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A Poem for Reflection

Hello, friends. It’s good to be back here today to share a poem.

I began writing this one six years ago, during a short stint of homeschooling our daughters after we moved across the country. But then the kids returned to school, I started a new job, and I never quite got around to finishing it.

The world has changed dramatically since then, in terrifying and grievous ways. Or, the actual truth: daily threats to health and safety have always burdened many people, and now these threats have begun intruding on the bubble of racial, economic, and historic privilege that I live in. The world feels like it’s coming apart at the seams, and it’s become painfully clear how shoddy the seams are.

I’m sharing this poem today because its theme — the challenge of gaining perspective when you can’t get a change of scenery — resonates for me now just as much as it did when I was homeschooling by choice. But I also need to acknowledge that being at home with my kids during a pandemic is an expression of my privilege.

Whether you’re on the front lines as an essential worker or in a state of lockdown at home, this is my hope for all of us: that we may see growth in spite of the repetitive duties of our lives. And that we may be graced with small, sweet moments of human connection in spite of ourselves and our coping mechanisms. 

Field Study

Mark a sapling’s new growth
by watching the backdrop,
not the tree.
Find signs of change
not in isolation, but in the relation
of stem to ground, leaf to air,
and branches to canopy.

She’s growing fast this year,
but it’s easy to miss —
since she fills your field of vision,
stitched as close as your shadow,
eclipsing the landscape.
Some days, to generate space,
you stop looking her in the eye.

She still needs much tending.
In the evening, you stand behind her
and brace her head with your belly.
She tips back, all neck and open beak
like a featherless hatchling,
so you can take a brush
to her teeth.

She fidgets against your trunk.
Note how the crown of her head
now grazes your sternum.
You meet her gaze again, at last —
then watch! — from upside-down,
her round eyes bend
into two small grins.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. KC

    I’ve been thinking more and more about something like this: “Or, the actual truth: daily threats to health and safety have always burdened many people, and now these threats have begun intruding on the bubble of racial, economic, and historic privilege that I live in.”

    What do you get when a culture unquestioningly prioritizes stockholder/CEO/owner earnings over decent wages, sick leave, and considering workers as valuable human beings instead of a disposable, replaceable “resource” that should be financially minimized as much as possible, no matter the personal/individual costs? Inevitably, something like this. Not necessarily this; and some of the problems right now would be caused by the virus anyway (although less so, if people who were sick *could stay at home* and not infect others, etc.); but: this is what you get. When you have racist systems (and when people are encouraged/trained/automatically racist) and you don’t fix it; this is what you get.

    There is inevitable fruit of evil, and it behooves us to make sure our trees (both individually and as far as our influence reaches) are good all the way through, or they will bear bad fruit. (And, in theory, then they will be chopped down, although when?)

    One perturbing thing, to me, is that many “answers” to the recession seem to be more “pretend there is no human cost” – pretend it’s safe for people to work so that you can quit giving them unemployment and tip those numbers down; pretend they’re not underpaid or given too few hours or given humanly unacceptable deals/contracts; deliberately break systems of measurement and systems of restitution so that *it’s cheaper* and… yeah. This is… not learning the lesson? And lessons which are not learned tend to inevitably be repeated (see also: racism), and the cost of repeating those lessons falls disproportionately on those already suffering, less on the rich and privileged and bubble-ed. (I mean, there was the French Revolution, but otherwise – and even so, that hurt the poor people as well.)

    It’s just… when you’re looking at symptoms of a disease, treat the disease. Don’t only treat the symptom (and especially don’t try to stage-makeup cover-up the symptom, auugh). Yes, the stage makeup is cheaper; yes, the symptom-only treatment is cheaper; but it won’t *work.* Would we, as individuals, seriously rather have more disposable income (even for good things! travel! art supplies! dance lessons! a less-frustrating phone!) than have the people “working for us” have good working standards. (whether they’re working for us via Amazon deliveries [Amazon: so much cheaper than many places! saving so much money!] or clothing/phone manufacture in Asia or chocolate harvesting or whatever.) I think, for a lot of us, the answer has mostly been “I don’t especially want to think about all that, and I can’t fix it all anyway, so I’ll make maybe one ethical decision to give myself warm fuzzies and then call it a day” – and maybe that really isn’t enough for the “everyday” middle people to do? We obviously can’t depend on most of the people at the “top” or “in power” to make ethical choices (see: Bezos, Zuckerberg, a whole crop of politicians tilting the system in favor of corporations against humans for decades), so we need to 1. vote out the politicians that we can vote out, and 2. do what we can ourselves? Learn; take action; learn; keep moving; on both racial issues and economic ones.

    It is our problem; it has been our problem; we must not go back to a “normal” that is ethically unacceptable.

    (also, I love your poem. Thank you for this post.)

  2. Sarah M

    This poem was SO beautiful. I love it–especially tipping the baby ‘bird’ back to brush her teeth!

  3. Christine Bailey

    Huge lump in my throat after reading this. Beautiful.

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