TULIPS & THE GIFT OF TREES
Reading poetry is one of the ways some of us nourish our faith, a way we set or reset our inner compass and stay focused on the big picture, on the spiritual journey. I know that is true for me. ‘Setting the Inner Compass’, is a column where I share poems that I find meaningful and hope others do as well.
The two poems for this month’s column reflect the opening lines of Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things”,
‘When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things…”
This July 2022 I am aware of the many things that can cause us to be afraid of “what my life and my children’s lives may be.” There is no need to list them. Our two poems this month invite us into the natural world to find nourishment and renewal so we can be about the work we need and want to do as we love the world.
The first poem is by Ada Limón, who this month was appointed the 24th US poet Laureate. The poem, “Instructions on Not Giving Up”, is from her National Book Critic’s award-winning book, The Carrying. She celebrates the unfurling of a new leaf, a sign of hope despite “the mess of us”. The second poem, “Kindness”, is by Colorado based poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. I just discovered this poet, and I am very happy I did. In the poem below she invites us to ponder the beauty of a tulip years after someone planted it. She invites us to remember how often simple acts of kindness take root and bloom years after they are planted.
Reading about kindness I am reminded of the benediction I use whenever I preach or speak. I first heard it from my friend Marcus Borg, “Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the path of those we trave the way with us. Oh, be quick to love. make haste to be kind.”
“Instructions on Not Giving Up” by Ada Limón,
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles, and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
“KINDNESS” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Consider the tulip,
how long ago
someone’s hands planted a bulb
and gave to this place
a living scrap of beauty,
how it rises every spring
out of the same soil,
which is, of course,
not at all the same soil,
Consider the red petals,
the yellow at the center,
the soft green rubber of the stem,
how it bows to the world.
How, the longer you sit beside the tulip,
the more you want to bow, too.
It is this way with kindness:
someone plants in someone else
a bit of beauty—
a kind word, perhaps, or a touch,
the gift of their time or their smile.
And years later, I that inner soil,
That beauty emerges again,
pushing aside the dead leaves,
insisting in loveliness,
a celebration of the one who planted it,
the one who perceives it, and
the fertile place where it has grown.
“Instructions on Not Giving Up” by Ada Limón from The Carrying. Copywrite © 2018 by Ada Limón. Reprinted with the permissions of The Permissions Company LLC on behalf of Milkweed Editions, milkweed.org.
“Kindness” © Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is used with the poet’s permission. It was originally published on her blog, A Hundred Falling Veils and is in the new collection edited by James Crews: The Path to Kindness: poems of Connection and Joy.
 From, “The peace of Wild Things”© Wendell Berry. This poem is excerpted from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry.
 This benediction is based n the words of Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881).
Rev. Dave Brown is a writer and the creator/host of Blues Vespers. The former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma WA., he serves on the PCUSA Education Roundtable and National Self Development of People Committee. Dave with an Imam and Rabbi also does programs around interfaith relationships ands friendship. His most recent poetry collection is, I Don’t Usually but…[email protected]).