Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dear Madeleine

I've been wanting to do more of my Wrinkle in Time re-read posts, but alas, life keeps getting in the way. But I thought I would go on and post this journal entry I wrote the other day, in the form of a letter to Madeleine L'Engle. I had a very rare quiet morning to read when my family was out of town, and I found myself drawn to the final chapters of Wrinkle. Then I just needed to thank Madeleine one more time for this lovely book that has meant so much to me through the years.


Dear Madeleine,

I missed you today.

Despite your passing on to greater life almost five years ago, I often still have a sense of your presence. After all, your books have graced my life for decades. And they grace my shelves…two shelves, in fact, full of almost every book you ever wrote, all crowded together, sandwiched right in between Harper Lee and C.S. Lewis (who then crowds the next two shelves…I guess you can tell who the writers of my heart are).

But I both felt your presence more deeply than usual, and missed you more, while reading today. I’m having an extremely rare day alone, all to myself, and found myself picking up the 50th anniversary copy of A Wrinkle in Time that my sister bought for my recent birthday. Its lovely red jacket, an homage to the original cover, feels smooth in my hands. It’s a hardback, and I’m not used to holding such weight when I read Wrinkle – since for years the only copy I’ve ever read was my read-to-literal-tatters paperback, the same paperback copy I first read at the age of eleven.

I don’t know if it was reading a brand new copy (one with lovely pictures of you in the back, along with that draft chapter that shows your edits that just delight me to see) or because I was all alone with more space and time than usual to intently focus, but I fell into Wrinkle in ways I hadn’t in years. Oh, I’ve read it numerous times in the thirty-three years (wow, is that really possible?) since I first discovered it. But you know, perhaps, how it feels to read a well-loved and much-read story. It’s like visiting with an old friend, knowing the stories she delights in repeating, being able to finish her sentences for her. That’s usually how I feel when I go back to Wrinkle, and it’s a lovely, comforting thing.

Today it felt almost new. I had been re-reading my way at a leisurely pace, and suddenly I was in the final few chapters and couldn’t put them down. Again, a odd quirk of my life (an out of town funeral that my husband and daughter are attending, while I stayed here with work deadlines) enabled me to read with more attention and time than I can usually give these days. I was not rushing to get breakfast on the table or needing to dive into errands or starting my daughter’s school day. I was able to just fall head first into the story and keep reading. I took the book back to bed, curled up with my soft comforter, and kept reading…much as I would have…could have…did…read when I was eleven. By the time I finished the story, and finish it I did, I was crying.

To read with that young-girl intensity, and yet to read with this middle-aged woman’s heart – well, it was a powerful combination. I remember you saying once that we are all the ages we have ever been, and that’s so profoundly true. So I read with little girl freshness and grown-up eyes together – a little bit like wearing Mrs. Who’s glasses, I suppose, and marveling as I see the atoms re-arrange.

I found myself resonating with parts of the story I never had so fully before. Mr. Murry’s character – you did so much with him in such a little amount of space and time – especially spoke to my heart. My own almost ten year old is several states away today, experiencing her first funeral, and all her struggles and seasons lately – with anxieties and insecurities, hopes and dreams, independence and dependence – seemed to play into every scene I read between Mr. Murry and Meg. I understood Meg’s anger at her father for not being perfect and not taking care of everything in one heroic sweep. I understood Mr. Murry’s frustrations and helplessness as he realized that, as much as he would like to, he couldn’t do everything, couldn’t be the strong, perfect parent she wanted him to be. I had always thought, when I was a child, than nothing was more powerful than that final scene when Meg loves Charles Wallace out of the clutches of IT – and yet where does Meg learn to love like that? I found myself in awe of her father’s love for her. I love how you showed him as limited and flawed and yet willing to have a child-like trust in a love and power greater than his own. I love how he was willing to put his daughter in greater hands than his and let his daughter do what needed to be done. The last part of the story – it’s not just about Meg growing up and choosing the hard but right way. It’s about a father (who himself needed rescuing by a trio of young people) learning to let go of control, learning to trust. I suspect that lesson was a hard-won lesson for Mr. Murry, trapped in his dark column, his cloven pine.

