Sunday, June 29, 2008

MFA Reflections #2

The year I was accepted into the MFA program at the University of Maryland, I had as one of my goals to bring more houseplants into our home. Let me be honest: I have a brown thumb. I’ve killed lots of plants. More than I like to think about. That was probably one of the reasons I decided on that goal about houseplants for the year. Like all goals, though, it was discarded by life events. Working and going to school full time made it necessary for me to prune my goals for the year and focus on the things that were most important at this time, in my case, work and school. So with some sadness, I decided, no houseplants. Space for growing, living, green things would have to wait. Now, having just finished the MFA I find myself with a summer job at a flower shop. It’s tiring work for me to drive to Alexandria, stand up all day, and be cheerful, but I get to bring home fresh cut flowers nearing the end of their useful life at the flower shop, and last Friday, I brought home a palm tree, that while still alive needs some care in order to be full and lush. It didn’t meet the exacting standards of our proprietor, so I chucked it in the back seat of my car. Now it’s in our dining room. I still need to repot it, but I am hopeful that in a few months I’ll have a gorgeous living green thing in our home.

When I was accepted into the MFA, my good friend, Sally, and her family sent me a hydrangea plant. I feared it would go the way of other plants in my life, but my beloved planted it in our back yard. Today it is large and heavy with flowers. She’s happy that it is a thing of beauty as I enter the next degree program.

One of the most important class on poetry that I took as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland was a one credit course on Elizabeth Bishop. We read her complete poems and prose. I return to Bishop regularly. She is an inspiration and a challenging mistress. When my mentor suggested I continue to return to Bishop to think about my own writing, I resisted. In many ways, I don’t want to be like Bishop: small, closeted, drunk, but her poems are so gorgeous and so filled with important messages for me and solutions about my own writing, I continue to return to her, in spite of my own resistances.

In these stories are my second round of reflections about the MFA. Things that are important for me to do always return. House plants. Elizabeth Bishop’s dirty hermit. Sometimes it isn’t a matter of finding the time to do something, only a matter of finding the right time.

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