Welcome to week two of our practice. I’m excited to continue offering these excerpts from my new book, How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Please allow this week’s poem to spark your own joy, delight, memory, and imagination in whatever ways it will. As much as you can, I encourage you to create some quiet space to sit with this offering and see what it brings up for you.
Notice what you feel drawn to and honor how you feel moved to engage with the poem.
May you find delight and inspiration in this week’s practice.
With hope and love,
by Katie Rubinstein
It was weeks ago now
that first September I spent here on this island,
still hot and balmy.
I wanted a scratch and sniff for you,
some clever little corner of the screen
so I could share this most perfect thing:
the smell of beach roses, all briney.
They were abundant outside of the cottage,
and each time I passed, I wondered how I’d gotten so lucky—
that they became like dandelions in my life.
Hardy, scrappy and perfectly soft all at the same time,
nestled in their rocky, sandy homes, smelling like heaven—
those round, round hips.
I wanted to eat them, be them,
and I wanted you to smell them
as if sharing them would somehow
exponentially increase the delight
or make the sense more real.
But it was mine alone
and exquisite all the same.
You can find a printable version of this poem as part of our poetry collection.
Option 1: Stop here. Allow yourself to sit with this poem and let it live in you. Notice how and when it enters your awareness over time. What surfaces for you? If and when you’re ready, you might continue your exploration of the poem with option 2.
Option 2: Deepen your relationship with the poem with the following suggestions: You might begin by reflecting on your sense or interpretation of the poem, reading my reflection of the poem’s meaning as it feels helpful for your own reflection. Engage in the suggested practices to cultivate an embodied experience of the poem’s words and images.
Katie Rubinstein perfectly recreates the joy of spending time alone on an island that she can’t help wanting to share with a loved one, even wishing that she could send along more than just a photo—“some clever little corner of the screen/so I could share this most perfect thing:/the smell of beach roses, all briney.” During difficult times, we all have to become more creative about how we share space with others, how we tend to our relationships, and how we keep ourselves connected to each other.
In this poem, the speaker conveys the frustration of not being able to offer the fullness of her experience to another. Through her desire to share both the scent and sight of the beach roses she comes upon, however, she also points to the fact that, even if we can’t recreate every sensory detail for someone else, even if we can’t give them a “scratch and sniff,” sharing our joy with others can often “exponentially increase the delight” that we feel ourselves, even if the pleasure remains ours alone, “and exquisite all the same,” in the moment.
Over the next week, keep a list of small sensory delights like the one Katie Rubinstein describes here, and write a poem or letter to someone else, doing your best to convey the fullness of that experience. You might make this a regular practice too, whether through writing, emails, texts, or Zoom calls with loved ones, to share your joy with them and see if it exponentially increases your own pleasure at the same time.
We invite you to share your reflections in the space below the author bio.
James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of two anthologies: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Crews teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University and lives with his husband on an organic farm in Vermont. jamescrews.net.
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I find this poem raising questions about what does it mean to share an experience. The aroma, form and shape of the beach roses is so intense and meaningful to the speaker (“hardy, scrappy and perfectly soft,,I wanted to ..be them”). The speaker realizes that intense desire to share this experience comes from the “as if”: “as if sharing them would make somehow/ exponentially increase the delight”. There has been a few months distance from this experience, and the speaker now realizes the experience “was mine alone/and exquisite all the same”.
There is something unbridgeable about experience—scratch and sniff is nearly always unsatisfactory. Even if we are together with someone, their experience is different from our own. Is what we share with someone not our actual experience but relational: our mutual delight, our delight in their delight, our joy in seeing them touched and deeply moved, our pleasure in being together in a moment of happiness?
This week spring is coming rapidly in the wake of warm days, buds on plants, the rapid appearance of daffodils, magnolias on the side of the street that gets more sun. I think of the photo a friend shared of bloodroot, a plant I’m sure I’ve never seen before, that she saw in a local park: “the single leaf embraces and protects the flower” she wrote and had me see the rounded leaves like cupped hands. I was grateful for that sharing.
The first thing I noticed around me were the lilacs and the fragrance. I brought some in the house and after a few days the fragrance faded and I went for a few more. This time I shared the space with a huge yellow butterfly and neither of us had to leave for the other to share the beautiful fragrance of the bush. I really enjoyed that sharing as it made the moment something more for me..
i see rips in the sky
the portals for angels
between heaven and earth
i see white altars in my path
that i must walk around
prayer flags flying free
i see white light flood your office
and then back to normal
when we facetime
i see you wearing only white light
and an old man’s beseeching face
i see things you know are there
because you feel them
but i see
and when i tell you what i see
you may as well be blind
copyright Lorraine Pester 04/10/2021
Very clear picture of seeing what is around you. Nice!
I often have the feeling of wanting to share my experiences while walking and think, I wish my husband could see the array of tulips in fantastic colors. When I get home I tell him about what I’ve seen. After one of his daily walks he will tell me about cloud formations, cute dogs or interesting colors along the creek. Sometimes I wonder when we take walks together if our awareness is as intense as when we each walk alone. I love both kinds of walking and until I contemplated this poem, I wasn’t conscious of the difference.
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