Thursday, May 10, 2012

Poetry as Prayer and Parenting on the Fly

This week has been a doozy.

On top of the normal--you know, all those things I signed up to do because I imagine myself Lynda Carter in shiny red go-go boots: teach classes, be a grad student, write a new novel--my husband and I have had a shake-up in our work worlds. And to top it off, our 2 and 3/4s year-old has decided that life would be much more fun if she did the following:

1. Wake up every morning at 4 or 5 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (I love that metaphor--it makes me think of Big Bird), shouting our names and being sure to enunciate every syllable.

Ma-Ma? Ma-Ma! Da-Dee! I. want. out.
I. want. some. orange. juice.
Ma-Ma? Da-Dee! I'm. thirsty!
Can you tell me a story? How about Wylie and Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin and Piglet and Eeyore and Kanga and Baby Roo and Rabbit and Owl go to the PLAYGROUND! And swing on the bouncy swings?
Ma-Ma? Dah-dee?

2. Shorten her naps to about 30 - 45 minutes, when only last week she was taking two to (sometimes) three hour naps. This is not cool to do to the Mama. Not when the Mama is in the midst of final exams.

Portrait of Cate the Great taken from Goodreads
3. Channel her favorite alternate ego: the Russian despot. You've probably heard of her, if you've been reading here. Well, she and the Orlov Trotters she rode in on are back.

This week alone, the Czarina resorted to physical violence with her sainted mother and father, shrieked at her loyal dog, mopped the floor with her flailing body, practiced her ninja skills (okay, so moving away from the Russian metaphor) on various objects around the house--including the sofa, her books, and her loyal stuffed animal subjects--and screamed, "No! Off with his head!" when offered her usual favored blueberry yogurt.

In addition to the Czarina's royal moodiness, our faithful family dog has decided that anything making a noise outside the family compound is a threat, and must be eliminated. This includes the mailman, the small dog in the yard behind ours, the screened door, the neighbors having a conversation outside in their own driveway, the recycling truck, joggers, road bikers, planes flying overhead, the wind, the birds, etc.

I make light. But it has been stressful. All of it. And I've lost my temper. Of which I am not proud.

Some people, in situations like these, find solace in prayer. Or talking on the phone to their friends. I certainly pray, and I sometimes talk on the phone to my friends... when I can find my phone. And when I've remembered to charge it.

And though I'm no poet, I have always found solace, relief, inspiration, peace... in poetry. Through the years I've come to think of poetry as prayer--of poets as writers winging out their best hopes, their most gorgeously realized dreams to the universe, and hoping somebody picks up on it. Mostly, I get my poems from my daily dose of The Writer's Almanac. This morning did not disappoint.

There it was, "Eagle Poem," by Joy Harjo. And in its first lines I found my relief: "To pray you open your whole self/ To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon/ To one whole voice that is you./ And know there is more/ That you can't see, can't hear/ Can't know except in moments/ Steadily growing, and in languages/ That aren't always sound but other/ Circles of motion."

Because isn't that the very definition of our daily lives as we stride--sometimes muddle along--through the universe? We are constantly moving in "circles of motion," and it is so very easy to close. To put up our personal blinders, our make-it-through-the-day sunglasses that shade the side roads, the inessentials. But isn't part of prayer, prayer to whomever and whatever we choose, to release, to "open your whole self"?

My Grandmama Jean was convinced by the power of prayer. That, in itself, would be enough for me. But I've always been certain that words have power, and that by putting those words out into the universe we are pleading for our own release, hoping in our darkest places that the Mystery will answer back, in one way or another.

My parental prayers change on a daily basis. They move along the lines of, "Let the world be kind to my daughter," to "Let my daughter be kind to the world." Mostly they sound more like, "Grant me patience."

And sometimes I pray simply that there is blueberry yogurt in the refrigerator.