And oh, Calvin. How I loved those small moments of potentially blooming romance between Calvin and Meg when I was closer to their age, and I still do. But it’s not just about a boy and a girl meeting and finding one another attractive. It’s about two young people shaped by the same call and helping each other find courage to do what needs to be done. That kiss Calvin gives Meg? The one that brightens her eyes? It’s not a prince waking up a princess kiss, or a kiss of adolescent ardor. It’s a let me kiss you before you go into battle kiss, a kiss of encouragement and strength.

I don’t think I’d ever realized how beautifully steeped in Pauline theology those final chapters were either. Yes, I recognized all the scriptural quotes, but they are so carefully chosen, so integrated into the story you’re telling. I love the way that all those gospel steeped elements are spoken by various characters – not just the three Mrs. Ws (who clearly stand in as angelic messengers) but by Aunt Beast. The God who shapes us for his purposes, who makes all things work together for good, who makes the foolish things of the world shame the wise – is the God of the universe. And so it’s so utterly right that the translation of the song of the winged creatures on Uriel comes through as a Psalm of praise.

And the disembodied brain – not just an homage to Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, not just a “heart defeats brain” moment.  It’s disembodied. As in non-incarnate. And only incarnated love – love willing to do what needs to be done to rescue the one in thrall to the darkness – only incarnated love can triumph. Meg’s act here is a Christ-like act, from the moment she pushes through the cold and darkness to the moment she catches Charles up in a tear-soaked embrace.

Oh Madeleine, I missed you today. And yet I also found myself feeling as though you’d come to visit. I’m so glad you did.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Girl With a Watering Can (Diamante Poem)

As an end of the year treat, since she finished her grammar text early this year, the sweet girl is getting extra language arts time to work on poems and stories. We've been working with some terrific poem starters from Joyce Sidman -- ideas and forms that are really inspiring us.

Today we worked with the diamante form. You're supposed to start and end with a noun, but I gave us some leeway -- sometimes we went with an adjective. The line format is built on number of words. The form is 1,2,3,5,3,2,1 ~ sounds like a waltz, doesn't it? So the lines get successively longer at first, it's all balanced by a long beam of a line (like a rafter) in the middle, and then the lines decrease in the back half.

Sidman suggested using a picture to inspire the diamante. The sweet girl has been enjoying the gorgeous Child's Book of Art by Lucy Micklethwait again. She looked through and chose several pictures to work with. I was really tickled with all the results, but I especially liked this one she wrote based on Renoir's Girl With a Watering Can.

watering plants,
picking white daisies.
She's just watered the garden.
Buttons on dress,
red bow,

(SBP, 5/28/12)

She really liked this way of poeming and I must say I do too. Setting word limits helped her to really focus on what she was seeing and what she wanted to say. That's an exercise that's good for all writers ~ no matter what our ages!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Between Alrighty and Almighty

I had one of those funny skim reading slips the other day. A friend had posted a prayer on facebook (where I often tend to be in skim read mode) and it began with the words "Almighty God." But my hurrying glance took the phrase in too quickly and I read it as "Alrighty God..." which sounded like the beginning of a much more casual conversation.

The slip made me chuckle, but it's also caused me to reflect on the fact that many of my prayers, depending on their time and place, could probably be characterized either as "almighty" or "alrighty" prayers.

The prayers I read from others, particularly in the prayer book, help me to center in on the powerful reality of who God is. Those prayers carefully name the Triune God, reminding me of who he is -- awesome in power and majesty, full of strength and loving kindness. He is indeed Almighty God, and I need to remember that and to address him, head and heart bowed, as such....and often. Whether I am reading a prayer, joining my voice to other faithful pray-ers now and across the years, or letting my personal prayers and petitions be shaped by that kind of language, I need a lot of time steeped in "almighty" kinds of prayers.

But there is perhaps a time and a place for "alrighty" prayers too...the kinds of prayer I often find myself uttering in the midst of a busy and stressed day, or in the midst of a daily repeated chore that feels like sheer drudgery -- the kind of prayer that begins in a more casual way, as befits one friend just speaking from her heart to a friend who knows and loves her and wants to listen, even if all she has to say is something akin to "Alrighty God, I know I need to get through this next few minutes...please help me!"

