Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"They'll fit on elves' feet" - Imagining beside Christmas ferns

My Aunt Ann has always been imaginative. Before I was old enough to go to school, my family would travel a dozen miles or so to visit my maternal grandparents every Monday afternoon. Though I loved the elders very much, it was Ann I wanted to see. She would return from junior high school classes tired and frustrated, but always took time for me. She would make fearsome masks with crayons on brown paper bags. She would point out fairy-rings in the back yard and tell me stories about mysterious convocations. We would kneel down to see tiny pools and rivulets where sprites bathed and played in secret.

As I began writing about one of my favorite ferns, the Christmas fern, I discovered a poem by Maxwell C. Wheat, Jr. that reminded me of Ann's imaginings. A few lines go like this:

“Come see the Christmas stockings,”
Says Grandmother, taking our hands
Leading us to the stream in our back woods

There on the bank
She shows us fronds of ferns lined with leaflets
Each shape like a fat “L”
“They’ll fit on elves’ feet, Nanny.”

Those were the tutorials I loved then and do still. But life is not so easy now. Grown-up life is a frantic chase. To learn, you have to get down on your knees.

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