In Praise of Limits

“Small Tortoiseshell” by Wendy North is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Like everyone else in the early days of the pandemic, I thought this was the season of creating. I thought this would be a time for slowing down, finishing projects, learning new skills, and writing pages of poetry. But like everyone else at this point, I am tired. Sometimes, the words don’t flow. Sometimes, the best you can do is watch a little Netflix and try to remember what day it is.

One day back in April, I wrote down the words “You do not have to be productive.” It sounded like the gentle narrator of Mary Oliver’s famous poem “Wild Geese,” so I followed the voice to see what she had to say to me. In the midst of boredom, frustration, and Zoom fatigue, this little poem was a reminder to focus on what’s in front of me, to be a little kinder in this strange, difficult year. I hope it does the same for you.

In Praise of Limits

You do not have to be productive.

The world does not depend upon

Zoom meetings, deadline meeting,

new skills learned, new poems written.

This world is heavy, too heavy for you

to carry in your shaking arms.

But you have been given

this garden plot to tend,

to plant and labor over,

to watch and water.

This soil that crumbles in your hands,

these seeds that can be nurtured

but never mastered.

Let the fragile, finite glory of your body

do only what it was meant for

as you welcome each day with joy

waiting for the first tiny shoots

to surface.

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