An Open Letter to Jane Kenyon
It is possible to pick a flower and
not trip over the husk,
to squat in pure rejoicing
without looking forward
to the demise of the coffee cup
or the shards of your lover, broken on the floor.
Eat a sandwich.
Walk your dog.
Live your life.
The seeds (sealed in a pocket
squashed in a small pot
with spongy, thirsty dirt
and simple instructions for planting,
a gesture, an idea of green)
surprise themselves and sprout.
I wrote both of those poems last year, during a shifting and fruitful time of my life. The first, “An Open Letter to Jane Kenyon,” was written as I was reading Jane Kenyon: Collected Poems. I remember very clearly being overtaken by both the beauty of her imagery and the depth of her depression. Jane Kenyon did suffer from depression, and to be clear, I do not mean to make light of that. Dealing with depression myself, I know that does not allow the luxury of a choice of perspective. Thus, the poem has always felt awkward to me in that “What do you mean, writing to a depressed poet, telling her to stop being depressed? That’s really insensitive!” kind of way…and still, something was there that I knew had truth.
I wrote the second poem when contemplating the life that I was cultivating. At the time, I was feeling much like that seed, surprised that I was not only growing, but thriving, given the conditions and parameters of my life. I was surprised that I could find a way to bloom.
I got together with my friend Michelle this past Sunday, and we were talking about choosing to learn through joy, and how odd that can be when one isn’t used to it. It’s not that I don’t gather my epiphanies through difficulty and hardship- sometimes it seems that I am hardwired to find my lessons that way- but more and more, I am choosing happiness as a vehicle for transformation. I’m honing in on how I want to feel and living those feelings into reality, and though I’m committed to this new process, it’s bringing up weird feelings, like when a person starts a new exercise regime and muscles they didn’t know they had are aching and cramping.
I now know that my Open Letter to Jane Kenyon is really an Open Letter to Myself. It reminds me that when there is a choice (with full acknowledgement that sometimes, there is not a choice) I can choose to be full of happiness. I can squat in pure rejoicing. Bliss has depth. Wonder is Worthy Work.
And I really need the reminder, because I am well-versed in learning through pain; the hard-won battle is a second skin. I catch myself living as if I am still that cramped little seed, even though I have moved on to a roomy pot and a life that is a hell of a lot more than an idea of green. Conditions weren’t optimal in the past, yes. I’m used to walking uphill, against the wind, yes. But that time has passed.
Now is the time of full-on green, my friends. Now is the time for the lessons of joy.
Is there a circumstance in your past that you have not moved past? Is there a different choice available to you?