On these soft, humid mornings when 6:30 comes around, I switch on the old-fashioned kitchen radio and listen to The Writer's Almanac. Oh, that buttery, soothing voice of Garrison Keillor! I pour kibble into the cats' dishes and ready Lennon's syringe and Garrison tells me about the writers born on this day and that voice, that voice! transports me back to years I never knew, years before I was born and to country places and homes I never visited before where women wore aprons and hummed about the kitchen while pouring tiny glasses of orange juice.
Every weekday morning this is my treat.
And then Garrison reads a poem and oh, those poems carry me even further away until I am not even me, but someone else swooping into windows of houses no longer standing, a fly on the wall watching people no longer there, but in Heaven.
Then at the end of just those five moments Garrison stops speaking, his program's music ends and I'm back in my kitchen, awaking with a can of cat food in my hand at the refrigerator door. And smiling all dreamy-eyed.
Here was the poem Garrison's read just moments ago, but without that voice of his, ah! The voice of someone doing exactly what he was called to do in this world, well, it's a nice poem, yes, but you'll have to do the best you can to find the extra magic.
Letter to My Mother
by Robert PhillipsSpinach Days)
You helped me pack for that milestone event, first time away from home alone.It didn't matter the summer camp was poor—long on Jesus, short on funds—bordering a tea-colored lake. No matter we could afford only two weeks. To help get there I hoarded months of allowances. I was ten, felt grown,I finally was going somewhere on my own.You folded the ironed tee-shirts and skivvies—you even ironed and creased my dungarees.In Southern drawl: "And of course you'll dress for dinner!" you said, packing with the rest my one blazer, dress shirts, and red tie.I didn't protest, I was an innocent stander-by.(The suitcase was a new brown Samsonite.Even empty that thing never was light.)First exhilarating day—after softball, archery, diving instruction (which I took to swimmingly)—came rest hour. While others took a shower or wrote postcards home, I dressed for dinner:the white shirt, the pre-tied striped tie,the navy jacket. In process I received a wry glance from my counselor. The dinner bell tolled,I felt every bit the gentleman as I strolled toward the rustic dining room. I entered,the room exploded with boyish hoots and laughter,pointing at me, the funniest thing they'd seen. They still had on their shorts or jeans.The rest of the two weeks were impossible.Not chosen for any teams, called a fool,Mother, I was miserable through and through.But when I came home I never told you.
"Letter to My Mother" by Robert Phillips, from Spinach Days. © JHU Press, 2000.
What? You've never listened to The Writer's Almanac? Oh dear. Well, now you can go here and listen for yourself.(Click on 'Listen.') Perhaps some of you will understand my early morning enchantment. Perhaps.
(Any other faithful listeners of The Writer's Almanac out there in Blogland?)
"Be well, do good work and keep in touch." ... Garrison Keillor