And climb the stairs to the beach...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Together or apart

I love poetry. Not all, but most. I am not a very sophisticated lover of poetry because I prefer both to write and read poetry that rhymes. It's not the politically correct thing these days, to love a rhyming verse. But I do. Probably, not unlike most of us, one of the first poets I was ever aware of was Robert Frost. My second grade teacher. Mrs. O'Connor, had us memorize Stopping By Woods on a Snow Evening. I still remember it, perhaps with the stanzas a little out of order, but I remember it. That little horse giving those harness bells a shake was a great line for a 7 year old to think about. And to this day some of Frost's poems are my favorites. Choose Something Like a Star, The Road Not Taken, Birches. They don't all rhyme, I suppose, but I think most do. But I happened across one of Frost's poems a couple of years ago that has become a favorite. Maybe you've seen it before, maybe not. I thought I might share it here. Let me know if you like it, too.

The Tuft of Flowers
By Robert Frost

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been-alone.

“As all must be,” I said within my heart,
“Whether they work together or apart.”

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories crown dim o’er night
Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us.

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

“Men work together,” I told him from the heart,
“Whether they work together or apart.”

Sometimes a poem just speaks to me. This one did. I hope it spoke to you. As I write this, I like to think that I could be the mower who came first, before you arrived. The reader, that's you, will come along after I've posted this and although I've already left the scene, you know I was here, sending this message for you to read later on. 

Maybe you'll read it in the morning when the dew is still on the grass, or at noon, somewhere in the shade, or on another day when you have more time. But maybe because of what Frost has to say, you might hear the birds a little clearer afterwards and notice the noiseless wing of a bewildered butterfly resting on a flower.

I love the idea that the mower might have left the flowers there on purpose, and not because he wanted us to see them, but just because they brought him such delight. The idea that we might impact the lives of people coming along after us, without ever knowing it, is something I do think about. Although we might not be in each others presence now or ever, what we leave behind where we have been touches the next person, or even generations to come, and brings us together in that way. That's how I feel about my ancestors in my genealogy work, for sure. But also when I live away from most of my family and friends, I can feel sometimes that though there are miles between us, there are people and places and things we remember that remind us that we are working together, living together and loving together. And every once in a while, we will come across a little tuft of flowers, surprising us, delighting us and connecting us. It's nice to be connected with you all today, whether together or apart.  

Have a great day! 

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