The first time I ever cursed out loud I was about ten or eleven. I was hurt so badly by a friend, all I could think to do was use a phrase I heard others use—it contained nearly every curse word I knew. On the walk back home I repeated it over and again as a sort of incantation to purge the muck from my friend’s betrayal that almost threatened to choke me. By the time I returned home I felt even worse and I never repeated the phrase again.
The poet Marie Howe describes the force of poetry as like a counter spell to the mean girls’ curses and disparaging discourse. It is a way to use language to speak truth, but in a way that redeems the muck and discouragement that intrudes on our day. And it makes that reality accessible to others because it is human, it is lived experience, and my experience is not unique. Not really. There are millions of other women turning 50 this year. There are still more who struggle with purpose and identity and the exasperation that comes from feeling ineffectual, blundering through the day always feeling like I’m only keeping up. Hello everyone!
Howe routinely refers to Ordinary Time, the weeks that are not between the Holy days of the church. And while we currently reside in the 4th week of Easter, ordinary time teaches us to be present, to notice in the now, and be with it. So today I employ an exercise I’ve led others in, but always need reminding to do. This, with an added instruction from Marie Howe: notice 10 things today and describe them—not with metaphor, rather, see things as they are.
Ten Things On My Trip to the Pharmacy
A wasp dips and skitters back and forth under the eave overhanging my front porch.
A pleasant breeze, slightly warm but with a hint of chill, almost, but not quite comfortable.
Lining the street are trees just turned to leaf, each a faintly different hue—50 shades of green?
A car closes in on my rear, does my speedometer really display under the speed limit?
The branches on the side of a large tree bounce and sway, circular, as the wind swirls amid the bunches.
My eyes blur, a drop or two escape and slip down my cheek. I only just did my makeup. Well, good thing I have no appointments today.
Orange cones cluster around a large truck—in the very center of the intersection through which I must turn.
A car stops further back making space for my wide turn—my coffee sloshes close to the edge of my cup.
The church on the corner displays at the parking lot’s entrance a tall, thin, purple flag with the word “Welcome” in white—it posts next to a poll that last week displayed a sign with the words, “Church parking only. Violators will be towed. Strictly enforced.”
The clouds have made space for the sun’s rays making all the newly green places brighter, almost yellow. My spirit is brighter now, and if it were a color it would be this bright green.
Howe observes, “language is almost all we have left of action in the modern world.” With a majority of our discourse occurring in the stratosphere, noses to a smartphone, what we do is often not as morally substantial as what we say. I find this heartening. It is a powerful reminder the weight or influence my words might carry. Still, when all I really have right now is language, the words that flood my heart and convictions, it reassures me to think they might amend the worldview of another, if even a little.
So, what are ten things you notice today?