Here we are in America’s national poetry month, and I find myself not getting to the books on my nightstand. I was ambitious and said I would read a collection a day. But I didn’t anticipate the steep learning curve associated with Facebook Shops and “pixels” and currency converters, and plug-ins that work then don’t work then work again. This side of things is hard. No wonder my Norwegian publisher never really did much of this kind of thing: marketing. I suck at it. And I find social media intimidating and awkward. I am not a cheerleader type. Never the leader of the pink ladies. Never a Heather. And really, I am fine with that. But actually not sure how my introverted “authenticity” translates to functional marketing. The words followers and fans make me sick to my stomach, tied up with all kinds of ambivalence.

I am so grateful for E.’s amazing moral support when I hit the stupid-wall and start thinking: This is what you get for leaving your lane. Who do you think you are? You’re going to crash and burn. I’m trying to get things to a not-too-embarrassing state now, and then let it rest for a few days. Get back to poetry.

This evening I’m going to dive back into Rachel Barenblat’s book Crossing the Sea. (See what I did there?) I’m halfway through and incredibly moved. I’ve been thinking of Dave (at The Skeptic’s Kaddish) who set up a blog as a way to grief his father. Barenblat is a rabbi and this collection is about her mother’s death.

People say that everyone goes through this, but I never will. I say that to point out how powerful these poems are. The speaker draws me into her relationship with her mother and her grief. Her poem “Mother’s Day” begins with: It’s a year of firsts/and most of them hurt.

In “Pedicure”, she talks about the simple thing of removing the nail polish that she had on for the funeral: […] replaced with periwinkle, luminous and bright/like your big string of pearls you do not know/are mine now that you’re gone.

There’s a reason why I couldn’t read this book in one day. It’s like trying to eat a whole mayonnaise cake in one sitting. But I’m looking forward to picking it up again.

But first, there’s housework. And some yoga. Trying to get back into – oh, I don’t know, integrated with the rest of the world here: friends I haven’t seen or spoken with in nearly two months. And then there is work later this week. Students. There’s clothing that isn’t loungewear. Make-up. Shoes.

In some ways I’ve been
in a womb, cocoon, nestled
with the dull sounds of
blunted percussives, every
thing in the world – swaddled

The tomatoes I replanted when they outgrew the greenhouse are now rotting greenly on the vine. I figure there is a metaphor there.

The garden was never cultivated. I never cultivated the garden.

The coriander sprouted – then flowered, and quickly went to seed. The beets were too crowded to thrive, and the sweet potatoes sent shoots where there was no soil in which to land.

I’ve no idea what’s up with the strawberry plants, with their wide, lily pad-like leaves, but no berries.

I’ve brought the angel wing into the house now that the temperatures have dropped below 15C. The perennials are dying. Or going dormant.

The honeysuckle has twined its way far past the trellis I put up in May. It’s choking the thuja, but blooming with such a fragrance that I can’t bring myself to cut it back.

I do have hope. There’s the winter to read, and to learn. And there is something to be said for learning one’s place in the making of things.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

INTERPRETIVE TRANSLATION OF TALMUDIC TEXTS. Gratefulness.org

There is a personal grief in private failures, in every missed deadline – every lost hour.
And a communal mourning for every collective dream deferred.

I’ve been meditating on impermanence. I even learned to spell the word correctly. But accepting that things are always in motion is easier than accepting the futility of our determinations with regard to where that motion will take us.

My circle of influence is tiny.

But I smile at the woman I pass in the grocery store and hope there are ripples of influence. Maybe that is all any of us can do. And maybe this is everything?

This, and the daily attention required to cultivate what we plant?


I spent Saturday brooding a mood of discontent.
Fortunately the shell is thin and cracks easily –

I ran in the evening.
And the forest is always a place for sloughing what’s become useless
and for new growth.

We are wild things, after all.

Cultivation is a balancing act.