April opens with a poem a day

Why not say good morning to the one you love as you open the door each morning … it will only take a moment …

I am paraphrasing a poem by Hafiz, the Sufi mystic poet. Imagine hearing it out loud in a rounded room with tall windows overlooking the mountains. The ridges are a light-imbued silver grey, as though the returning sap glows in the wood like a flush on healthy skin.

The woman wrapped in a rainbow tallit sings a prayer, a rippling music, calling and low and joyful, and she beats time on a guitar. One Saturday morning (in another spring), My friend the Velveteen Rabbi invited me to her annual poetry service at Congregation Beth Israel. This small group of us came over the mountains to say, in different ways, a good morning.

It’s a good feeling to start the day with poetry. It’s a clear, simple mental exercise. It’s an intimate greeting. It is, yes, like giving someone a thank you as I walk out the door, and it may be as quick as a hug, and as simple or as complicated as holding someone in my arms. And as satisfying as wading in the mud.

Reading poetry may surprise me with aptness — as happened that morning, when the congregation began to sing a prayer for people traveling, people without a homeland, and for the first time that morning, I knew the tune: there is a ship, and she sails the sea; she’s loaded deep as ship can be, but not so deep as the love I’m in. I know not if I sing or swim. We were singing an age-old Hebrew prayer to the music of Peter, Paul and Mary out of my childhood, and both are songs of rootlessness and longing and love. And I looked up in quick delight.

Today is April 1, and across the country people are taking up the challenge of a poem a day. There are local and informal (and virtual) gatherings. There are national online congregations. And there are people working from home on raw mornings in early spring snow who find out that even between deadlines we can write a short poem in a day. It may be a draft, and I may write it here and there, in pauses, while I’m waiting for my email to load, but I can begin.

A gathering like 30×30 acts, for me, like friends who get together to walk in the woods, knowing that they will get outside more together than they do alone. Some may book down the trail without seeing the trees, and some may find once they get outside that the wood frogs have woken up again, and may see for the first time the fairy shrimp swimming upside down in the vernal pools.

Put more simply, I’ve found that taking part in the 30×30 wakes me up a little. It stretches me. I’m writing cinquains (and finding out what they are) when I might have been doing crossword puzzles. It’s a small, continual push to think.

And there’s a lot to be said for a small, continual push to think. I’m re-reading “The Secret Garden,” and for a practical example, here are Mary and Colin, the lonely, spoiled and disagreeable children, who decide by slow steps to think about robins and iris bulbs and the people who cook their food and the house they live in — and what they call the magic that begins to make them feel more whole. Colin begins, as a scientific experiment, to say aloud every day the magic is in me. It is making me well.

He is saying good morning to the world. And it works.

This column is adapted from a post from my Berkshires Week days, April 11, 2013.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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