Poetry Friday:”Become Becoming” by Li-Young Lee

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

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Winter seems to be loosening its grip here in the North Country.  The thermometer by the back door has begun to register in double digits both when I take Sophie out for her early morning walk as well as that last one before bed.  We take this as a sure sign of Spring.  Bit by bit, the pastures and cornfields all around us are beginning to lose their winter coats of ice and snow.  We take this as another sure sign of Spring.  And, daylight no longer ends at 4:00 p.m. and raising cups of evening tea to the setting sun.  We take this as the surest, and best, sign of Spring.

Today, the Ides of March as it turns out, marks the eighth month of the day when I left New Jersey for good and took up residence at the farm on a permanent basis.  Eight months.  A good time to take stock of what I’ve been up to.

The Fall was devoted to traveling to London and spending a long stretch of time with my parents, assessing their health and needs, and doing what I could to keep them company and make them comfortable.

From November on, it was all about Winter: preparing for it, coping with it, trying to get ahead of it.  February, with its ice and lack of sunlight, was the most challenging.  Living on a hillside allows for spectacular views…and also spectacularly icy terrain.  I fell at least once a day until I discovered cramp-ons, one of the most useful inventions known to man, IMHO.

Winter was also all about reading – sometimes a book a day.  I read all through my many years of teaching, of course, but I read only books abut teaching, or books I wanted to purchase for my sixth graders and our classroom library.  I had no idea how much my brain was craving memoirs, biographies, history, and fiction intended for those above the age of  thirteen!

Then there was all the reading I needed to do to prepare for the flocks of sheep and chickens arriving this summer: books covering the A to Z of sheeping and chicken coop-ing.   The more I read in this department, the more I felt I needed to read.

And, Winter was also about thinking.  All the years of raising three children and teaching left very little time for being still, for meditative thinking, for reflecting, for assessing.  These past few months of winter solitude and periods of intense isolation allowed for all four.  Today, as sunshine pours through all our windows and I can venture outdoors coatless, I feel as though I’ve gone through the process of another becoming.

“Become Becoming” by Li-Young Lee

Wait for evening.
Then you’ll be alone.

Wait for the playground to empty.
Then call out those companions from childhood:

The one who closed his eyes
and pretended to be invisible.
The one to whom you told every secret.
The one who made a world of any hiding place.

And don’t forget the one who listened in silence
while you wondered out loud:

Is the universe an empty mirror? A flowering tree?
Is the universe the sleep of a woman?

Wait for the sky’s last blue
(the color of your homesickness).
Then you’ll know the answer.

Wait for the air’s first gold (that color of Amen).
Then you’ll spy the wind’s barefoot steps.

Then you’ll recall that story beginning
with a child who strays in the woods.

The search for him goes on in the growing
shadow of the clock.

And the face behind the clock’s face
is not his father’s face.

And the hands behind the clock’s hands
are not his mother’s hands.

All of Time began when you first answered
to the names your mother and father gave you.

Soon, those names will travel with the leaves.
Then, you can trade places with the wind.

Then you’ll remember your life
as a book of candles,
each page read by the light of its own burning.

14 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:”Become Becoming” by Li-Young Lee

  1. Beautiful poem, and I so enjoyed reading about your winter. I remember when you mentioned moving to the farm full time, and can’t believe 8 months have already passed! How wonderful that now you have time to read some books that aren’t necessarily school-related. I’m so impressed with your sheep and chicken farming ventures. 🙂

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  2. Lovely post, Tara! I enjoyed reading about your winter. My winter, too, revisited a number of old favorites such as Virginia Woolf and now finishing up Eudora Welty (in fact, I am about to write a blog about the Welty Garden in Mississippi — look for it later today or tomorrow on http://www.invitationtothegarden.WordPress.com). Now that’s it’s Lent, I am enjoying going deeper into my prayer life and spiritual reading. It was hard to believe at first that Lent really had arrived because it was still winter! Snow is just now receding around the edges, revealing smooshed down lawn. Maybe crocuses next?

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  3. Tara, as I started reading your post, I thought it was a beautiful slice on winter life. I went to Albany last week for a state ed conference and thought of you. I wondered how you managed the winter and now I know. Solitude is sometimes a good friend. I am glad you found an invention that keeps you upright rather than on the ground. It’s tough navigating ice. Spring is going to be just the medicine everyone needs but the winter does has its own brand of beauty.

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  4. That ending! “each page read by the light of its own burning” Thanks for sharing Li-Young Lee with us, Tara, and for sharing this glimpse into your eight months. (So glad you discovered cramp-ons! I only know about those because my FIL had them. Vital in certain situations!)

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  5. This is a poem: “raising cups of evening tea to the setting sun. We take this as the surest, and best, sign of Spring.”

    Tara, I am entirely blessed by this post and poem. My whole life, I’ve dealt with anticipated grief. I didn’t know the name of it until my grown up days…..and now I see my children growing up into the adults they are meant to be…which means leaving. I love your peace with solitude and new learning. You have taught a lot by these few words.
    Thank you.

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  6. I enjoyed your intro, what life is giving you now in your new place, “as a book of candles,” is simply so right, Tara. I have another friend whose family has moved from here in Colorado and acquired a piece of land on an island outside of Seattle, to be nearer grown children & their grandchildren. They too are learning about animals, preparing for new things. You have snow & cold; they have so much rain, different from the Colorado home. Changes make us grow, don’t they? And that’s a good thing! Happy that you found the crampons!

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  7. I love reading the on-going story of your new becoming. The freedom to read is one I am SO looking forward to (just a couple more years). I can’t wait for the stories of the chickens and the sheep!

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  8. What a lovely poem and reflection on your winter months. Something tells me that spring and summer won’t leave quite so much time for reflection, especially once your sheep arrive. The freedom to read adult books, that’s a new one after spending so many years reading YA and MG. Would love to know some that you’ve loved as you’ve had more reading time.

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  9. The title of Li’s poem is a little bewildering until you have read it once, and how perfect for the story you tell of living day by day into your new choice. It seems to suit you, Tara, and the poem, the section about the clock especially, is so ensnaring. Perfect choice to end with a book of candles.

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  10. Sounds like I’m not the only one who’s been taking stock over the last several months! We may be in different parts of the country and at different places in our lives, Tara, but I take comfort in reading about your activities and thoughts as I relate them to my own. Your latest “becoming” sounds like a beautiful unveiling.

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