Yesterday I pulled up to one of the hundreds of coffee drive-thru huts in Soldotna and saw that the attendant, a beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones lookalike, had carved the word “TIPS” into a pumpkin. While I put my change through the middle of the P, I thought about the person, maybe Catherine, who thought, I will buy a pumpkin today and turn it into our tip jar.
Then, this morning on Garrison Keillor’s show “The Writer’s Almanac”, I heard it was poet e.e. cumming’s birthday. Supposedly, cummings was not only the second most widely-read poet of his lifetime (just couldn’t outrank Robert Frost), but was also an avid canoeist, a deer whisperer, a painter with both oil and water, a plumber, and a university professor who despised university professors. He loved his family. Keillor read cumming’s poem “you shall above all things be glad and young”:
you shall above all things be glad and young For if you're young,whatever life you wear it will become you;and if you are glad whatever's living will yourself become. Girlboys may nothing more than boygirls need: i can entirely her only love whose any mystery makes every man's flesh put space on;and his mind take off time that you should ever think,may god forbid and (in his mercy) your true lover spare: for that way knowledge lies,the foetal grave called progress,and negation's dead undoom. I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance
You have no idea how easy it is for me to be organized. My secret bad habit is to write on my to-do list the very thing I will do next just so I can scribble it off. For a brief moment of weakness, I scold myself if I do something that was not written down to be done. Amidst all the declarations of what I will do, do, and have done, I am not imagining what can be done with a pumpkin. Sometimes I think every part of my brain has been accounted for and tucked away in a plastic Rubbermaid container, and the only spontaneity I know is the planned kind.
There are things about ourselves we cannot change, yet there are lots of things we can do. I will never get lost or stop doing my homework on time, but I can always turn the music up loud and dance with my girl. I can try to plant a garden one day, and I can write “paint a picture” on my list and do it.
I don’t know if it’s getting older or what, but lately, I think I’m always right. I am, shall we say, writing letters. Whenever Aaron and I get frustrated, we tell each other, “Write a letter!” Usually we don’t, if for no other reason there is no clear addressee, but this week, for the first time in my life, I complained publicly. This is surely not the most direct way to reach my dreams, which I just found out is to be e.e. cummings, but I feel a strong urge these days to believe, and to protect those beliefs. Sometimes the way to a full life is to at first recognize the emptiness. If I can first say, “No, I don’t have room for any more emptiness right now, thanks,” then I might be one who learns how to sing and lets the stars have their dance.
You know, dance. Like this: