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Seeds of Kindness

Seeds from a Writer's Garden

What had once been

Monarch caterpillars on carrot tops in my vegetable garden



     I was surprised and amazed when I discovered two caterpillars on the carrot tops right there in my vegetable garden. I had watched my neighbor mow and mow and mow his field - all summer long, and it left me sad and annoyed because he was cutting down all the milkweed and the Monarch butterflies know to come to this field. They are there every year. Not this year. And yet, there they were - two caterpillars in my vegetable garden.


     My mind went to something I read in Wallace Stegner's book, Crossing to Safety. Here it is, Page 237: "Air moving uphill from the woods and lake stirred the seeding flower-heads of Delphinium that rose above the wall. A Monarch butterfly caught in the draft was lifted twenty feet over our heads. I saw Sid look away from Charity's unsteadily insistent glance to follow the Monarch's movement. Perhaps he was fantasizing, as I was, that there went part of what had once been the mortal substance of Aunt Emily or George Barnwell or Uncle Dwight, absorbed by the root of a beech tree in the village cemetery, incorporated into a beechnut, eaten by a squirrel, dropped as a pellet in a meadow, converted into a milkweed stalk, nibbled and taken in by this butterfly, destined to be carried south on a long, unlikely, interrupted migration, to be picked off by a flycatcher, brought back north in the spring as other flesh, laid in an egg, eaten by a robbing jay and laid as another kind of egg, blown out of a tree in a windstorm, soaked up by the earth, extruded as grass, eaten by a freshening heifer, some of it foreordained to be drunk, as Charity said, by its own descendants with their breakfasts, some of it deposited in cowpads, to melt into the earth yet again, and thrust upward again, immortal, in another milkweed stalk preparing itself to feed more Monarch butterflies.

    Fragile as tissue, the butterfly wavered off and away."


     A few days later, I went into the garden to check on these caterpillars. They were gone. A tasty snack for a bird? Maybe. One thing I do know. They are back in the cycle, and it is good.

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Each Day is a Gift

Red morning sky opening a new day.


What if …

     We settled into our writing time "preparing for visitation and voyage." Knowing full well our limitations, yet having faith that our creative endeavor will "find its own direction." John O'Donohue, Irish teacher and poet, writes: "Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become."

     For me, this is a lovely reminder to relax so I may truly enjoy my writing time, even cherish my writing time. What if I allow myself to fall into the otherworld, the worlds within my imagination, to feel the words flowing through me, curious where it will lead? Each writing day can be an adventure. Shoulders release, tension dissolves and I am aware of my breath; each life-giving breath as I open my mind and my heart to possibilities.

Blessing is "… where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise …" John O'Donohue

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Telling a Story

Here I am - Little Red Riding Hood at the Fairy Tale Festival (Sherburne Library, Killington.) So much fun to be a participating library at this celebration of Vermont libraries. I am representing Jeudevine Memorial Library.



     My first public performance as a storyteller was in my first grade classroom. I remember sitting on the floor playing a game with my classmates when my teacher, Ms. Foster, came over to remind me that it was my day to read aloud to the class. My heart skipped a beat. I'd forgotten my book. Was I in trouble?


     Trying to be helpful, I offered a solution. "I forgot my book but I remember the story. I could just tell it."


     Ms. Foster wasn't the least bit upset. She smiled. "Yes, you may tell the story."


     She dragged her teachers chair to a spot where the other children had room to sit in a semi-circle before me. I scooted up onto her roomy wooden chair and sat, my legs dangling back and forth, and I began telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Having read the book so many times, all I had to do was to look into my mind's eye and there were the illustrations and I could see the words printed on the page. I actually read the book, pages turning in my mind. Every one of my classmates listened, no one talking, no one fidgeting.  


     As a grown woman, a grandmother now, I am in wonder of that child's poise and ability to do such a thing. I was a shy child. Yet that day I confidently told a story.


     Something happened to me recently that reminded me of that day in first grade. I was visiting Wonderarts, a summer program for kids in our community. I'm the Youth Librarian at the village library and I was asked to come and read stories. Since the theme changed each week, I had brought several books with me that I thought would fit. The last class for the morning was 4th, 5th and 6th graders. I showed them the book I was going to read but before I even began, one of the children piped up. "Can you read us the story you read last week?"


     I was so surprised at this request. When I had read the story the week before, I was thinking that it was too simple for this older crowd. Now, here I was getting a request.

"Well, I didn't bring that book with me today, but I remember the story. I could just tell it to you."


     That's exactly what I did. Everyone listened; no fidgeting, no talking. They had fallen into story. One boy in the back, leaning on his elbow, being his cool self, surprised me by exclaiming, "And then he …" and I said, "Yes, that's right… " and continued on. Toward the end of the story, a girl in the front said, "And then he made the little mouse." I couldn't help but smile. All the while that I was telling this story, I was in a state of amazement that this older group of students were so into this story.


     When the story came to an end, one of the counselors spoke in a soft voice. "That was a good story."


     Well, this was a wonderful moment - for me and for those listening. For a little while, we were no longer in this world. We were in the story. For a time, we all journeyed together. I'm certain I will hold this memory forever.


ps. The story I told was based on the book, My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

pss. I still love the story of Little Red Riding Hood

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