by James Crews
And when the world refuses,
you must sing your own praises,
must let that music rise up
from the deepest places in you
and pour out its shameless rhythm.
Listen to water as it seeps
between gaps in rocks, how
the Rottweiler next door looses
a string of barks and snarls, warning
anyone who passes by to think
twice before entering his yard.
Hear the hum of the fridge chilling
the milk, the butter, the sweating
pitcher of lemonade, how everything
sings of itself, even the coffeemaker
flipped on with a careless touch
this morning, puffing and croaking
its own wisdom like the chorus
of peepers who have come again
to the creek this spring, who spend
all day and night praising
the mud they slip deeper into,
singing of the warmth to come.
Yesterday, for the first time this season, I heard the spring peepers singing their chorus in the creek near our house here in Vermont. And I thought of this poem I wrote just before the pandemic when my husband Brad and I were traveling in Argentina. My senses were heightened, as they often are when I’m out of my comfort zone, yet I was also feeling homesick, already looking ahead to that sweet moment when we’d return, and the complex hymn of the spring peepers would announce the warmer weather at last. This poem is rooted in a deeper kind of listening, and when I’m at a loss for what to write about, I sometimes sit down and do what I call an “environmental scan,” opening up my senses and listening to what calls to my attention in my surroundings. As an anxious person with a busy mind, this practice has the added benefit of taking me out of my head and grounding me in the here and now where I can listen once again to everything around me singing the subtle song of itself.
Invitation for Writing & Reflection: Set aside about twenty minutes, and sit someplace (it doesn’t have to be quiet or peaceful), and attune yourself to your surroundings. What calls to your attention, what sounds and rhythms can you pick up? You might start by describing all of this, and then see where that leads you.