Of course the beauty of it all is that it's because the Friend we address is the Almighty King of the universe (able to do all that needed to be done to bridge the chasm and bring us from the far off kingdom of darkness to the near to his heart kingdom of light) we can enter into real and intimately loving conversation with him -- conversation sometimes as casual and simple as any ordinary conversation can be. It is because he is mighty to save that we are rescued, and because we rescued that we are given access -- real and amazing access -- to his presence. Where often we bow, face down to the ground, in humble worship, but where we also sometimes find ourselves drawn to sit right next to the king on his throne, snuggled under his arm, just because we love to have him hold us -- and because he delights to do so.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Raising a Reader

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” That quote from Louisa May Alcott has always made me chuckle. The wonderful thing about books, of course, is that they do literally “turn our brains” – in new directions.

In addition to all the books I want to read, or in some cases feel I need to read, my ever growing TBR pile is expanding in a new way. The sweet girl (fast heading for her tenth birthday) has begun to recommend books to me.

It happened just the other day, and not for the first time. She and her dad were out of town last week for her step-grandad’s funeral. She took along her big pink backpack filled with books and art supplies for the car. On Sunday, unpacking the bag, she kept bringing out books and telling me what she’d read while they were gone. One of them was a book called Funny Frank by the delightful Dick King-Smith. I had pointed her in the direction of the King-Smith shelf at the library (we do love his books) but this isn’t one I’ve read before. “It’s hilarious,” she told me. “You need to read it.”

Yes, I have a new recommending reading friend – my daughter. I find this both delicious and a little strange. How did this happen so fast? Wasn’t she just chewing on her copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar last week?

Yes, we’ve raised a reader – in both conscious and unconscious ways.  We’ve read books to this child from day one – okay, actually from well before day one, if you count all the reading aloud we did when she was in utero.

There have been so many good reading memories since. I recall D. reading to her from the book of Genesis when she was about a week old. I remember the beauty of watching her lie on her little gymani playmat, when she was perhaps four or five months old, and seeing her eyes trail over to the tiny little “Baby Einstein” board books she loved so much her first year – their chunky square size a perfect fit for her hands, their cardboard so good to chew, and all those great photographs to stare at! Then there were the accompanying sound effects stage…oh, how we all loved Moo, Baa, La La La.  

I remember countless repeated readings of beloved bedtime stories (Everywhere Babies, Goodnight Me, Goodnight You, Guess How Much I Love You) and later on, reading myself hoarse on repeat requests of longer favorites – Flopsy Bunnies, Make Way for Ducklings, The Seven Silly Eaters, the chapter in Winnie the Pooh where Piglet gets a bath. (Oh, and anything by Jane Hissey. The above picture, taken almost five years ago, was a path the sweet girl made in our kitchen...a path of Jane Hissey books. I called it the Jane Hissey path to success!) And poetry, poetry, poetry. Later on came read-aloud upon read-aloud of longer books…snuggled on the couch or on the bed, shoulder to shoulder on park benches in town, read by flashlight on the car on long trips as we wended our way through Heidi, A Little Princess, the Ramona and Henry books, the Narnia books, the Hobbit, and so many other wonderful books. (We still do this and always will…we were a read-aloud family before we became parents! Check my sidebar for our family’s current read-aloud books.)

In recent years, since the sweet girl became an independent reader, there has also been the joy of seeing her curled up with a good book. From the first halting attempts to get through Hop on Pop to seeing her sprawled on the bed or curled up in a windowsill reading Sarah Plain and Tall or Jenny and the Cat Club or Betsy, Tacy and Tib, I have loved every second of watching my girl become a reader.

But it still throws me when she reads something that I haven’t. I know the novelty of this will soon pass – as she grows and reads even on her own, it will happen more often. I will not always be the navigator and trail-guide, though I will hold onto that role for as long as I possibly can, and then trust to the fact that she has been so steeped in good, rich literature her whole life that she will make good choices about what to read (and be able to discern why she doesn’t like something as well as why she does).

Mostly when she shares a book, it’s because she loves it – and that’s a great joy to me, that she is learning by osmosis that good stories are gifts. Only once so far has she asked me to read a book because she wasn’t entirely sure how much she liked it – and she wanted my opinion. I read it and had a mixed opinion too. I saw places in the story that I wasn’t sure she’d been ready for, that I figured went over her head or simply didn’t “register.” And that’s okay. That will happen sometimes too. Once again, I have to trust that what she’s learned through reading and listening to the good, deep, rich stories will hold her firmly in place as she encounters new reading territory.

