because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Learning To See

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April is National Poetry Month, so I’m sharing words in a different way. 

Click on the photo to see more work by Sean McMenemy. Photograph, used with permission of the artist.

There was only one crayon

I liked in the whole box,

a cracked black Crayola,

and I settled beside a coloring book —

gray outlines on white pages, scribbling

until I noticed Grandma pulling on

walking shoes, heavy

with stiff laces, brown like snakes.

Down the shaded walk I followed

until the lawn stopped

and weeds grew wild, sloppy and carefree.

Gardening gloves parted prickly shoots

to step inside, swallowed

I followed, tripped on rocks

and roots, got stuck

on sticky burrs while Grandma cooed

soft water words

wintergreen

witch hazel

windflowers

 words which sounded like colors

from my crayon box, words

which until then I thought strange and

separate from me.

Later, I took my crayons outside, filled

my lap with colors

drew giant spotted, all-color polka dotted

butterflies, purple and red winged smears

dipping and soaring, winding, rising transparent

as April air, until one little one

found its way above gnarled branches

and swirled

                                                            right off the page.

What are you looking forward to this Spring?

50 thoughts on “Learning To See

  1. This is so beautiful. It makes me think of my grandparents, who always seemed to know the name of every plant or flower.

    1. Hi Tracie! This poem was inspired by my grandmother, who was truly the most amazing gardener. Glad you had some of those, too.

  2. Ah, this was just the thing I needed to read this morning. Brought back vivid memories of gardening with my Gram and my dad.

    I’m looking forward to simply being outside. I’ve been cooped up for so long. Just going for long walks in the warm breeze is what I crave.

    1. It felt like a good way to kick off National Poetry Month. Except I forgot to say that’s what I am doing this month, writing poetry as I generate new material for my 3rd blogoversary in May. And, like you, I’m so over winter. So happy to see green things popping up all around me.

  3. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I love spring so much! And Florida spoiled me. Luckily, we are getting amazingly warm temps this week, so I don’t have to miss it TOO much! I love when I can go in my closet and pull out clothing that I haven’t seen in months, and forego the sweaters and coats. Love it!!

    1. Misty! I hope you had a great time in Florida. I wish we had been able to hook-up. And yes, it was a little rough to come back to temperatures in the 50s, but I am hoping the snow is gone for good now. I’m ready for butterflies.

  4. Beautiful, Renee!

    I’m looking forward to a sign of spring. I guess the melted snow is a good start. Still kind of chilly here though.

    1. I think I should have saved this piece for a little later in APril, but I suppose I was being optimistic when I scheduled it. It’s still chilly here, too — but the snow is gone. And things are greening up. It won’t be long before butterflies, right?

  5. Throughout the hill country (central Texas around Austin & west/southwest to San Antonio) there will be splashes of wildflowers from Indian paintbrush to brilliant Bluebonnets all over the less-traveled state highways. Google or Bing Texas wildflowers; you’ll see what I mean. 🙂

    1. When I was in Grapevine just a few weeks ago, it was already greening up. But I just Googled Bing Texas wildflowers. Gorgeous. You are in for a treat. It’s still a bit chilly here, but I am so ready for butterflies. Yes yes yes!

      1. Renee, the colors are truly awe-inspiring between April and early June. Also, I absolutely LOVE teaching the migration of the Monarch butterflies; it is a remarkable lesson and story of what they accomplish and how unbelievable they manage the exact journey through 3-4 DIFFERENT generations…genetically! Wow!

  6. What I look forward to are all the glorious wildflowers that cover the Texas fields in Spring. The bluebonnets, especially, but also the Indian paintbrushes, the win cups, the Mexican hats, the daisies, even the “damn yellow flowers.” There are so many yellow flowers and so many varieties that Lady Bird Johnson once told a reporter than we just call them all the “damn yellow flowers.” True story.

    1. I know that story about Lady Bird. I love the names of all those flowers. They really do sound like colors, don’t they? If you look at the comment above yours, Professor Taboo is a fan of Bing Texas wildflowers. Y’all have a lot to be grateful for down there. It’s still chilly up here in these parts, but the snow is FINALLY gone. Hey Maire…I am pretty sure you keep a blog, but it isn’t linked up to your gravatar. WIll you send me the URL so I can come and visit you? Or am I just wishing for butterflies?

  7. Lovely poem, Renee. You’ve got some mad skills!

    I’m looking forward to going to OWFI, a writers’ conference in Oklahoma this spring, and working my butt off—boring-sounding, but true. lol The seasonal shifts aren’t dramatic here in LA, but I’m sure glad that loved ones in snowy places will be enjoying warmer temps.

    1. Hi August. I have always written poetry, and since it’s National Poetry month, well…I figured I would churn out a few while I work on my book and generate new material for my blogoversary in May. It’s still chilly here in Rochester, but at least the snow is gone and the birds are back. It won’t be long before butterflies. 😉

  8. Wonderful poem and picture! It’s 64 degrees in Amherst today and I can’t wait to get out there. Looking forward to lounging on my hammock with a good book.

