Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Benefits of Chickweed

My hens outside their coop waiting for chickweed, their favorite food.


The Telling that Changes Everything V. January 1, 2012

My backyard is covered in chickweed.
Each time I check on the hens, I pull up
handfuls, clumps, sometimes by the roots,
but still the chickweed flourishes.  By
March it will be thick with long strands.
I make pesto from it and eat it on
vermicelli, but mainly I lavish it on
the hens, their feathers newly white,
their tails perky with vigor and health.
This home was once strange and too
new for me to get comfortable.
Thirteen summers have passed, and
every tree, rock, fence, and overwintering
herb is familiar.  Here is home for one
who moved house to house forty-two
times until she was sixty-one, and then
she stepped into this refurbished home
and made it hers.  A little dust in the
corners, cobwebs in the windows helps.
Even more, the paintings from Russian
friends, the photos, children’s drawings,
the poster of Finnish islands, the ancient
wood cookstove that takes hours
to put out enough heat for me to
unwrap myself from wool scarf, 
Mexican serape, Russian fur-lined
waistcoat.  The kitchen cabinets are
covered with photos and phrases I
like: “It’s more noble to grow one’s
own food than to be religious.”
“Healthy Living to a Hundred.”
More children’s drawings.  I sit in
my old writing chair, my feet 
on the comfy computer chair
ergonomically correct.  I look out
at the tops of the pines in full sun
now.  In the mornings, when I 
walk my dog, the leaves on the 
forest floor shine, and the holly
holds up candles.  Even in the dead 
season, the woods are alight.  The
succulent in the window is full 
of buds that will open red.  Lonely
I may sometimes be now that I’ve
slowed my life to a human pace,
but, as Gene says, “It’s inside the well
of loneliness that we are who we really 
are.”  He puts his visions into mosaic
walls; I, into words.  Debbie said I
lived in “a rich world of words...
They are in her head tumbling around
waiting for their chance to be put
to permanence.”  I don’t experience
any tumbling, but when I ask for them,
a spring opens on the forest floor, and
words flow out, slowly at first, then
in a steady stream, enough to water
my soul and refresh the spirits of those
who would drink.  To put it another
way: my mind is fertile, and in winter, 
when the grass dies, it grows chickweed,
enough to feed the hens and me, 
a green carpet undeterred by frost
or even being pulled up by handfuls.
It’s the little pot that never ran out
of porridge, the hen that kept laying
golden eggs as long as her keeper
wasn’t greedy.  Loneliness is a small
price to pay if you have that field of
chickweed in your own backyard,
and friends who comprehend that
art and loneliness are twin sisters.
To flourish, we allow the mind to
empty, the feelings to experience
hunger.  Then the words and the love 
rush in.

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