By Mary MacDonald
On the last day of work before summer holidays began, I started beeping. Do you know what I mean? I was all fuzzy and giddy with expectation. But bone tired. My eyes glazed over as the green icon drained into bright red. Recharge.Nothing much left in the reserve tank, except name, address, and serial number. That’s about it. Recharge battery.
As I said good-bye to my last client of the day, “It’s good to have time off,” she said. “And good to re-charge your batteries.”
There was that word again. Recharge. Everything I own has a battery. My iphone. My ipad. My ipod. iMac. What about MaryMac? That’s a question with a harder answer. Every battery has a certain life span. How do I even know when my own battery is low? How do I recharge? I had to look beyond the obvious.
As the last juice was being sucked out of me, I felt myself slowing down, and unable to keep walking. This was a harrowing experience and I was terrified. I knew I had to do something – real or imagined. I asked a friend to read W. S. Merwin’s poem Place to me. I was sitting in a corner of the back yard and I had my eyes closed.
‘On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree,’ he read. Then something happened. I began to imagine the scene. This was no ordinary poem. ‘I want the tree that stands in the earth for the first time.’ Something powerful was happening. Like a current running through me. Like bottled lightening. ‘And the water touching its roots.’ A few beats later my friend called out my name and I responded. ‘One by one over it’s leaves,’ I said aloud, and stood up and walked, feeling the gritty earth under my toes.
Later that night, I was laying in bed staring at the silvery moonlight, and feeling a little reckless, I hauled out my Seamus Heaney Collected Poems and read the poem Fostering. “Like the tree-clock of tin cans / The tinkers made. So long for air to brighten, / Time to be dazzled and the heart to lighten.” It was like time began running forward, and I left my room. Seamus Heaney was driving an enormous truck and I was at his side, following a bumpy track, out of Dublin and into gold hills, and beyond.
Then I read more poetry: Yeats and Plath. Mark Doty and Sharon Olds. The effect on me was startling. Everything was becoming insanely effortless. I was travelling across continents. Making endless journeys through both humorous and dark landscapes.
The following week I opened my moleskin and started making notes. There was a young child in a striped t-shirt walking towards me. Pigeon-toed. All alone and empty handed. Everything I saw was the beginning of a poem. Every sound a musical note. Every note became a beat. Every beat a rhythm. Every poem I began grew a story. Every story had legs. Everywhere I went I was in the green zone. Refreshed. Revived. Renewed. Recharged.
Now it is autumn. At this year’s Whistler’s Readers and Writers Festival there is going to be poetry. Live and intelligent. Comes A Time. Michael Crummey, Evelyn Lau, Rhona Shaffran, and Elizabeth Bachinsky will assemble to talk about poetry and time. The content may be real or imagined. Because the kingdom of poetry is no ordinary time. By the time they’re finished, rivers of juice will have flown back into us. We’ll all be lively-ed up. Revived and restored. Recharged. See you there.
Mary MacDonald is a poet, writer, and child psychologist, living a sometimes wildly incompatible life, in Whistler and Vancouver, B.C. You can catch her session, ‘Comes A Time’ October 19th at 2:15 pm at the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival: Poetry reading and panel discussion with Michael Crummey, Evelyn Lau, Rona Shaffran and Elizabeth Bachinsky.