But for now, I think I’ve got to make a new and special place in my reading stack for the books she recommends. I may not always feel like I have time to add one more thing to that stack, but I treasure that she wants to gift me with the stories she’s enjoying, and I treasure even more that she still wants us to share that reading experience so we can talk  about it. So onto the reading stack goes Funny Frank this week. Thank you, sweet reader girl, for taking the time to recommend another book to your reader mom.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Writing to Elgar

The family is on the way home (yay!) and I've spent this ultra quiet Saturday gardening and cleaning. In this last bit of time to myself, I'm trying to dive into some writing...specifically working on my mid-grade fairytale again. No, I didn't finish all the work I needed to do during these past couple of days, but enough to give myself a little writing break.

Reading over the manuscript yesterday -- the back story that's not quite complete and the first three chapters I wrote in January/February -- I have to say this. I like it! (Whew!) Taking two months away from the project has been really hard, and I'm still not sure how the summer is shaping up and if I'll have any significant time to devote to writing it again, but oh, I've missed these characters and this story. Now that I've dipped my toes back into the project, I guess I can call it a WIP again (work in progress)...

The other thing that's making me smile is how much I associate listening to Elgar with writing on this manuscript. I wonder if other writers do this -- have a particular composer or piece of work that seems to just "go" with the writing on a particular project? My whole winter was steeped in Elgar, especially the Enigma Variations (though I am starting to love some of his other work dearly too) and that's when I was doing most of the writing on this story. I associate Elgar so much with this story that I have named the fictional river near my castle the River Elgar.

Alas, I had to return a couple of the Enigma versions I've been enjoying to the library, but I now own a couple as well (okay, three to be precise). Today I dug out the Bernstein, which I tend to listen to less than the others. It had been a while since I'd played it, so I found myself puzzling anew (ah, the great mysteries of life) why Bernstein slowed the tempo down in the Nimrod movement so drastically. Seven minutes! As my husband pointed out when he first heard it, it sounds like a slow sunrise. He's right, it does. And while I don't find it totally absurd as some music critics do -- there's something so majestic and beautiful in the music that it manages to find its way through even this drastic sort of re-interpretation -- I confess I am completely puzzled as to why he did it. Grandstanding? Playing? Experimenting? Or did he really think there was something inherent in the music itself that called for this kind of slow, languorous, cat-like stretching? The question has me really curious. I suspect it always will.

Writing to Elgar matter what conductor, it just feels good. Among other things, it's helping provide me with continuity of mood when I dive into this story, and that's no small thing considering how long it's been since I've worked on it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Swing in Everything

I came across this poem I wrote back in January when our whole family was in love with a Duke Ellington recording from the library. It made me smile. And it made me realize anew how important music is in my life.

We dance around
the kitchen
to the Duke’s
jazzy swing.
I love just
how he heard
the swing
in everything.
I love the
way he made
new tunes
but still let
old tunes sing.
I love just
how Duke heard
the swing
in everything.

EMP 1/12

Music is a huge part of my life and my home. I hardly realized how much until the past couple of days when my husband and daughter have been traveling and I’ve been structuring my days completely around my own schedule – an occurrence so rare and bizarre that I almost had forgotten how to do it.

Two days on my own – I’ve been balancing work, play, rest (or trying to) and also balancing sound and silence. I’ve been basking in morning quiet time, just me by the window with my cup of tea and my Bible and prayer book and a couple of other books I’m reading. In the stillness, so rare, I notice all sorts of things speaking to my heart.

In the afternoons I’ve been working – grading, writing, housecleaning – and that’s when I crank the music. It’s mostly been classical and jazz, and oh, how grateful I am for these gems. Benny Goodman playing anything, Yo-Yo Ma playing Vivaldi and Franck and Morricone and Gershwin preludes, Elgar’s Enigma Variations (of course) and Michael Tilson Thomas playing Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody – okay, it’s been a very Gershwin kind of week.

Music tends to chase us all over the house even in our busy, crowded days – I’m forever putting something in the player. And if I don’t, the sweet girl will. And my husband when he’s home, especially when he’s cooking on Saturday mornings. But it’s been listening to it on my own these past couple of days that I realize how much it upholds and encourages me, lends essence and structure and sweetness to my days, helps inspire energy when I’m tired or calming space when I’m wired.

