas tune their violins,
their cellos, their ukuleles, their mandolins,
and a firefly,
a spot of darkness floating across the creeping darkness,
pulls a star from the sky.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Dilettante

The birth of the dilettante is curiosity. Children are natural dilettantes, asking in one moment "Why is night dark?" and moving quickly to "How many eyes do spiders have?" A dilettante, like a child, is as interested in asking questions as she is in finding answers. This curiosity is grounded in open-mindedness. A dilettante is not satisfied with a pat answer. She is not bound by the parameters of "tried and true answers" that hem in more conservative minds. She is not even convinced that there are any right answers. Rather, she seeks to collect a menagerie of possible answers, one for any day or mood of the week.

Curiosity makes the dilettante find delight in even the mundane. She might marvel at the feel of moss or clover. She might search out each bird's nest in her yard and thrill at the miracle of their individual songs and their communal symphonies. She embraces the whimsical. Inquisitively, she learns how to cartwheel at the ripe old age of 35 just to see what it feels like. She dresses in a rose-colored tutu with her child to live the life of a ballerina for a day.

The dilettante experiments. She is curious to know if there is another way, a better way, than the one put forward by the textbooks and experts. She tries new things simply for the joy of novelty, the excitement of possible success. Failure is equally exciting because she perceives it as a challenge, an opportunity to “begin again more intelligently,” as Henry Ford once said.

Because she experiments, she innovates. Each trial leads to new potential. She sees that the potential horizon is only a perception. In reality, like the round globe, potential is never-ending, always expanding, always once more over the waves, through the storms, into the sunlight. And so she pushes forward, sometimes coming back to the place she began, sometimes discovering new lands or new ways to reach old lands.

Like the horizon, her interests continually expand as she progresses. She is not content to look at the universe through a telescope; she will re-create it on a canvas; she will sing it in an opera; she will tell of it in a story. She dares to embrace all that she sees, dares to grow to the size of the universe herself, not resting until her curiosity is satisfied. Never resting at all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Umbels and Fractals

After mid-day had passed and the heat slightly relented in certain shady areas, Fain and I took our new sidewalk chalk to the front walk where he created a rambling map of "the dangerous areas." The pink path went straight through my gargantuan dandelion and rose and toadstool garden, like wee little Alice in Wonderland. When I grew tired of drawing, I brought a full gauzy scarf to lie on because the grass in the front lawn is too prickly.

Eventually, Fain also wore out Wonderland and wanted an adventure, so I challenged him to a scavenger hunt. I would ask him to bring different items to me - a flower that bees love or one that butterflies are drawn to, a leaf as soft as a lamb's ear, a leaf that smells like lemons, a prickly leaf, a flower made of many smaller flowers, etc. As he would bring his treasures to me, I would tell him the names of the plants - the Chaste tree or lantana, lamb's ear and lemon balm, holly and yarrow. After several trips to uncover the mystery plants, I would ask him to tell me again what plants the different pieces came from, and he did a fine job of remembering. Then, it was his turn, and he asked me to bring something brown or red, something that ants eat - I brought a dead bumblebee that I'd found in the garden when I was digging earlier. It was such a beautiful afternoon. Exactly what I imagined when I imagined being a mother...being a tour guide to the universe.

Later, I had to Google flowers made of many florets because it drove me crazy not to know the specific name. The are called umbels, like umbrellas, which is fitting as they do resemble umbrellas. Denise explained that they are also fractals because they are large flowers made of smaller flowers that look the same. I didn't remember that from math classes, but I thought it was interesting. Go pluck a flower of a lantana or a geranium or Queen Anne's lace.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dirt Rich

I wonder how many modern American health problems are a direct result of our wealth? Especially those mental health problems. I wonder if we would be happier with less, more at our ease with less.

Over the years, I've thought often about artful lives and beautiful lives, and I've wondered how much happier I might be if I spent more time crafting a beautiful life than hammering together a life with "enough." This weekend made me consider those ideas again.

We didn't spend money or meet demands. We just enjoyed the beauty of dogwood leaves and passing clouds, green cabbage worms and blue butterflies.

It wasn't easy, though. I had to make myself stop for breakfast. I had to force myself to put down my fork between bites to actually taste the food. I had to control my impatience when Fain wanted to dawdle. I had to persuade myself to lie still underneath the tree, to stop pulling at weeds when I was tired. I had to focus my vision on what we already had at home to prevent myself from thinking of all of the things that we should go to Wal-mart to buy. I had to tell myself that I wanted to take time to make my life beautiful, and jewelry or a degree or a raise wouldn't contribute to the art of living at all. Only by sitting still and considering the brushstrokes, so to speak, those small daily actions and words that create the moments, the still life images, of life could I really end with something breath-taking.

And I felt more relaxed, happier; I could even see clearly for the first time in weeks. I didn't have a stomach ache or a head ache. I felt well.

I wonder if being "dirt poor" gives us the opportunity to practice creativity, which in turn enriches our lives with new skills and insights. I wonder if the term shouldn't be "dirt rich" since those who are "cash poor" by American standards have to rely more on what comes from the earth, including their own humanity, imagination, and intellect, and who, in doing so, take on those lovely qualities of the earth.

"Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." from Matthew
Creative Commons License
A Mirror, A Summer, A Street by Autumn Crisp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.