|Elsie at 101 years.|
I must have been four years old,
out for an armload of wildflowers
-daisies, mallow flowers, phlox.
Elsie and I sat on a rock
to rest in the shade of the gnarled apple tree.
“Oh World, I cannot hold thee close enough!”
cried Elsie, my Tante,
and on and on, poems by memory,
astounding my young ears with the bigness,
the width of life beyond my ken.
Dickenson, Heine, Goethe, Millay,
-all fair game to Elsie’s keen mind and deep delight.
What is the world? She answered for me,
just a hint of what was to come,
what could be, beyond the now.
I gazed at her above me,
and walked home with her, my arms full of flowers,
my little hand in hers.
And now, many years have passed.
My Tante is ninety-seven,
but still, poems sprout from her lips,
and she, with her searching mind,
evokes them from me as well.
“Prithee, let no bird call!”
We happen into a field, wild with flowers,
daisies, phlox, a wild quilt of color.
Thrice we return, picking armloads of wildflowers,
holding, holding, ever loving this life,
unwilling to let go.
This divine charge we accepted so long ago
just to love this, just to live this,
eyes wide as daisy petals, enveloped in earthly scents,
knee-deep in colors,
just this most huge Yes.
Wildacres, North Carolina
This week, on January 29th at 3 AM, my dear Aunt Elsie passed from this life. She was 102 years old. She influenced me to pursue the creative, engaged and inquisitive life since I was a tiny child, taking me for long walks in the woods and fields, and quoting wonderful poems, such as the one quoted above, "God's World" by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
Elsie learned many poems by memory in middle and high school, which she could quote verbatim all her life. She studied at the local college, Furman University, until she was 94, often astounding her professors with her memory of world events.
My girlfriend Susa Silvermarie gave her a written copy of the Millay poem this past Christmas, and we all recited the lines. Elsie liked to stretch her arms 'way out on either side whenever she quoted "Here such a passion is as stretcheth me apart."
Oh, precious one, a thousand thanks for your deep example and unforgettable teachings of how to live!
|Elsie at her hundredth birthday.|
|Remembering her in the wildflowers|
|Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough!|