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down the wondrous rabbit hole: when poetry makes the ordinary extraordinary

down the wondrous rabbit hole: when poetry makes the ordinary extraordinary

We cut down our Christmas tree in the pouring rain a week ago, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the bookend adventure of a multi-day trip with extended family. Drove it home on top of our car without incident and abandoned it in the front yard for a few hours while we scrambled inside to help our son, a senior in high school, submit one more college application that was due in…oh, two hours. 

There was deep breathing.

An hour later, application submitted before the deadline, we finished unpacking the car, threw together some pasta and sauteed vegetables for dinner, and managed to get the tree inside the house, positioned in its stand of water in the front window of our living room, before we collapsed on the couch to watch the first half of Love Actually, not even considering having the conversation about decorating the tree.

That was not going to happen.

The tree was cute. We held no ill will against it. A sturdy Douglas fir with lots of space between the branches for ornaments. But there was not one ornament hanging from a single branch–or lights, for that matter–through Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday. Until finally, on Thursday night, we put up the lights. And then on Friday, we made a fire and opened the container of ornaments slung down from the attic and hung them in the tree. 

And it was beautiful. 

There are two times of day I find the tree, hailing bright and twinkly and sweet in our front room, irresistible to me: (1) the early mornings when all, except the tree’s lights, is still and dark and quiet, and (2) the evenings after dinner when the rush of the day calms and we move toward rest. In the evenings, I sit on the couch near the Christmas tree. And in the mornings I lie down in front of the fireplace, the tree bright and silent against the darkness that is soon upended by dawn’s light.

And I sit near it now, near the end of day. The tree’s lights defy the pending dark.

For this week’s Loop Poetry Project prompt, you are invited to observe an object–small or large, in your home or somewhere else–and let the object lead you down a path of story, or memory, or imagination. Let it take you on a journey from observation of the ordinary to discovery of the extraordinary.

Believe me, it is going to be a wild and beautiful ride to a place you never expected to go. Let me tell you more about what I mean.

For me, for instance, the object I observed was my Christmas tree. I was drawn to it one morning when I woke up and found the lights on the tree had been on all night. The lights illuminated the room I had expected to be dark. So, I let myself take in the tree–my senses absorbing it, recording it. But then I let my heart, my imagination, give me words to tell me something else about it. I let the tree, in a way, speak to me. Both my physical senses’s (sight, hearing, feeling, smelling) and my heart’s (my imagination, my memory) engagement with the tree changed the experience from mere observation to a deeper experience of discovery. I let the poem write itself–letting the tree create a poem inside my heart. My heart knew what the poem was about, and I was discovering this as I wrote. 

What I am finding is that sometimes writing poetry is a journey down a rabbit hole, a phrase coined by Lewis Carroll in his iconic book, Alice and Wonderland. Just like Alice, when she followed the white rabbit through his little door, tumbling down through many zany places and meeting many unusual creatures and people, not knowing what new experience was coming next or what unpredicted outcome was around the bend, when we write a poem we can simply begin, going through one door, recording one observation, and letting ourselves tumble around a bit, letting our hearts be open to exploring what happens when we let ourselves fall, exploring one idea and then the next. 

You see, we don’t have to know what the poem is going to be about–or be— before we start writing it.

When we begin a poem, we probably don’t know where it is going to go. How we begin, from observation and setting a scene, is not where we are going to end up by the time the poem’s last lines are written and we are at the end. 

I find this to be true in almost all my poem writing. And I love the sense of magic it evokes, the feeling of freedom it gives me. I can let my heart lead me; it has an entirely new and different way of interpreting the world than my mind. And when I draft a poem I want to listen to my heart. I want to learn to heed it, trust what it wants to say. My mind can edit the draft of the poem later–making edits, changing words, adjusting line breaks, listening with its very different way of hearing to make sure that the heart original plan for the poem is understandable. First, we let the heart speak to us as we draft a poem, and then we let the mind edit, making sure the poem is communicating what the heart always wanted to say. 

So, this week, let an object speak to you. Let your heart lead you down the rabbit hole of magic and memory, disaster and dream. Have fun noticing that where you end up is not where you began. There is much to learn here. Listen. Listen to what your heart wants to show you and teach you how to say.

When you have written your poem, consider sharing it with the hashtag #looppoetryproject so we can find you and enjoy what you have written! If you’d like to join the hundreds of women writing poetry together, seeking encouragement and discovery of poetry together, you are welcome to join the Loop Poetry Project private Facebook group. It is a wonderful, kind and safe place to share your poetry and connect with other women poets. And please connect with me on Instagram, where I share, in my highlights, poems women in the community have written!

Finally, I would love to hear from you here, in the comments below!

From this one true heart,


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