The Greatest Secrets are Always Hidden in Unlikely Places
In the book poemcrazy the author describes how she learned to be wary of sharing her observations about beauty.
“When I was ten or eleven I caught some snowflakes on my mitten. (—) I’d never looked closely at a real snowflake before — a powdery, intricate pinwheel poised like a minicathedral near my thumb.
I called Bonnie and Loie over to see the amazing snowflake on my mitten. Bonnie began to mimic me in a high voice, “Look at the pretty little snowflake!”
I learned that day that there didn’t seem to be a place for a person describing a snowflake on a mitten. After that I was quiet about what I saw so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. I learned to be quiet about beauty.
Often we keep secret because we’re not only embarrassed to be who we are in front of other people, we feel genuinely embarrassed by who we are.
Oh, Susan, you’ve gone too far. You’re exposed out there on your squirrely limb, out of bounds. You oddball of oddballs.
In poems we can flourish out there on our limbs. It’s one of the mysteries of poetry for me. The language and form of a poem creates a blue bubble I can float into the world as if my secrets are in an impenetrable container with boundaries, yet see-through like a bottle.
I feel safe because poems take me to a place out of normal time and thought, dipping me below the surface to where we all meet. And there, as if we’re in silent collusion, it’s safe to say whatever we want. Writing poems, we’re tapping the part of our consciousness that knows we’re safe.
I’ve seen secret after secret spill out in people’s poems, and I’ve spilled secret after secret about myself. The poem speaks in confidence. The reader feels included, honored, and keeps the secret.”
—- from poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge, Chapter 20 “snowflakes and secrets” p. 74-75.
As I read this short chapter in poemcrazy, I immediately identified with the feeling of being hesitant to share my love of beauty. Only recently have I been brave enough to try to put feelings and images into words and share poetry with others here in the blogosphere.
Oh yes, I’ve been teased for noticing beauty — more than once. I look at light and shadow, texture and color, design and detail. I am constantly amazed by rocks, trees, leaves, clouds, scenic views and all manner of natural objects. Sometimes it just comes out of my mouth at odd times and people kind of roll their eyes at me. Whatever. I’ve learned to deal with that reaction mostly by ignoring it or rushing to explain exactly what it is I find so beautiful about whatever I commented on.
Way back in junior high school days, I was teased because of my strangely huge and somewhat odd vocabulary. I didn’t think I used exceptional words at all! I loved reading then, and I still do. I actively look for interesting new words and tend to look up definitions for any words that mystify me.
In high school, I was fortunate to have excellent English teachers (Mr. Fawley, Mr. Iden and others) who instilled in me a love for words, symbolism and verbal imagery. I fell instantly in love with Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and through all the years since that love has deepened and widened and matured.
Another source for my love of poetry and of words in general appeared several years ago when I discovered Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. At the time, I was in the car each day when this feature was broadcast on NPR. Keillor reads a poem at the beginning of each segment and then goes on to describe literary connections to this day in history (author birthdays, historic first editions, and so forth). You can read a sample here which features the poem “Practicing” by Linda Pastan. You can follow Writer’s Almanac on Facebook, twitter, podcast and via email. I highly recommend it.
So how does all this rambling come together? I started out thinking this would be about finding beauty in unlikely places. It still is.
My point is that we shouldn’t shy away from the beauty in ourselves. It is not always easy to embrace what is good, beautiful and unique in ourselves. If I am a “beauty canary” (or if you are) then so be it! See it and celebrate it. Share it. Even better — write a poem about it and share it here.
Maybe the reason some of us are tuned to notice beauty is to point it out to those who don’t notice it.
Speaking of beauty in odd places, there are a couple of Facebook pages I enjoy and would like to recommend to anyone who has not yet discovered them:
Humans of New York — A photographer snaps street photographs of random people in NYC and has a short conversation as well. Amazing stuff happens.
Complete Strangers Pose as Family — Odd, but quite beautiful. Which means, of course, that I love it! (as I described in on my Fb wall recently).
- Snowflakes: I just don’t understand. (journalofstuffs.wordpress.com)
- You Won’t Believe These Shots Of Snowflakes Were Taken With An Ordinary Cam (fastcodesign.com)
- The Way the Leaves Keep Falling, poem by Linda Pastan (silverbirchpress.wordpress.com)
- Post-ROMP: Poetry Left Behind (rompoetry.com)
- To Pick a Poem (wordatcornell.wordpress.com)