ALL THINGS LITERARY. ALL THINGS NATURAL.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Growing Paradise and the Process of Life

Remnants of May 12, 2014 storm
Today, paradise lost seems suddenly found—not so much a place as a process.  Green blades of spring grass thrust themselves through a foot of mountain snow and I fall back in love, all over again, with the process of life.

Matt Lambert with 4-day old Carly Rose
Only a few days ago I held my first grandchild in my arms.  Later, I watched my son cradle her in his arms for hours, enraptured, lost in the fleeting twitch of each newly found and endearing expression. Carly's newborn sleep seemed ripe with discovery.  What’s this? A smile? How pleasurable!  Newborns, the breath of heaven.

Paradise—not a place but a process—the intricate regeneration of hope and desire.  How carefully Carly’s mother grew her, each morsel eaten nourishing the soil in which Carly’s life took root, one eyelash at a time.  Nature makes this growing seem effortless.  Green grass sprouts beneath a blanket of snow and we hurry past, rarely awed. We read a poem so fine it takes our breath away, yet we rarely contemplate the effort expended for each word to find its way onto the page.

Growing Paradise by Ann Filemyr
What an anachronism, in this digital age, to find a hand-bound book of poems like Ann Filemyr's GROWING PARADISE  (LaNana Creek Press, Texas) —each stitch pulled taut by human hand, each illustration painted in vibrant color, each word a seed, each seed a poem, each poem the pulsing poet, laid bare. 
LaNana Creek Press director Charles D. Jones

Books such as these become literal works of art yet how easy it is to forget that the process itself is an art form.  Easy to forget, also, that no matter how lonely and frightening the process of creating is, we never ever create alone. There is sunshine and rain and the grand turning of the seasons, all in cahoots, all dipping their sticky fingers into the great cauldron of creation.

Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming
Driving home to Colorado from Montana after welcoming Carly into the world, we passed herd after herd of cows grazing the spring pastures with their calves.  On the ranch, I used to love watching the older cows take turns babysitting the calves.  When the calves tired of their playful bucking and chasing, they would settle down forming an impromptu nursery, lanky legs curled under them as they napped under the watchful eyes of a few older cows.  The rest of the herd wandered away, grazing far afield until intuition (and full milk bags) drew them back to the fold.  The calves would awaken and leap to their feet, ravenous, alive, eager. 

Fine press tradition of LaNana Creek Press
To be engaged in life is to be a part of this ongoing, never ending process.  It is to see ourselves, and our works of art, in relationship to the world around us—not isolated, not solely the product of our own creative efforts but intricate parts of the greater whole. 

Each of the 19 poems in Ann Filemyr's collection Growing Paradise begins with the image of a fruit and then ventures out into the larger world.  “Peach" begins with these lines...

Near the cliff dwellings in Frijoles Canyon
where the Cochiti lived before Spaniards brought peaches
in the time before she knew what she wanted
she changes
                        water to blood to milk
for the fertile moon has already touched her



The poem ends, asking this question... 

What is this incredible sweet flesh
This tenderness? This delight?
                        We make it ours
in the verb and tongue
of that doing, for she is now
                        bent to birth
breathing every shade of light
                        pulling
from the heart’s dark passage
                        as peach trees
flowering all around her
                        push life

Daughter-in-law Anna Lambert with Carly
And so it is that while we labor with our own private endeavors, the peach trees flower and the grasses grow and paradise is both lost and found.  Inspiration comes to us in our dreams and we tell our stories and in so doing, life regenerates itself.  Sons become fathers and daughters become mothers, and somewhere in between there is the artful coming together of heaven and earth. 

Poet Ann Filemyr
NOTE:  Ann Filemyr, author of GROWING PARADISE (LaNana Creek Press, Nacogdoches,Texas) is currently the Academic Dean at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The poems featured in Growing Paradise are available in Ann's collection The Healer’s DiaryAnn's most recent book Love Enough is available from Red Mountain Press in Santa Fe.