Hang a poem, a wish, a compliment, on your tree this year

When the library issued a request at the beginning of December, to help decorate their tree, I was inspired. I mean, how can I not, when the library literally responds to every single request I ever make from “can you please print out this return label” to “can you please get in this obscure book?” to “do you think you could put together a pile of books for an early stage reader?” to my kid’s ask, “do you have any books on dragons? Not made-up books. SCIENCE books.”

I thought how fun it would be to make a little book and hang it on the tree. I was probably fresh from watching the How to Be At Home animation and feeling inspired.

Of course, my hand-made book doesn’t look like that. It had to run through the filter of my imperfect crafting skills. But it made me happy. And so, in the spirit of sharing happiness (and reiterating that Martha Stewart was actually a criminal who spend time in jail for lying, serving as an important reminder that perfection, especially around the home, entertaining, or crafting, is total and utter bullshit), here’s an offering.

What if you grab some scrap paper and an old cereal box and cut it into pieces and stitch or staple it together and scratch out in your best handwriting (this is mine, honestly), a poem, a quote, a prayer, a compliment or love note to someone you love, or something you’d like to call forth in 2021…

I chose to write out some poems that left me gobsmacked this year… I wrote them out, line by line, carefully counting lines to match the pages I had, and working out where to cram a few lines together and which ones would get the double page spread…

and then I stealth-fed my 7 year old poetry, line by line, by tasking him with the challenge of coming up with an illustration for each page…

and with this little dark night crafting activity, I was able to marinate in these words… and feel the shape of them…

like this line, from Joy Harjo:

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.

or this from Rainer Maria Rilke:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

Or this one, by Elena Mikhalkova, that was shared twice somewhere on my Facebook feed this past year, and which I screenshot BOTH times:

In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.

Do what you have to do, but little by little.

Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.

Wash the dishes. Remove the dust. Write a letter. Make a soup.

You see?

You are advancing step by step.

Take a step and stop.

Rest a little. Praise yourself. Take another step. Then another.

You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.

And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

I gave myself permission to not conform to the poet’s line breaks – my page count or the size of my writing or the size of the book didn’t really support that. So I’d write the words out my own way, breaking where I’d pause… it felt a bit irreverent at first, but then I realized, this is co-creation… we both get to contribute.

Maybe you don’t want to hang it on your tree. Maybe you want to slip it under your pillow instead. A poem or a wish or a prayer. Some reminder. Some praise. Some gesture of kindness to the person who wakes up wearing your skin, wearing your face, tomorrow.

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