wider than one
natives in their
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
from the genuine
–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.