Friday, July 5, 2019

born this way

I'm sure I'm not the only teacher in the Poetry Friday community who takes time in the summer to DIG OUT.  The persistent pressures of classroom life always have me triaging my way through the school year ("What must be done immediately or tomorrow?  What important pieces of paper can be thrown in this tray/folder/pile which I promise I will come back to as soon as I get more than a moment?")

Summer brings that more-than-a-moment, by which time I have forgotten what I put in this tray/folder/pile.  Luckily, much of it is now expired/moot/replaced and can be tossed directly into the recycling! I'm not sure this is the ideal way of dealing with paperwork, but there is a kind of relief in realizing that it's too late now to address quite a few things that seemed pressing a few months ago.

So here in a faded green folder are papers which were saved from my grandmother's things after her death at 95 in 2004, and which were in turn rescued from my parents' recent move into a very downsized cottage.  They are a mix of letters received by my grandmother from relatives of the 19th century, missives from my mother as a young mother to my grandmother, from me and my brother from summer camp to home in the 70's.

And here!  Original copies of poems written by Heidi as a child!  Here is the first poem I remember intentionally writing As A Poet, I think in 2nd grade.  This is a copy rewritten by a later Heidi with more developed cursive and no doubt a vision of her own poetry collection:

This list of wishes, dated Fall 1973, shows the heavy influence of all my reading and learning about Native American Indian history and culture.  Probably 90% of that information was incorrect or, at best, approximate (much came from the fictionalized facts of the Childhood of Famous Americans series), but what I did understand is that what we now call indigenous peoples lived on the land in a respectful harmony with its resources.

 Kind of fascinating, right?  The power of that fantasy was intense throughout my middle childhood.

And here--I am 11--is more evidence that my recent conversion to vociferous climate activist is really just a continuation of lifelong concerns.  😊

Perhaps you too were born this way.  (Perhaps ALL children are born with an innate understanding of our physical connection to the Earth; is that why we all will eat dirt given half a chance?)  Perhaps we all were born this way, and then the culture of achievement and consumption misled us, made us forget that knowing how to get tomatoes from nothing but seeds, rain and dirt might ultimately be more important than how to efficiently Google "vintage editions 1964 Childhood of Famous Americans."

In my searching this morning I came across this quote from Sitting Bull, "Dakota Boy."

It has become very very difficult to judge what is enough.  (Which makes it very very hard to tell if we ourselves are enough.)  So as I dig out and sift through this summer, I'm asking: does this thing I have always done, that I was sure I wanted to do, this object that I hang on to, still make sense right now?  Or can I let go, do with the less that is enough?

Our Poetry Friday host this week is Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect, where she and her Poetry Sisters are ringing us with triolets.  Isn't it nice that we can get there without too many CO2 emissions?


  1. Oh, wow, Child Heidi was definitely Naturalist Heidi. These are so cute! Here's to being Born This Way, although I think it's also a case somewhat of being a sensitive kid growing up in the right era - I'm still a little twitchy when people litter and think of owls... (Give a hoot, don't pollute...). ☺

  2. YES to the digging out. Thank you for sharing your childhood poems! How fun to see your later preoccupations already there! Great post, Heidi.

  3. Heidi, so much here....such a rich post. I love that you found your poems...yes...we are born this way. We are born with extra ears and eyes to our hearts. Some call it "old soul" or "deep thinker" or "philosopher"....and the lucky ones of us like you, poet. I feel so lucky that I get to know you and some of your journey through writing. Mother Nature is so fortunate to count you as one of her warriors as she called you to be.

  4. I love all your childhood poems Ruth. When we moved house a few years ago, I discovered some teen age angst ridden poetry that I burned. I kept some of my early work, but not much.
    My early years were spent in wild spaces and my mother taught us that the sacred was in the land. I think it's hard to lose those first learnings entirely.
    Good luck with the digging out.

  5. I am so happy to learn that I am not the only one who has piles of papers to sort through every summer! Unfortunately, I won't be finding any hidden gems of poetry I wrote as a child. I loved nature and being outdoors, but I couldn't sit still long enough to write poems about what I saw! Your childhood poems are treasures, with glimpses of all the wonderful poetry that has followed.

  6. I have some of my old poems, too, Heidi, sometimes about flowers, but many about the farm experiences I had with extended family members. It's lovely to read what you cared and then wrote about, special to see them in your own hand. The words by Sitting Bull are frightening truth, aren't they? Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  7. I think my earliest poems were fantasy narratives, as well as one about Van Gogh's ear. So I suppose I haven't changed much either?
    Maybe we could have lunch in August before school starts (the 23rd?).

  8. Amen to the sort and pitch of papers, but also to the practices and attitudes.

    Oh, how I wish my young self would have had your young self for a friend! Glad we are now!!

  9. What a treasure you found and shared with your childhood writings. Isn't it fascinating and wonderful to see the seeds then that have grown into you now?

  10. Wow! What a post! Your shared poems and reflections are so powerful. I love that Young Heidi was prescient enough to recognize the need to recopy that poem. You began your mighty journey early, my friend!

  11. Heidi, you were a child poet prodigy. You pieced together beautiful words and images from the very beginning. How lovely that you were able to find these treasures and enjoy them once more.

  12. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your growing up years through poetry! So impressed with these poems, Heidi. And how wonderful that you already knew your calling as a poet and naturalist from such a tender age.

  13. I enjoyed these early poetic journeys of yours Heidi, especially the "bottles with pretend help messages inside" and your tribe list, thanks for sharing them.

  14. My email delivery of your blog just sent me the last 4 posts in one email. I'm sorry I am late to this post, but so glad you saved this gems. Your young self was passionate and had a beautiful gift for poetic language. I hope you put them in the Keeper file. Sorting through paper can be tiresome and tedious, but finding the treasures makes the hunt worthwhile.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!