Poetry makes a great framework on which to hang thinking; along with metaphor, which offers another device for thinking – about poetry. Recent events came to mind as I entwined the leading shoots of my jasmine, hoya and mandevilla onto their respective trellises. It’s a meditative job; one I enjoy. Like taking a child by the hand and saying ‘come with me, this is the best way’. They are climbing plants, so each needs a support to grow on. Their natural growth pattern of sending out long tendrils on string-like stems is ideal for vertical growth. Some, like the hoyas, also have suckers which grasp walls or other solid structures for support. However, the jasmine and mandevilla need something to wind around like wire or a trellis in order to fulfil their towering ambitions. The point is, they don’t achieve this on their own. They need support.
After a recent accident I too, needed support. For days I couldn’t get out of bed or even sit up without help. I’m fortunate to have loving family who cared for me, who unequivocally gave me their support. I healed quickly and no longer need such intensive care. But it got me thinking about a poem my father often quoted. He could quote poetry by rote and took every opportunity to do so. It’s only now, I realise what a legacy he left me. All those metaphors, all those verses, which encapsulated life’s lessons. The ones that taught him and now the lessons they teach me.
‘No Man is an Island’No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.John Donne 1572–1631
Poetry can support and nourish growth. Like the support enjoyed by my climbing plants, poetry is a trellis which encourages us to reach upward and soar. The lesson contained in one of my father’s favourite poems (above) is about the holistic nature of life. None of us is truly a solitary agent. We are all connected in a Web of Life.
This morning over breakfast, my friends and I discussed how important was the role of the volunteer and the inherent altruism of humanity involved. Most of us would help another in need without even thinking about it. Primate research suggests altruism is not a purely human trait. Anyone with a pet knows the positive symbiotic relationship that having one involves. Without getting into a Darwinism discussion, I simply have to remind myself not to ask ‘for whom the bell tolls’, because it tolls for each of us – as my dad would often tell me, ‘no man [woman, beast, nor plant] is an island’. Bracketed additions are my own. : )