What Poetry Made Me Wonder

I’ve always harbored a certain fascination for poetry.  I’m not one of those people that can sit down and just read poetry for kicks, but there’s something about the occasional poem that hits my soul a certain way.  Times when I just read a few lines and marvel about the staggering meaning or simplistic beauty they contain.

I am not an English major, I don’t analyze them, I do not read T.S. Eliot for fun, (though I did try to read Dante once on a whim.  It didn’t go well).  But every now and then Robert Frost or Oscar Wilde or Pablo Neruda and I will hang out together and enjoy some well-written words, and I will marvel at the genius and artistry hidden in the carefully spaced lines.

In light of this, when I moved into my first apartment I decided it would be a good idea to print out some of my favorites and tape them to the insides of my cupboard doors.  The thought behind this was that this way I would be reading poetry every day, because every time I opened a door there it would be, an invitation to experience beauty.

For the first few weeks it worked pretty well.  I remember that Frost’s “Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening” was in my silverware drawer, that I would read Pablo Neruda’s “If You Forget Me” if I went to find some tupperware, and if I needed my crockpot I’d read Billy Collins’ “Litany”.  But then something happened that I should have been prepared for.

I simply stopped seeing them.  I stopped seeing the words, the paper, (which is tough, because I’d mounted them on all kinds of bright colors).  I forgot they were there.  The poems, the beauty, became everyday, mundane, something I’d grown so used to that it no longer registered as existing.  Perhaps I would have missed them if they’d been suddenly gone.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed. Life had grown too fast to take time to read poems while I was making dinner.  Life had grown too fast to read poems at all.

My point to all this is to say that I think I do the same thing with God.  His poetry, His beauty is around me every day. All the time.  He’s put things in my path, in my day, in my routine that should remind me of Him.  Things that I should see, and stop, and consider and read and love and admire.

Poems that I should savor.  Beauty to enjoy.

But life has grown too fast to notice God.  His beauty, which once stood out to me, has become normal.  Things that should still inspire and awe me have faded into the scenery of my life.  Something I glance at, but don’t really see.  They are no longer new and different, and so they are forgotten.

I am not sure what to do about this problem.  Or really, what I can do, besides pray.  Pray that God will jolt me out of myself.  I have no power to fix this failing in me.  But He does.  And so I will work to see with newer eyes, read with a more careful heart.

And perhaps to slow down a little bit, so that I can hear God speaking to me, perhaps through the words of a poem.

“If you’re a dreamer, come in.

If you’re a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hop-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer,

If you’re a pretender, come, sit by my fire.

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in! Come in!”

– Shel Silverstein, Invitation

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How I Flushed the Admiral

I became a pet owner at the age of 21. And by this I mean a REAL pet owner – like I have to take care of this thing and feed it and make sure it doesn’t die and is happy kind of pet owner. Not like a my parents will do all the hard stuff for me pet owner.

My little brother gave him to me for Christmas, and he was beautiful and perfect and just the right kind of low maintenance for an irresponsible college student.

Well duh he was a fish.

A beautiful fish.

I named him Admiral Ackbar after this guy:

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We called him the Admiral for short.

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I know.  The resemblance is uncanny.

Fish were the only thing the dorms let us have without threat of sizable fines so I was determined that the Admiral and I were going to be best friends.

Best, best friends. Except that he was a fish. And even though he was awesome and perfect and great, he was boring.

But this isn’t a story about his life. It was as a good a life as any fish could wish for, I think. He swam around a lot and sometimes made clicking noises in the middle of the night to freak me out. Sometimes he would follow a bobby pin around the side of his glass bowl if he felt like it. (I told people he was “trained”.)

But then one weekend he started chilling on the bottom of his bowl. Just hanging out. I’m not really a super fish expert so I figured he was just tired or something. Fish get tired, right?

Like I said, I’m not a magic fish whisperer. I decided maybe he was mad at me because it had been a while since I’d cleaned out his bowl and it was, um, a little grimy.

So, I did what any respectable pet owner does, and I saw to the needs of my pet. I stuck him in a little Tupperware container and cleaned the crap out of that fishbowl in my dorm bathroom that I “shared” with 70 other girls. (Just by the way, “sharing” with that many other women is a horrible, horrible plan. But that’s another story.)

I was super proud of myself and my new clean fishbowl and how awesome of a fish owner I was, and I dumped the Admiral back in after a few hours of waiting for the water to settle down so he could swim happily.

And then, he did the unthinkable. He died, right at the bottom of the fishbowl. All my hard work, all my good will, and a dead fish.

My roommate was out of town visiting her boyfriend, and so was not able to be there in person to console me in my grief and help plan the funeral. My next door neighbor volunteered to be head mourner instead, and we solemnly marched Admiral Ackbar down the hall to the bathroom to send him to the Great Fish Tank in the Sky.

My roommate Skyped in – she said she couldn’t bear for him to be laid to rest without her. Or, something like that.

Anyway, we sent the Admiral down the Rauros at approximately 11pm on a Saturday night in my dorm bathroom.

I gently tipped his bowl and poured him into a toilet.

The Head Mourner sobbed.

I forgot that it was one of those automatic flush toilets.

I only got halfway through Taps.