    1. You guys have it good over there! We aren’t quite at butterfly swirl, but I can dare to dream, can’t I? Your hammock sounds divine!

  9. I too was inspired by my mother. She is probably gardening in heaven.
    Everything her hands touched were beautiful, colorful
    and full of life. Amen.

    1. Hi Mom. You know I loved grandma. I’m glad her hands touched mine. She inspired me in so many ways. And she would be so excited to know that you and dad have nurtured your love for almost 50 years.

  10. Liked that so much, I read it twice. Have to say, we aren’t as backwards as Rochester (snow last week eh?!) but we aren’t quite to butterflies. It’s the time of daffodils, forsythia, cherry blossoms and a lone violet (Shane and I had a long discussion on what color it was, he said magenta) tulip has poked it’s head up from the pachysandra. You have inspired me to share our dirt news, stay tuned.

    1. Mel! Thank you for sharing! We aren’t at butterflies either, but I’m always looking toward summer, you know? 😉 Can’t wait to hear your dirt story. Will you tag me when it’s up?

  11. Love this! So glad you shared it poem-style!

    1. Thanks, Missy. Your piece today was in refiner. Must tweet you because it was truly one of your best!

  12. Nice. I’m looking forward to change. That’s my favorite part of spring. New change.

    1. Same here. No more white skies, thank you. I’m ready for some blue-blue! You?

      1. And, this year …for the first time ever … my little boy (4 yrs old) will live in a house that will have a full lawn. Oh, ya. Playing outside all summer!

  13. Beautiful poem, Renee! I’m looking forward to being WARM. Yesterday I sat out in the sun for the first time in months. It was awesome!

    1. Coleen! Warm sounds soooo good. Can’t wait to lie on my driveway like an ectothermic, heat-seeking lizard. Can’t wait to put my puffy coat away for the season.

  14. Lovely. Not only did I enjoy cooing over the various herbs and plants with your grandmother, I sailed off the page with the butterfly. Thank you for the lovely journey. 🙂

    1. Oh Ellen. It’s all true! That woman could make anything grow. She made me swirl! I can’t wait until it gets warm!

  15. Snowstorming here… Beautiful poem which lifted me right off my computer screen!

    1. Susie! I saw that it was storming in CO. Yikes. I’m so done with winter. I’d be nice to retire my puffy coat. But not yet. Not yet. Hopefully, the butterflies will start swirling soon.

  16. Gorgeous! Loved the image of you with a lap full of colors and the innocent joy of creating. Happy!

    1. Thanks, Mary. Your piece about thighs is so stinking good. I hope you win over at Yeah Write this week! I’ll bop over to vote for you on Thursday!

  17. This brought me back to remembering my days with crayons. Recently I have found myself on the floor or at the table drawing and coloring pages of their color books with a box of brightly colored crayons. This poem brings back so many days of sitting with my sister, then my daughters and now my granddaughters making art with crayons.

    Thank you for the memory jolt.

    1. I’ve been drawing a bit more lately, too. I’ve needed a little break from writing — and I’ve found so much joy in playing with color. I think we forget that a little as we get older. Thanks for visiting me. May you have many more days to enjoy your daughters and granddaughters.

  18. This makes me want to get out and till up that garden today.

    The robins are out, and so are the … snakes. I found one while playing disc golf today.

    I’ll throw straight until September. Guaranteed.

    1. Snakes? Cool! I’m a girl who likes snakes. Did you think you could scare me? No such luck! Can’t wait for even more warm weather. Enjoy your robins — and your disc golf.

      1. Snakes are cool, don’t get me wrong – but my hand might look like a tasty muskrat or something as I’m reaching for my misplayed disc. Ain’t no one got time for that.

  19. Aw! How beautiful and touching!!

    Hugs!

    Valerie

    1. Thanks, Valerie. I’m honored to have you visit today.

  20. Lovely, Renee. Thanks for the splash of colorful words – just what I need on this gray, rainy, dull morning.

  21. Your words pop from the page in a burst of color! I feel like I’m right there with you. Love this poem.

  22. I love this, Renee! What I am looking forward to is the chance to get my feet back into sandals. It’s got to stop snowing first, though. 🙂

  23. Bursting with color! I loved how you married the crayon box to the garden and your grandmother.

    I also am entirely over what seems like a very long winter. Even here in Texas it seem long and gray.

  24. You are crazy, wicked talented! And, I’m looking forward to the snow stopping!

  25. Wow – so evocative. I immediately smelled the crayons. And the ‘soft water words’ – just exquisite. Brava.

    1. Thanks you. When I think “springtime,” I think of that giant box of Crayola crayons. The one with the built-in sharpener. 😉

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