Sunday, July 13, 2014

sunday grace

{the backyard at gypsy hill}

where i'm from
by george ella lyon

i am from clothespins,
from clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
i am from the dirt under the back porch.
(black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
i am from the forsythia bush
the dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs i remember
as if they were my own.

i'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from imogene and alafair.
i'm from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from perk up! and pipe down!
i'm from he restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.

i'm from artemus and billie's branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
from the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
i am from those moments--
snapped before i budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree.


last year at the creative joy retreat, jen louden read this poem to us and then instructed us to write our own "where i'm from".  this was such an amazing exercise.  even as the memories of those october retreat days grow hazy, the voices of women reading the words they strung together around this theme echo clearly in my mind and heart.  as each sixty second poem was read, i learned more about each of them than if we had spent hours or days or weeks becoming acquainted the regular old ways.

my own, which includes a daughter of apache warriors, pacific tidepools, backyard dinners (a tradition that continues), a roller-skating grandpa, avocado groves, flying dumbos and the smell of my eight-year-old summer skin (chlorine, heat, dove soap and watermelon paleta drips), is treated as a work in progress, a place i go when i need clarity.  and respite.

click here to read some other ideas on how to explore this personal history writing exercise on your own.

when we can gather up and dust off our childhoods and family histories and gaze upon them with the relative objectivity of distance, time and adult perspective; when we can hold them with curiosity, gratitude and possibly forgiveness; when we can claim, write about and share those things that made us and sit with who we are and where we come from, that is grace.