The Other Butterfly Effect

The Other Butterfly Effect

A few weeks ago I visited the zoo with the kids’ school. (Please, if you love me at all, remind me how terrible it is to visit the zoo in a gang. Doorways are impossible, corners cannot be made, and there is a constant state of counting heads. Seriously stressful.) Once we broke up into smaller groups, our mid-sized gang of elementary aged girls decided to spend our precious few free minutes visiting the Butterfly House.

A Butterfly House has to be best of all things girly, right? Bright colors, winged fairy-like creatures, warm temperatures, and sweet smells. Perfect.

And for about two minutes – approximately one-third of the time it takes to walk through the greenhouse-style room – it was perfect. And then it was not.

Then it was hot, sticky, and sickeningly sweet. I looked over at Macy, who was somewhat green, and asked if she was okay. “My tummy feels a little sick.”

“Me, too,” I said.

Once we made it out of the passage room where you have to check yourself in mirrors to make sure no winged hitchhikers are attached to your clothing, we were relieved to feel the cooler air of a Nebraska spring outside. We suddenly felt better. Macy pinked up in the sunshine and wind, even the wind carrying the questionable smells of zoo life.

We love our butterflies, tropical flowers, and mild temperatures, but there was just something wrong about all that good being crammed into a 20×20 greenhouse dome.

In fact, I think we would have appreciated the vibrant blue and purple butterflies we saw in the exhibit even more if they’d flown past us outside the cat complex or the bear canyon. In the Butterfly House we expected them and grew bored by their presence, even as beautiful as they were. In the open air of the otherwise brownish zoo, I think they would have been more useful.

 

 

Irises After a Rain Storm

My great-grandmother used to grow irises in white and purple, just one of her many gardening triumphs. Since we live in a rental, I have contented myself with maintaining the flowers and plants that already grow here instead of planting my own favorites. What a gift when I discovered old-fashioned irises in our back yard this spring!

The girls begged me to cut them and bring them in so we could enjoy their ruffled organdy up close, but I told them they would last longer in the garden. Then last night a storm blew through our neighborhood, and this morning the top-heavy irises were face down in the mulch, their thick stems bent to near breakage.

I snipped them free with kitchen scissors and loaded their bounty into a wide vase from my storage room. We placed the tall debutantes on the piano.

From the storm, beauty.

 

 

Just Add a Filter

I know some people don’t like the fact that Instagram can sort of make everything look better than it is, but I’m pretty okay with it. I mean, we’re all living the same life. We KNOW life isn’t always as sticky sweet as it appears in some of our photos, but I don’t have a problem with framing anything in it’s best possible light.

I’ve read this about writing non-fiction (memoir specifically), that sometimes a writer embellishes the the story a little to make it read as dramatically as it felt. We’ve all done this, right? I’m not sure if I tell the story in it’s bare bones if it will convey the emotion I felt at the time, so I add a pause or a word or something. You’ve done this, right? Not to lie but to make sure the listener is hit with the same kind of emotion that you felt.

That’s Instagram for me. In the photo above, Macy had been playing outside literally all day. Under a tree. In flip flops and a sun dress. Oso (our emotionally challenged dog) and I met up with her at the park just down the hill from our backyard. Her face looked like a child who had worked the coal mines all day. Her hair was sticky, sweaty mess. But when she and Oso walked ahead of me on our neighborhood path and they were parallel to a wall of old fashioned lilac bushes, I wanted to capture it in the way it felt.

So I added a filter.

There are times for gritty, real-life photo journalism and there are times for Instagram filters. The truth is, my phone camera is better at capturing the general idea and then I add a filter that organizes the shapes and light into the moment I wanted to save. It works for me.

 

The Sacrament of Right Now

I figured out one of the things I love most about poetry, and it’s pretty much summed up by this photo I took with my phone last week.

There was something awesome about coming out of my late class and finding this car in the space next to mine. Somehow the fact that that car exists made me happier. Kind of like the feeling I had on Mother’s Day afternoon when I watched the Kid President tribute video. I mean, really, the person who had the idea for Kid President has to be so satisfied with the amount of happy he or she has brought to the world just by creating that persona.

In a much more eloquently spiritual way, the French monk Jean Pierre de Caussade called this “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.” And I’ve recently been so drawn to the way poetry does this: illuminates the holiness in a single image or slice of time. Jane Kenyon does it here in “Let Evening Come”:

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop in the oats, to air in the lung let evening come. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16019#sthash.IkzIDA8D.dpuf
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop in the oats, to air in the lung let evening come. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16019#sthash.IkzIDA8D.dpuf

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to the air in the lung

let evening come.

I can’t explain it, but, the scoop in the oats? That line slays me! Can’t you hear that scoop sink into the bag of oats? Can’t you smell it’s hearty barn-ness?

There’s just something calming and comforting about living right there with that scoop. Or in the parking lot with a car that shade of blue. Or on a hot pink plastic stool next to a bathtub overflowing with two little girls scrubbing away the grime of the first hot afternoon of their summer.

It just feels right to acknowledge the holy in these moments, right? I think it has to do with that advice Jesus gave: “Don’t worry about tomorrow.” Just experience the sacrament of right now.

 

 

Phone Photos of my Published Poem

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

 

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Notes: I wrote this after reading the poem “Saints” by Amy Gerstler. That’s why after the title it says “After Gerstler” – something I learned to do in my poetry class this semester. I give Gerstler credit because it is modeled after her theme as well as her style. This is a prose poem, meaning it isn’t written in stanzas. In terms of theme, I was trying to argue with the idea that to be considered a saint (in the Catholic tradition) a person has to have lived an exemplary life but also have certain miracles attributed to their name. I think miracles should have a broader definition, and I mention some of that in this poem. It was a fun exercise, and I’m thrilled that the magazine chose to publish it.

 

It finally happened . . .

 

I used to disagree when I heard writers say something like this:

If you’re a writer you’ll know it because you won’t be able to NOT write. A writer has to write, no matter what.

I mean, I understood what they were saying, but I had never felt that way. I wrote because it was a way to communicate but not because I loved it, not because I had no other choice. But this semester something changed. And you know what happened to me?

Poetry happened to me. I can’t explain it, really, because I know for so many people poetry is just something weird. It used to be that way for me. But I just fell in love with poetry this semester.

And I finally experienced that “true” writer’s moment: I was sitting at the library yesterday trying to read and I had to stop. I had to pull out my notebook and write. And you know what I had to write? I had to write a poem. I had to.

That’s never happened to me before. But I liked it.

What’s really crazy is how fateful it sort of seems that I’ve discovered this new love. I only enrolled in this graduate seminar in poetry because my classmates wanted to take something together. We agreed on American Lit: 20th Century Women’s Poetry. At the time, I could think of about a hundred other topics I would have rather covered in American lit.

And now I write poetry.

Do you like poetry? Or what awesome thing have you discovered by surprise lately?