So grateful for music, for the swing in everything. 

The Poetry Friday round-up is at Write.Sketch.Repeat. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Patchwork Post (Mother's Day edition)

One in the morning and heading into Monday...why I'm still up is still a mystery, though it may have something to do with the amazing nap I got earlier today (my mother's day tradition!) or the caffeine I drank earlier this evening. I'm also grading papers. It's May!

The past few days have gone by in a whirlwind. My husband's stepfather passed away on Friday, may he rest in peace. His passing was not entirely unexpected -- his health has been deteriorating for some time -- but the end still came sooner than we thought it might. He died one day before their eleventh anniversary, which I'm sure has made this weekend especially hard for my dear mother-in-law. The two of them were neighbors and friends for years before tying the knot over a decade ago. It was Robert's first marriage, and he was past 70 when he walked down that aisle. I think his last years, prior to the onset of alzheimer's, were happy ones.  Today I am just feeling grateful that he is no longer suffering. As I told the sweet girl, who is struggling a bit with all the mixed emotions floating about (really the first death in the family she has experienced) it's okay to feel both happy and sad over a death like this. We can be happy that Mr. Robert is home for good -- no longer confused, no longer in pain. But we can also feel sad because we miss him and because we know grandma will.

I often find that having to put things into admittedly simplified words for my precious nine year old, who is wonderfully bright and inquisitive and sometimes even more emotionally young than her years might attest, is balm to my own heart. It helps me think through the "big things" in life more cleanly and clearly than I ever did before I was a mom, before I learned how to act as a navigator and trail-guide (two things I think moms definitely are).

I had a chance to talk with my own mom on this phone this afternoon, and to tell her anew how much I love her and miss her. And oh, I really do, on both counts. So grateful for her presence in my life.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Remembering Maurice Sendak

One of the first books I remember really loving as a child was Maurice Sendak's Pierre. I know he was most famous for Where the Wild Things Are (what a rumpus!) and In the Night Kitchen, but I loved his stubbornly apathetic Pierre. "The lion took him home to rest and stayed on as a weekend guest," was one of my favorite lines in all of literature when I was a little girl. I also think it may have been the beginning of my understanding of how a story could have a "moral." CARE. And such a simple, profound moral it was, for all of us who had ever back-talked our moms in bored tones, sat backwards in our chairs, poured syrup in our hair -- or wanted to.

I also enjoyed Chicken Soup With Rice, another book in Sendak's little "nutshell" library. Perhaps my first understanding of personification? "In March the wind blows down the door and spills my soup upon the floor. It laps it up and roars for more!"

I was thinking a lot about these little books yesterday after I heard the news that Mr. Sendak had passed away at the age of 83. Truly the end of a chapter in children's literature.

In honor of his memory, I thought I would post links to two reviews I wrote some time ago. One is to a review of Sendak's book of essays Caldecott & Co.: Notes on Books and Pictures.  The other is to a review of the Leonard Marcus edited Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom (the great children's literature editor at Harper's who discovered Sendak when he was designing windows at FAO Schwarz).

Sendak was an amazing example of someone who took anxiety and fear and channeled them through an artistic process that gave life, hope, enjoyment and catharsis to so many. R.I.P. Mr. Sendak. You will be missed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Of Stories and Supermoons...

One of the other lovely moments of this past weekend was when our little three-person family hunkered down in the windows of the sweet girl's room after dark on Saturday night so we could watch the supermoon rising over the nearby hills. It was an awesome sight -- big, bright, tinging the very dark clouds in front of it silver, highlighting the outlines of trees.

The sweet girl was hugely excited. A supermoon, after all, is a somewhat novel occurrence (it's what you call a full moon that coincides with the closest approach the moon makes to earth in its elliptical orbit) and we hadn't caught the last one, fourteen months before. She came up with a story idea about Luna, the moon who once in a while becomes a superhero, and we've been working on it together during language arts time -- a treat for us both, since we officially finished the year's grammar text last week.

