April 22, 2022
Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.
Today is Earth Day, which celebrates earth’s wonderful variety. It is startling to think how small we are in the scope of things. That thought alone helps me attend to the beauty of this planet. From my window I can see a number of different types of grasses, wild flowers, trees and birds. I cannot imagine the number of insects and other living organisms that surround me. I am blessed with abundance.
Though I likely miss more than I notice, I do try to pay attention to the world. Poet Valerie Martínez raises issues of environmental awareness in her book-length poem Count. In it, she weaves scientific data, personal experience and native storytelling into a single celebration of earth. Martínez also questions human ethics, experiences, and responsibilities. Throughout the book, the act of counting signals a lesson as we learn who we are, confront evolution, and realize our limitations. She explores the fact that humans are still learning. For example, she writes, “The ‘Trembling Giant,’ Pando, weighs 6,615 tons,/ spreads across 100 acres in Utah, 47,400 aspens// from a single seed, a single root system,/ the world’s heaviest organism” (from #19). Water also flows through Martínez’s poems. Sometimes the reader feels overcome by water, as if overcome by emotion, by tides, by desire. These emotions rise until, in poem #15, she asks, “How much do we want the deep?” And finally, poem #10 describes attending a lecture about melting glaciers. She writes,
“…Outside the leafy banyans drip
their aerial branches like lions’ tails, and the houses keep
shining on – mango, avocado, tangerine – cheerful amnesiacs,
while a time lapse depicts shrinking ice sheets, disappearing
beachfronts, and the room is so fraught with quiet I stifle
the urge to mumble and cough.”
Focused and intense, Martínez’s book journeys through an appreciation of earth, which asks for the reader’s participation too. Perhaps because I have also been reading Emily Dickinson, I began thinking of Dickinson’s quote:
“Great Nature not to disappoint
Awaiting Her that Day —
To be a Flower, is profound
Thinking about the awesome responsibility of life as I walked my usual dry riverbed route, I began to see how silly we humans can act. While not similar in tone, technique, or intensity, I will share an earth day poem with you. I wrote this about my usual dry riverbed walking route, which contains more trash than I care to see. It stems from similar questions as Martínez’s book and Dickinson’s flower poems — what does it mean to be a good citizen, a virtuous person, and a caretaker? I hope it may inspire you to write something of your own!
Sofa in the arroyo!
Brown threads bare –
coyotes commingling –
rabbits racing –
It sits there
still undusted –
still unwanted –
a sofa in the arroyo!
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