growing and gathering – years and seasons
As I work on my collection of poems about growing and gathering, I am aware of the passage of time. I am in the revision stage. This means my manuscript will soon be ‘complete’. I will worry over it and list the last things to be done. I will prepare my final report to artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board), the source of my Creations Grant, and send it away to them for approval.
The project will be over, but there will still be work to do. I will have to decide what poems should go in the final manuscript, re-order them a few times, do some more revisions and them send them away, to a publisher, hoping I will be able to get a book from all this work.
Then I will be at the end and facing a new beginning, a new project. I have a few to choose from, so I won’t be relaxing for long.
In all this is the dimension of time, with its deadlines and unforgiving rush forward. Even in a project about growing and gathering local foods, there are poems about time.
A number of my poems are about the ephemeral nature of local foods. Another way to think of this is ‘eating local foods in season’. In spring, everything is plentiful – new plants arrive in a rush, so fast, you can hardly keep up. Then there is the patient waiting for berries to ripen and, again, a rush… blueberries are quickly followed by blackberries and raspberries and so on. But everything has its season, so leaves become too old to harvest, and berries shrivel and fall to the ground.
This seasonal aspect of local foods can be thought of as as a metaphor for aging, and some of my poems work with this comparison. I have poems about resisting aging, and about the ailments of age including arthritis, lethargy, forgetfulness, and aging memory.
Many of my poems on the theme of ‘time’ overlap with other themes, about ‘companionship’, or changes to ‘place’. For this reason, I find myself shifting poems around in my manuscript. I ask myself if the poems flow well, one to another.
I also find I don’t seem to have many poems about the differences between our historical use of local foods and our present day use. I have lots of source material, particularly among my great-aunt’s diaries… she loved to pick berries. So away I go, to write a few more poems about time!
Old Man’s Beard
Usnea subfloridana Stirt.
you and I
forced our ways
bent through the thicket
of lichen and spruce
caught in your beard
and we laughed
us with stooped backs
and grey hair?
found a game trail
a strawberry marsh
crushed into sedge
dusted with sugar
washed down with cold tea
warmed by rum
an old woman
lost her way in the spruce
caught in the branches
Published as ‘Old Man’s Beard’, The Fiddlehead 180, Summer, 1994
© Jane Tims 2012