Let It Come Like Wildflowers

28 Jun

The poetry of earth is never dead.

That’s John Keats, from On the Grasshopper and the Cricket.  He might have added: And she is mean with a metaphor.

Sometimes I think I’d like to go for a walk in the evening and get away from the world’s insoluble problems, but when I reach the outskirts of my Midwestern town–that place where the last developed lot meets the prairie–all I can think about is border security.

Everywhere I look, I see our small-town version of a border: Abruptly, sidewalk and grass give way to huddled masses of Queen Anne’s Lace and tempest-tossed dandelions.

And we’ve got border troubles, too.  Just try keeping a lawn (and we do care about our lawns here!) next to an open field.

Now, I do realize that this metaphor could get me in trouble. Please know this: Grass and wildflowers (call them weeds, if you like) are all the same to me.  Just plants as far as I’m concerned.  And, anyway, my interest  is not in the arguable value of one plant over another, but in the viability of the border that aims to keep them separate.

You have to admit that nature seems to want them to mix, to prefer a melting pot.  No matter what the surveyor says, plants go where they please.  Nature just doesn’t recognize our boundaries.

So we fight back with quiet chemical warfare.   We arm and fortify ourselves with fertilizers and weedkillers, poisoning our own yard in a desperate attempt to hold on to it.

I’m tired of it.  Tired of the artificiality, the hopelessness of all borders.

I imagine that my neighbors in Arizona are tired of their border too. I imagine that they realize that no border will ever stop the movement of plants or people.

So, what exactly in the way of policy am I proposing?  I’m not, really.

I just want you to see the border the way I do.  For a moment.

And when you think about your yard (and our larger metaphorical yard), I hope you will (for a moment) hear the words of the poet, Yehuda Amichai:

Let it come

like wildflowers,

suddenly, because the field

must have it: wildpeace.


21 Responses to “Let It Come Like Wildflowers”

  1. Cheri June 28, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    I’m sure some who will comment here will pick up and run (like the folks do when they cross the border illegally down at Nogales) with the political sides of this lovely post. I won’t.

    Since we too, battle the encroachment of weeks, tendrils, overhanging tree branches, and ivy in our border showdown here on the Rancho, I am soothed to know that you,too,are weary of the stand-off.

    Shall we take the hedge out of hegemony?

    • jenny June 28, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

      “the hedge out of hegemony” — If I invest in some snazzy hats, will I, too, be quick with the snappy reply?

      • Cheri June 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

        Quickness is a survival skill I have developed after too many years of teaching really really smart precocious kids. Be quick or die in the classroom.

        I see some Russian in the upper corner of this blog!
        My father’s side of the family were from Lithuania.

  2. Phil June 28, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    A love of borders bespeaks an apartheid of the mind.

    • jenny June 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

      Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, right?

  3. Andreas Kluth June 28, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    A fantastics metaphor. Very extensible.

    You’ve extended the Second Law of Thermodynamics to botany and … migration.

    “…We arm and fortify ourselves with fertilizers and weedkillers, poisoning our own yard in a desperate attempt to hold on to it…”

    This is the key. We poison our own yard by trying to hold on to it too much.

    • jenny June 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

      “Over at the Hannibals” as Man of Roma put it, as if these blogs were a kind of progressive dinner (except fun!) a lot of smart people weighed in on the Arizona law. Then there was something about monocultures…got me thinking…

  4. Michael Rector June 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm #


    • jenny June 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

      I do, Michael, but I try to keep it within reasonable limits during work hours. 🙂

