Monday, March 21, 2011

The Kindness of Plastic Chickens

Opening with an admission: I was feeling a tad sorry for myself this morning, blubbering about the nameless something, when I caught myself and was reminded what an incredibly fine life I have. As I walked past the living room window, I noticed that the snow had receded so much that the plastic chicken planter that I had loathed, but somehow had never felt I could remove last summer, was sitting there looking all happy and such, and I burst out laughing at that fool thing, that isn't at all afraid of looking foolish, and learned a bit about kindness in that ridiculously sublime moment.

So I decided to share with you the poem I led off with last night at our poetry reading. But before I do, I have to tell you about this fun little synchronicity that happened. A few days ago, Dr. Seuss popped into my mind and I thought it would be fun to buy several of his books and leave them around to read or invite others to read when they came over.

Many, many years ago, I worked at a shelter for abused women and their children. There were several Dr. Seuss books around so when my friend, Vickie, and I, worked the night shift, we would sometimes pull them out, sit down on the couch side by side like a couple of eight year olds and read them aloud to each other. It often resulted in us falling over in a fit of  much-needed laughter. Things can get very emotional and even a little scary at such shelters, so we did what we could to elevate our thought, and perhaps even the mood, the energy, of that sad place.

Last night at the poetry reading, out of the blue, Neighbor Guy and Old Friend said, "We should do a Dr. Seuss night."  I got all excited. We would read his books out loud, taking turns reading a page or two of the same book or each reading a smaller book, whatever we could to keep everyone engaged in the fun. Of course, Dr. Seuss isn't just for kids. Like many animated films, there's a subtext that can often be emotional or very political. So we're planning a Dr. Seuss night.

Much synchronicity was popping out of the woodwork, i.e. our mouths and minds, last night, but I will save those for another time. Today, I want to remind myself of the need for kindness, both a willingness to receive it and the desire to share it.

The poem:


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in the white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrow
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
    purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

Or a plastic chicken. I'm looking forward to finding just the right plant to tenderly place inside her kind and loving heart.


  1. This is the cutest blog ever... And, I'm glad you're keeping the plastic chicken. I keep certain things in my yard, just to bring surprise and smiles. Love the poem...Thank you for sharing. xoxox

  2. "when I caught myself and was reminded what an incredibly fine life I have"

    Driving back yesterday I felt pretty much the same way. That is a powerful poem as well. We have so much in this country and citizens do not have a clue how good things are.

    In respect to your comment about the picture at OTC I just want to make sure you know the rest of the story of how that picture was had.

    That story is here if you have not seen it. There is actually a second version of the second movie that over half is set to music and is better than what I did.

    That can be found at You Tube if you search there for PhilTraum123

  3. I love Dr Seuss too. Completely different but maybe for the same reason that you read Dr Seuss at the shelter, we (husband, daughter, son & myself)read Gary Larson's Far Side books when our daughter spent nearly 12 months undergoing chemotherapy and amputation of her leg - it made us laugh. In his own way Larson's jokes had many messages about life too.

  4. Hi Lynn, Thank You! It's those crazy little things that make life so sweet.

    One Fly, I did watch the video of the ruin above Valley of the Gods, if that's what you're referring to. I've been up and down that crazy Mokee Dugway road many times and driven through the Valley, not realizing a ruin sat near the top. Should have, as once a person starts exploring, they're everywhere. That canyon looks like Johns Canyon, up on Cedar Mesa, but then they do look very much alike from on top.

    It is a nice feeling, when we realize how good life is, isn't it?

    Marily, I am a huge fan of Gary Larson. I'm sorry to hear your daughter, your family ,went through such difficulty. It's good that you had humor to carry you through.... My mother and I would laugh every day at his cartoons in the newspaper. I've saved several of my favorites. Remember the one where his character, the overweight, '50's style kid with buck teeth and coke bottle glasses, is on the back of a big beetle and the beetle says to the other beetle, "EEEEK! Get it off me!" Good stuff . Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing that with us.

  5. Teresa, I used The Lorax for years to teach capitalism run amok. The mountaintop removal practice is reflective of the quest for the thneed. Have you ever seen Seuss's hate-filled WWII cartoons about the Japanese? Very glad he grew up.

  6. Hey Cletis, I have not seen those earlier cartoons. I am fond of the sneetches and what they teach us. What do you think? Do I have a future as a Seuss copycat with that last rhyme?

  7. I confess that as a child, I loathed Dr Seuss books. I've found far more applications for them in my adult life. If you've never made or played with oobleck, google it and try it. It's cheap, it's fun (especially if you add food colouring) and a great way to teach non-Newtonian fluid behaviour. Or just make a mess. And, it's important to love and appreciate life but occasionally I find a good wallow in tears and self-pity to be cathartic. I'm glad you're keeping the chicken.

  8. A Dr. Seuss night would be uplifting and energizing! The poem about kindness is very poignant. To know what kindness is we need to know loneliness, rejection, desperation...We need to know that there are people who know very little about the power of kindness and hope in their lives or others.

  9. Li, I've never denied myself a good wallowing, nor a true catharis. :)

  10. Paul C, Thank you for those thoughts about the poem. You saw what I saw, and I appreciate that.

  11. Even a little kindness goes a long way Teresa and especially so with people who have suffered abuse of any kind...

  12. Your comment on my recent post was kindness itself, Teresa. Thank you for that, and Dr. Seuss nights sound like just the ticket for this crazy world we are living in! Hugs to you!!

  13. DJan, It does sound like a good antidote, doesn't it? Thank You.

  14. Such a lovely poem, Teresa, and such a lively post and comments. Thank you.

    Dr. Seuss was (and still is) a mainstay in our house. I would occasionally use "Oh, the Places You Will Go" as part of a speech for promotional exercises for middle school students, inserting their names into the verse. It always made the kids laugh and their parents appreciative.

  15. Hi Penny, Thank you for the comment on the poem. I fear it almost got lost inside my talk of Dr. Seuss, and it really is a wonderful poem that deserves much thought.

    That particular Dr. Seuss book has been very inspirational to many, and your good use of it for those young people sounds perfect.

  16. More than just Seuss, I enjoy a lot of childrens books. I like to sit in that section of the library and read with a friend.I used the Seuss books to try and get my low end readers to read at the high school.It was fun to watch their facial expressions while reading him.

  17. Steve, Books that are designed for children appeal to me, as well. Wonderful life lessons contained in them and very often with beautiful illustrations.
    It's a great way to encourage reading, at any age.

  18. I love the poems you choose. I am so busy doing that I rarely open a book of poetry. My loss, clearly.

  19. Linda, And I love the projects you choose. Doing what you do is of great value.

  20. Love the plastic chicken story. And how did I ever miss the "...How Lucky You Are?" Seuss book? I must check it out.

    On another note, your post made another book pop into my head: "Hope for the Flowers" by Trina Paulus. One of my favorites. I can't tell you why the book flashed through my mind while reading your post, but I think you'd like it if you haven't read it already.

    Great post.

  21. Christopher, What a nice surprise! Glad you stopped by. I have not heard of the book, but given the angel thoughts you always seem to have for me on your blog, I will definitely take a look. Thank You!