What the world is trying to be

I can’t imagine what this corner of Ohio was like at the height of industrialism. The iron and steel plants, fueled by coal, spewing their black sputum skyward (sputum is one of those magical words whose definition matches its sound in terms of sheer repulsiveness). Because, wow, winter (and autumn and a good portion of spring) in Northeast Ohio is just so Grey.

On our walk Sunday afternoon, Jonah and I discussed how dirty the sky looked. It was brown-grey. It was as though the atmosphere had been run through the Willow filter in Instagram, except more smudged. The snow on the streets and sidewalks is a grey sludge too, streaked with yellow. The only thing better than dingy snow is dingy snow marked by (what must be) the fifty dogs that walk our neighborhood.

So of course it was the perfect day to take down the Christmas tree. Might as well take advantage of the melancholy. G was correspondingly mournful—

sad lights

and even cried real tears when I packed away his baby Craftsman Christmas tree ornament hammer.

I read a poem by William Stafford early on in the day. Stafford was born in Kansas and grew up a bit there, evidenced by the meadowlarks (the Kansas state bird) “trying to tell / something better about to happen.” The poem attended my day. I had in mind to send it to a dear friend (and probably still will), but in the meantime it settled in me, counteracting the grey, finding appreciation for (if not beauty in) the damp hanging drift of Ohio.


This dream the world is having about itself
includes a trace on the plains of the Oregon trail,
a groove in the grass my father showed us all
one day while meadowlarks were trying to tell
something better about to happen.

I dreamed the trace to the mountains, over the hills,
and there a girl who belonged wherever she was.
But then my mother called us back to the car:
she was afraid; she always blamed the place,
the time, anything my father planned.

Now both of my parents, the long line through the plain,
the meadowlarks, the sky, the world’s whole dream
remain, and I hear him say while I stand between the two,
helpless, both of them part of me:
“Your job is to find what the world is trying to be.”

from The Way It Is, © Graywolf Press, 1998.

Here’s what the world gave up to me today. Modest disclosures, but prized nonetheless.

yellow house

schmemann found



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