This poem was inspired by this past weekend’s annual ritual of cleaning up after the small army of maple and locust trees in my yard. I like to believe that if I can find beauty in even a small task, some meaning or enjoyment in it, then that task is a lot less tedious (even if it still remains pretty time-consuming).

Picking Up Sticks

Leaves long raked and gathered,
Now spring comes and the trees
Shed their winter bounty;
Making my way beneath their bows,
Sky blue, clouds shifting above,
I pick up sticks –
Last of winter’s bones.

An endless sea of dry brown fingers,
Some long and unbroken,
Others crushed near to nothingness;
Some fat, some thin,
Both forked and straight –
Tiny souls unique as snowflakes,
Fallen to the forest floor.

For each one plucked
Another presents itself –
Walking all day, I could not possibly
Gather them all up;
There will always be more,
For the trees stand long and tall,
And their burden is now mine.

Should I stop, give up my task?
Admit defeat, and let nature
Take it’s own course?
Or should I persist in trying,
With each one collected,
To make some small difference
In the whole, unending mess?

Staring ahead at my futile fate,
Maybe the point, I come to see,
Is not to get them all
Or to simply leave them be,
But to enjoy the day –
Sun and sky and billowy breeze,
And this chance to walk among the trees.

Contented then, I gather the sticks,
And put them all in place –
A pile for kindling winter’s woodstove;
Some to spark fall campfires,
And edge the summer garden;
Some left for spring’s small birds
To build their tidy nests.

No need to hurry or worry for lack,
There’s always another branch
On it’s way down
To meet the grass,
Kiss the cold dirt,
And lay patiently,
Waiting to be discovered.

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