Poet’s Notebook: “November Kale” and brief commentary

November kale

It took me all this time
to notice how the plants
in the course of their slow marathon,
pass on the torch of life
from Spring to Fall

And how,
when the last bit of green fades away
the landscape relaxes
into deep yoga
and goes into zazen.

As I grow older
I am satisfied.
I am sure that I have found a real friend in nature.
The garden is an old friend,
that with my help

Will be born again come May.
My aging has been slow
compared to the swiss chard
and the squash.
Look at these hands!

So wrinkled and creased
and tough like the kale
that is still feeding us.
But even though it is tough,
the kale is sweeter after a frost.

I like to think that I am sweeter
than I was when I was younger.
It’s just the way it is.
Even though sometimes
I feel like flipping off the world

For making it so difficult
to just live and be myself.
The world could so easily
have turned me terminally bitter,
but like November kale, I am sweeter!

Brief commentary:

What I’m trying to say here is that two things are happening at once as I enter the last ¼ of my, hopefully, median life-span. I may not be as strong physically as I used to be, but I am tougher. Life has made me intrinsically stronger. I’m not a push-over, except to my wife. Nor am I as conflicted or as tentative as I used to be. I used to defer to people who talked loud or sounded like they might know something, people with titles and pedigrees and big egos. I’ve got some things worked out and I can honestly say that when I wake up in the morning I am the same person who fell asleep the night before. I might change my mind from time to time, but my heart is steady and it beats for life, it beats against war and meanness and greed, and it beats for what I know is true and real. Also, I care less about image or impressions than I used to and that includes being less impressed by material things than I was when I was young. I used to identify myself with stuff. Stuff fills up our lives and our heads. Ideas are like stuff that fills our thoughts. Now I can fit everything that I am attached to into a medium-size suitcase, literally and metaphorically. (That is to say, even the truths I live by do not take up very much space.)

It’s getting harder to let go of my attachment to living things though . . . and, as far as that goes, I just want to say that I buy into the indigenous sense that everything is alive, including stones. This isn’t a case of being naïve or anti-science, it is based on my personal experience of energy fields or electro-magnetic fields. All my life I have been attracted by certain places going back to my early childhood. Now I know that I was literally attracted to these places. I’ll elaborate on that some time, but the point I want to make is, as the universe animates, the store-bought stuff, as well as the store-bought ideas, that used to be important to me, have simply faded into the background, one reality displacing the other. We can choose our realities to a certain extent but it is also true that certain realities can choose us. For the last twenty or so years the reality of nature has been deepening and animating and calling me out and, now that I am in my mid-sixties, I am finally responding whole-heartedly. I’m just a little sad that I didn’t catch on sooner when my body was stronger and more resilient, but hey, I’ve still got some good years left, so teach-on nature. I’m ready to learn. I’m sitting in the front row! I’m listening. My heart is open.


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