My father gave me this plant, a croton only a few inches tall then, a week or so before he died. In the 20-plus years since, it’s grown and survived several moves, getting toppled by a kitten, and an attempted rawhide bone burial in its soil by an Australian shepherd. Its offspring from cuttings are healthy and lush. The original, now a long trunk/stem with some leaves on top, has hung in there.
We can come to the point where all evidence points to something staying exactly the way it is, and we think we’re foolish to believe, much less hope, otherwise. Things are the way they are — make the best of it. Right? Sure, we hear words about hope and change, but that’s not reality. Not for us.
Then we get an idea for a new product or creative project. A challenge at work or at home forces us to reexamine the ordinary. We discover an unexpected connection. A gift comes our way, seemingly out of the blue.
In the case of this seasoned croton, a shiny little leaf appears about midway up the trunk. The plant had no apparent reason to sprout new growth here; leaves usually start growing up top with the other leaves. But a new branch in the middle of nowhere?
The reality of the present moment may look the same, but this little green leaf reminds us that reality is, in fact, change and growth. Much of it happens behind the scenes, but when it appears, might we see that reality differently? Might we even dare to hope?
The angel Gabriel — charged with the daunting task of convincing a teenage girl that her unplanned pregnancy was part of a much bigger plan — said it best: “Nothing shall be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
“Blue Heron Woman: Poems,” by Gail S. Burlakoff (2014)
This is not a review per se, as the author is a friend and former neighbor. Call it an observation.
“Blue Heron Woman” is the name given to Gail by a Cherokee-Cree medicine woman, the author bio explains, “and the name suits her; she has spent much of her life wading through one thing or another, watchfully waiting for the next adventure, moving from one place to another, defending her young, and surviving.”
The poems tell her story, from Hawaii just before and just after World War II to summers in the Ozarks; Panama; boarding school and college; as a “corporate wife” in St. Croix and Peru; and the end of that life and the beginning (and continuation) of another. It’s like a home movie with images that flicker by before taking off again, gradually forming a mosaic of a life.
It is not a fluid journey. There are stops and starts, joys and pains and choices. There is, Gail writes in a poem near the end of Part I, an itch to move on to something that will certainly be better — but the voices of the also well-traveled generations before her interrupt: “Halt. You are where you are for a reason. Stop, think, breathe, and be aware of who we are, Where we came from, Why we came. You are one of us, A courageous woman. Bless you.”
A blessing, indeed. I read the Kindle version of this book, but I recommend paper and ink for poetry. With an e-book I am never sure if the stanzas and line breaks are as the author intended, or if what I am looking at is simply where it all landed on the digital page. The photos, too (by Nikolai Burlakoff) would of course show up better in print.