Patience: Human Nature’s Jewel



Patience is3-2009 001
wider than one
once envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant
ranges and
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest
relish by
natives in their
native dress.
Who would
have guessed
it possible
that waiting
is sustainable—
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
time’s fullness
the diamonds
of patience
couldn’t be
from the genuine
in brilliance
or hardness.

     –Kay Ryan – The New Yorker, 11/29/99

In the throes of February, I seem to need a refresher course in patience.  Kay Ryan, former Poet Laureate, has crafted a poem that always helps me along that bumpy path toward patience.

What strikes me first is the layout of the poem.  I must be patient to even read and comprehend.  The poem is a ribbon of words that pool into images, and eventually, if I am patient, into thoughts.

My favorite image from the poem – the “harvest” of waiting: patience.  In my audit of coveted character traits, Patience is up at the top of the list,  a precious jewel, a diamond – clear and serene.

I am not a patient person by nature. Patience, such as I have acquired, has been gained through the necessity of  waiting. And if you are over the age of 16, you have learned, just as I have, that waiting  is not a game for beginners. Fledglings can’t wait to fly. babies can’t wait to crawl and walk, and daffodil sprouts can’t wait to bud and bloom. But, like the poem’s speaker, the nest-builders, the doting parents, and the dormant bulbs, I have learned that patience is the harvest of waiting. And waiting  is not easily mastered, at least not for me.

The poem speaks of tasks completed “with modest relish.” Ah, these are my tasks too. I have learned not to fight with myself to  weed or vacuum or scrub… or should I say, I do these perpetual tasks with fewer smothered groans. Everyday tasks have become “native” to me, part of my character, who I am.

And why did the poet choose the metaphor of the diamond for patience? Paradoxically, the beauty of the diamond is its capacity to reflect color and light – its purity, its colorlessness transforms light into luminous incandescence.

If I wait, if I practice patience, I have discovered that what comes my way – the seeming conundrums in my life, can refresh and revive me and, perhaps, others’ as well.  Perhaps I can reflect back some overlooked radiance.  And, really, who cares how long and hard I have struggled to find that stillness within myself?  When I achieve it, can my patience be distinguished from that of any other pilgrim?  the genuine diamond from my woman-made one?

And so, thank you Kay Ryan, and the weeds in my garden, and the dust bunnies beneath my couch.  You do your part and I’ll do mine to acquire a precious quality, Patience.

Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


About J. F. Booth

I am a writer and educator.
This entry was posted in Life Lessons, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Patience: Human Nature’s Jewel

  1. There is patience in the writing, too, and a clarity and inner peace that guides your meditation, Jan, and your careful choice of words. I am especially struck by your use of “pilgrim” near the end of this lovely essay. The daily tasks, done with patience and, as the prior writer notes, gratitude create character, humility and grace. Thank you for this gift on Valentine’s Day. Terry

  2. Lora says:

    Dearest Jan,

    Your posts are so valuable. They always teach me something about myself!

    Mahalo and Happy Valentine’s Day.

  3. Aurelia says:

    Oh JAN dear What a beautiful piece! Thank you for Sharing it on Valentine’s Day – Wishing you all the love you deserve today and every day. Your loving friend,

    Suzi Peel +1 617 792 0772

  4. Barbara says:

    A lovely Valentine’s opener. Patience to cherish the complexities of relationships we live with.

  5. Carolyn Egeli says:

    Patience IS the diamond. I love the idea of tasks finished with modest relish..sort of like Thoreaux and his walking in the direction of your dreams and in hours unaware finding success…what is that success? It is the act of appreciation is my take on it. Appreciation makes patience very much more easy. Gratitude makes us joy over ordinary tasks somehow. We are moving towards our dreams with our love of the present moment..what we choose to spend our time on, points us toward the success of our dreams, unaware that we are constantly arriving in the now. The poem is beautiful Jan. And in our distresses, there is always a nugget of beauty, isn’t there?!!! I am always so grateful that we met, even though we don’t often see one another…know how much I appreciate you! Happy Valentines!

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