In Praise of Childish Questions

29 May 2010

How many kinds of flowers are there? And how do they all get to be so pretty?

Where do all the different colors come from? Why are the colors of natural environments almost always so perfect in their tones and degrees and combinations — even as the weather and seasons are always changing — so rich in their palettes I feel sustained by them?

Why do plants growing in the same conditions, of the same size, with the same needs, take such different, yet beautiful shape?

Why do the beads of dew on a spider web make me stop in my tracks and gape?

Why do the yellow flowers grow beside the path where the people have walked — and why do they make me glad?

Why, exactly, do people explore the tide pools when the tide goes out? What are we looking for? Is it life? Treasure? Why, actually, are we drawn to life? Why is a shell or a starfish or a little brown rock with a red stripe in it a treasure at all?

How can a rock make me feel more fully myself?

(These are all photos which I took. Please dive into any of them to seem them a little larger.)


By way of poetic response, here is the great poet Li-Young Lee, from his book of conversations entitled Breaking the Alabaster Jar. (As usual, check my bibliography for info and links.)

Interviewer: Words appear frequently in your work that most other working poets are afraid of using–love, beauty, and tenderness–for fear of being sentimental. Sentimentality seems to be the cardinal sin of poets today. Yet many of our daring poets straddle the fence of the sentimental, and the payoff is great. Discuss the great line of when a poem is emotional and personal, and when it becomes sentimental, perhaps in your own work.

Lee: I don’t ever want to be sentimental in my work, but if there’s a value to poetry, its value is praise. If I’m not praising I should shut up. Because I’m trying to line myself up with laws I perceive in the Universe. Yes, there is death, there is disease, but the flowers keep blooming, the ocean keeps coming home to the land, the sun keeps turning, so all of this is vibration. Let me go one step further: it’s all song.
Now that song is praise, because it just keeps making it up. Every spring it makes it up. Birds come back. Everything comes back. And to praise, that means spilling over, that is brimming. We master the bowl of this temporality by brimming it. We master it by staying inside of it.


4 Responses to “In Praise of Childish Questions”

  1. Jessie van Eerden said

    I love this photo/query journal of praise.
    So much so that I want to contribute a poem that readers of this post might also enjoy (if they don’t know it already). For me, it is particularly apt because your photo of the leaves, Mike–those shapes!–will stay with me all day:


    thank you for the leaf Boss
    thank you for the tree thank
    you for the knife-edge wind
    thank you for the breath behind
    the wind breath sweeter than
    a horse’s sweet oat breath
    thank you Boss O thank you
    for the yellow-belly sun for
    the moon fatter than a tick
    thank you for the season
    thank you for the long-leg
    shadows Boss thank you
    for paring down the day
    today for bossing all of it
    away except the fish-eye sky
    O except the leaf that leapt
    into my hand thank you for
    two hands to make a cup
    to hold the leaf Boss thank you
    for the red bug riding on the leaf

    —Maurice Manning

  2. mom said

    i do love all this. love, mom

  3. lyndi said

    that spiderweb! – yes.

  4. josh k said

    is that the blue heron i see by the pond? so sneaky, but i caught it.

    have you ever seen hundreds of spiderwebs like that in a pasture on your walk to work? almost an excuse to take the day off, and always an excuse to sing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: