The Common Good

Mother's Week: Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace image by Kevin H Knuth /Shutterstock.
Queen Anne's Lace image by Kevin H Knuth /Shutterstock.

Mother’s Day and today is a celebration of the role of my maternal life, a role that has proved to be more satisfying and blessed, which is closer to my heart, than writing or art or friendship or even marriage. The work and longing of a life-time, almost, has been invested in my children — the beings who had their start like seeds in my own body, who have bloomed and flourished, who overcame barriers and difficulties caused by my own parental inexperience or ignorance, who grew as I grew, who now have lives of significance, who are learning along with their own offspring, much as I did but in a far more swiftly changing world.

So there were pleasurable moments as I heard from all five individually. And flowers — yellow daisies and Queen Anne’s lace from Robin, my eldest. (It’s a favorite flower for us both. She and I remember back to her wedding to Mark, on an island in an Illinois forest preserve, when her wedding bouquet was made of those white lacy flowerets, exploding like fireworks.) I hope to use those delicate flowers as objects to write about when I talk about poetry at an elementary school next week.

Later, a huge sigh of relief. I’d been kind of nervous about leading a poetry class at a local elementary school today, much more anxious than I would have been teaching college students. Tiffany, their teacher, reassured me that these fourth-graders had been learning about poetry and other essentials like imagination and creativity and were duly excited about meeting “a real live poet.” (I guess there aren’t that many around? Or maybe they’re not that visible within that particular culture?)

I ‘d cut short the green stem of the still glorious flower-head of Queen Anne’s Lace from my Mother’s Day bouquet and placed it in water in a crystal bud vase as an object to be attended to. I hoped it would stimulate some sweet, young poets and their fresh, unfiltered words.

And we had a marvelous time together! The kids all clustered around on the floor, or at their desks, eager, intelligent, responsive, funny. I found myself relating to them easily in spite of all the years since my own kids and grandkids had been that age.

They asked the typical questions: When did you start writing poems? (“Around six.”) And its follow-up: How long ago was that? (“Seventy-seven years.” I anticipated incredulity, but apparently the idea of being 83 is too abstract to have meaning for human beings this young.)

We conversed about colors and shapes and memories and imagination and how our senses inform our minds. They wrote poems about the flower in the glass vase and read them back to us all — with no self-conscious shyness at all.

Time came for their next class and reluctantly we had to say goodbye, but they want me to come back and keep going. I am pleased that this particular anxiety has been put to rest. Also happy that I can still connect with the very young, and maybe give them a new understanding that imagination doesn’t end with age.

Luci Shaw is a poet and essayist who loves green and God. Her most recent book of poems is Harvesting Fog. She lives in Bellingham, Wash

Queen Anne's Lace image by Kevin H Knuth /Shutterstock.

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