  5. lyndabirde June 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    Ah, Jenny, the poets are our liberators—freeing us to venture onto the tabula rasa, out into the seemingly OPEN field, where we may be accosted by pollen, poppies, or that venomous viney disguised prick of ivy. Something there is that doesn’t love a breezy place to race like kids out of school as the stoic stand by as Blake’s experienced—ah, the innocents abroad, the innocence of some other territory trampled into the paths of our pearly past to stick in a book.
    What did Keats expect to gain by declaring that Beauty was Truth and vice versa? To leave us stranded on the side of a pot, never to progress, to climax, to die, so never to live again and escape the side of the urn? I see this relic now up for auction with a neon sign promoting “MADE IN GREECE”—donate now; some sentimental soul will win the bid out of tribute to Zorba the Greek or Anthony Quinn or because the apostle Paul preached the Good News there or maybe just because nobody really cares about what happens to Greece. A horrific moment to realize, as if the raven doesn’t know when to shut up about the tragedy of Lenore.
    I really appreciate the exposure to other lit I’m getting from you as you can see where I’ve been wandering in exile for fifty years, fed by loaves of Emerson, Wilder, and Zane Grey (who needs two names to be recognized). But it’s not rejuvenating in the least. As haunting and clingy as Melville’s eureka moment in identifying the real savage or Momaday’s illustration of spiritual intimacy with nature, Amichai’s oxymoron happens quick, suddenly, he says, then sits there, the afterthought of a colon, in two quiet syllables whose semantics we really need to dissect, or maybe respectfully leave be. Did he write this in English?
    I keep hearing my mother telling me as a child that she studied Latin but it was a dead language. What? She wouldn’t even tell me one word of it as if it were a secret and dead code. She said no one spoke it anymore, so it was called a dead language. Hmm. Did the letters shrivel up and turn to dust? Did the last speaker run out of breath before passing? Or were they slaughtered? Words, words, words, Hamlet lamented, scoffed, accused. Stuck in the middle of the words, I didn’t know if it was dead in Latin America too or only in Pennsylvania.
    You’re something of a muse for me, Jenny. Thanks for helping me wonder, oops, wander, and to escape, er, to walk through the border walls of the office into that sea of a desert that sustains me with words to keep me trudging till I meet an angel or get caught. It’s the third day, so I’ve got to be close.

    • jenny June 28, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

      I’m pretty sure that Amichai wrote in Hebrew and this is a translation. Got the poem from (you guessed it!) my mother! Probably back in our Loomis Street days she was trying to get us to listen to poems but we were too busy singing Linda Rondstadt songs! Thanks for writing, Lynda!

  6. Leo June 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    Uninterested in the politics, because their complexity towers over my interest and conceptual ability, I comment on bits of the metaphor. Boundaries play a role in life. Is not the bark of a tree a way for it to defend it’s borders? Last weeks’ NYTimes science section told of chimps that patrol the borders of their territory. Borders and boundaries may not sit well with our ideas of how things might be or ought to be, but they are common in life.
    Question: when you reach the outskirts of town do you continue walking or do you turn around?

    • jenny June 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

      Yes, Leo, you are, of course, right.

      I don’t know enough about chimps; I’ll have to read the Times article. But (and really I’m joking here) maybe we can do better than chimps?

      Yes, I keep walking. I am unafraid of the enemy corn and potentially hostile soybeans that lay seige around my village!

  7. lyndabirde June 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    Love the photos–the garage door seems to allow all to pass in or out, nothing asked. Do you know how many people we could squeeze into that Winnebago? I heard a Suburban will carry 63, you know if you want to carry them over to the next county, uhh, to the mall, the skating rink, or something.

    Notice the sky does not have sides mowed/unmowed. I’d like to know more about the “air space boundaries.” Respect manmade laws, or else we’ll shoot you down.

    As Mike said, imagine.

  8. Young Kim June 29, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Jenny – Well done. This piece reminds me of Monsanto and their practice of patenting their weed killer-resistant seeds. Wind, rain, and birds don’t respect man made property lines. Plants pollinate whenever and wherever they can. But if you are a farmer that happens to plant next to a Monsanto customer and Monsanto finds their DNA in your crop, Monsanto will take you to court for patent infringement. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805

    • Yvonne June 29, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

      Oh, so beautifully written. I often think of the border issue as it is a frequent topic out this way in California. I’d prefer no borders; yet, I have no answers for those who raise the issue of “illegals” tapping into free healthcare while many American’s have none, including a growing number of my own children. Need the wisdom of Solomon to figure this out.

    • jenny June 30, 2010 at 1:11 am #

      @Young: The seed police! It’ll make an awesome Monty Python bit. Sounds like the Piranha Brothers. Roundup is nasty, though it works with my metaphor. Thanks for reading. The ETA for the Message from Oberlin draws nearer…

      @Yvonne: Thanks. As you can see, I’m rather thin on answers as well. Wisdom of Solomon…bring it!

  9. Thomas Stazyk July 2, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more.

    • jenny July 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

      @Thomas: Good to know! More fodder for my theory that you are a kind of peculiarly American Dr. Astrov (from Uncle Vanya): Keep the idealism, subtract the Russian fatalism and lethargy, add an American can-do spirit!

  10. Richard July 5, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    Is that what we call a campervan? :envy:

    • jenny July 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

      I do not believe that Sir Anthony (pick your vintage) travels by campervan! 🙂

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