Friday, September 30, 2011

Life Lessons from the Leaves

When I headed towards the mountains, I knew that I wouldn't have the blazing golds and reds yet.  I knew I wouldn't experience a New England autumn landscape.  Still, I thought there would be more leaves that had turned.  I expected some gold and red, along with greens, something like this:

Instead, I saw green tree after green tree.  I got out of the car at the apple farm and immediately broke into a sweat, that's how warm it was.  I drove to Lutheridge with apples in my car, apples that I hoped weren't getting too hot until I could get them into a refrigerator.  I felt downright grumbly as I parked the car and unloaded my bags.

And then, I turned around and saw this tree--and I laughed:

What a glorious sight.  The sun was hitting the tree just perfectly, so that I did get blazing red and gold.  Sure it wasn't the whole mountainside or even the whole tree.  But it fed my autumnal yearnings in a way that a larger landscape of reds and golds would  not have. 

I spent the better part of half an hour appreciating the sight and photographing it from all sorts of angles.  I also thought about my experience as a metaphor for my life, how often I have my heart set on one sight and how grumpy I get when I don't get exactly what I'm expecting.  This tree was too big to miss, but I do wonder how many amazing things I miss, because I'm looking for or expecting something else.

I know I'm guilty of this in my creative life.  I wish that I had time to write larger works, so I overlook the perfectly amazing poems that I'm able to write in the time that I have.  I discount them because I'm wishing for something else.  I have a tendency to forget about the years I yearned to write poems half as good as the ones that sometimes come to me now. 

To combat that tendency, I try to cultivate gratitude.  I try to give myself credit for what I've already done, as I make new goals and plans.    A year ago, I felt despair and wondered if I'd ever publish anything book length or chapbook length again.  Little did I know I was about to get good news.

I offer these pictures to remind us all that we have some power too.  Even if the planet hasn't produced autumnal sights when we're ready for them, we can create our own.  And perhaps fairly cheaply.  In Columbia, South Carolina, at the Fresh Market (a store that's part Whole Foods, part Gourmet Shop, not the farmer's market), pumpkins were 3 for $12.  And that's in a year with a pumpkin shortage.

Mums are cheap.  And sturdy--a pot of mums will last you into the next season, when you're wondering where to stash the pot of mums because you're ready for poinsettias.

So, if any aspect of your life isn't giving you what you want, perhaps it's time to adjust your perception, to look more closely at your life to see if you're overlooking something for which you should be more appreciative.  Or maybe it's time to step up your actions on your behalf.  In our creative lives, that might mean sending out the manuscript into the world to more places.  It might mean self-publishing.  It might mean that we form more micropresses.  It might mean embracing technology and creating collections of poems that look nothing like they would have in 1956.

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