Which reminds me...any teacher/writer folks out there, do you have any story writing websites or curricula you especially love or recommend? Especially for late elementary/middle grade years? So far I have trusted to our love of reading good stories and just the actual act of writing stories -- S. writes them often, and sometimes we write them together -- to incorporate lots of natural learning. But as she rounds the corner on her tenth birthday and we contemplate (gulp!) fifth grade in the fall, I've found myself wanting to look into some resources.

But back to the supermoon. I wrote this little poem, full of sibilant sounds, in honor of the event:

The supermoon
ascends silently,
slides past cloudbank,
seams a silver lining,
then stands sentinel over
sighing sycamores…
and shines.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Birthday Celebration, Gardening and Gershwin

My dear husband celebrated his birthday on Friday. He took the day off, which gave us the morning together as a family before the sweet girl and I trundled off to homeschool group for the afternoon. Then dear friends took her home for the evening, and he and I actually went out to dinner. I'm still reeling from D. having a whole day off (can't remember the last time that's happened!) and the two of us going on a date (can't remember the last time we were able to do that either). It was a lovely day.

The rest of the weekend was lovely too in many ways, though I've been battling tiredness and a sinus headache.

We got our plot assignment in the community gardens. A cause for great excitement! We loved our gardening project last year and couldn't wait to get started again. We planted a few seedlings and also some seeds. Waiting to see what comes of my favorite parts of gardening.

It was also a very Gershwin weekend. He's been one of my favorite composers since I was sixteen, and the sweet girl has grown up knowing and loving his music, but we've been learning more about him because he's our composer of the month in this final month of school.  We showed her the ballet from American in Paris (which she loved) and spent a good bit of this afternoon (when we weren't out gardening) listening to the New York Rhapsody.  No, not the Rhapsody in Blue, but a much less known Rhapsody Gershwin did later. It's sometimes called Rhapsody in Rivets. It sounds deliciously familiar -- so Gershwiny -- and yet new too. A great combination.

So many more blessings I could recount from the past few days...including some amazing God moments in our community. Oddly, following such a moving and gratitude filled few days, I am feeling a bit flat and not ready to face the new week...though I suspect that's got more to do with not feeling well than anything else.

At any rate, the new week is here, so onward I go!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Poems and Secret Places

The sweet girl and I have been enjoying The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury this week. Its over 200 poems represent over 130 poets, and all of them were chosen by the wonderful Jack Prelutsky. It turns out that Mr. Prelutsky, whose poems have long been a favorite at our house, is as terrific a selector as he is a poet. And Meilo So's gentle watercolor illustrations make the book extra lovely.

It's hard to know what's more enjoyable when reading a collection like this, coming across poems you already love (the ones that feel like old friends) or discovering new gems. Both are highly pleasurable experiences for poetry readers! I loved seeing the sweet girl's face light up when we came across Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Afternoon on a Hill." That's long been a favorite of mine too, and she memorized it this year -- one of my favorite fourth grade language arts moments. I felt my own face light up when I stumbled onto Langston Hughes' "April Rain Song."

But there were some new ones in here I loved to me and new to the sweet girl. One that really stirred both our hearts this morning was Dennis Lee's "The Secret Place." It begins:

There's a place I go, inside myself,
     Where nobody else can be.
And none of my friends can tell it's there --
      Nobody knows but me.

(You can read the rest of it here, at Canadian Poetry online.) 

I love how this poem captures the inner, dreaming place we all have inside us -- that intimate place that nobody knows but God and us.  I love how he describes the place as "tiny" and "shiny" but then adds, in practically the same breath, that "it's big as the sky at night." Yes. Tiny and intimate, like a swirled shell, but expansive as the ocean. Readers of all ages can resonate with a poem like this. For my nine year old who is beginning to ask more and more for "privacy" (especially when she's reading, creating art, writing stories) it rang clear as a bell. But it rang that way for me too.

Maybe especially so because it happens to be situated on a page with another poem called "Tree Climbing." Kathleen Fraser's poem begins "This is my tree,/my place to be alone in,/my branches for climbing,/my green leaves for hiding in."  Some of my best childhood memories involve spending time in my inner secret place while spending time in a leafy outer secret place -- a favorite seat in the butterfly bush in the back yard, or in the front yard maple. Not having many green, leafy hiding places one of the challenges of raising a child in an urban environment. It makes me doubly glad for the power of imagination and for poems like these.