by Emily Conrad
The way humans interact with nature is a theme in my reading life right now. Not one I chose to focus on, but one that is deeply imbedded in the books I happened to pick.
What does nature mean to me? To you? How do we interact with it? What does it do in our lives?
Our answers to these questions reveal so much about our beliefs. What do we think of the ways humans live? Where do we believe nature originated? If we believe it was created, to what end?
I cannot claim to have answered all of these questions in one little poem–who could? But I’ve savored the process of slowing down to record the blessings of the world just outside my home.
Nature, from a House in a City
The lay of the land is split with rectangles,
mine enclosed by white lattice fence.
A lilac overflows its place
at the back corner of the house,
peeking in both kitchen windows.
The window above the sink
is half-covered, all shaded
by a white metal awning.
Here, the lilac stretches forearms and fingers,
perches for sparrows and finches.
Just now, one alights on the inner rim
of the awning for a private audience with me,
who cannot rise to meet him.
I have hands, not wings,
and the hands I have are immersed in a sink of suds.
He flits and hops and takes flight again,
wings flapping in arm’s reach, if only
glass didn’t separate lilac from me.
He soars beyond the lattice, over
the stretch of long, deep yards.
Exiting my back door,
visitors lose entire trains of thought
in the open space past the fence.
Green lights the expanse in summer,
trees glow in fall. One pair of grey tracks,
a record of humans trespassing, cross its snow.
The stretch begs questions.
Is it yours? Do they use it?
-No, only in as much as my eyes can see
-Don’t we all?
The poetry professor claims nature
nurtures questions that draw us
together. Wonderers keep
wanderers company as we follow
each other across the snow.
The preacher’s writing daughter
says God pursues souls in
the quiet of Creation. Here,
He bends low to those who
cannot rise to meet Him.
But me—in my little house
and my rectangle yard with my
sparrows and finches and stretches of land
I do not own— me, I wonder if nature
doesn’t do both, and more.
What natural blessings can you appreciate without leaving home? What about them draws you?