Tag Archives: grandmother

Lessons from Lebanon: The Grand Mother

20 Apr

View from our homestay, Lebanon

Third of the Lessons from Lebanon series, this poem is about one person who impacted me maybe the most during my time in the land of hummus and labna mmm… Ahem, um, yes so we stayed with a family six miles’ walk away from civilization in any direction. It was an awesome hike getting there and when we finally did, we stayed with a small family in one of the valleys. The house was made up of four rooms build right into the mountain side: a kitchen, living area and two small rooms, plus an outhouse.

The grandmother of the family was amazing. I do think all grandmothers are quite special and this one was pretty amazing. Imagine a small – I’m talking 4 feet – woman with no teeth, bandana round her grey hair, face all scrunched up with wrinkles, large belly, hands so calloused she took a pan straight out of the oven with no gloves. NO GLOVES! That is awesome.

P.S. Next week is the final Lessons of Lebanon series and it’s a featured poet! Also I’ll be featuring a video as well so be sure to follow me!

The Grand Mother

We travelled six hours by foot to the glorious Qadisha Valley
to stay the night with a young family and watch the stars.
Beautiful, the view from the hermit’s cave;
Delicious fresh salted goat’s yoghurt from Paradises
and all those shimmering olive trees.

When all we had were smiles to understand each other,
I watched for a long time the grandmother who
would speak to me for long moments in Arabic
in a tone of assured agreement. I watched the lines
on her face from pure mountain life (no distractions).

I watched her pull a hot pan from the oven bare handed.
I, wide eyed, could not comprehend the wisdom she must
possess from bearing children with only the comfort
of age old advice passed down. How I longed
to have such wisdom shared with me.

And we smile at each other and she touches my arm
And she is strong and gentle yet fierce
and in that moment where we mirror
a small gesture of kindness,
we understand something of the other.

We have many lessons to learn from them.

The Seven Ages of Jen

17 Apr

Happy Birthday to me!

That’s right readers, I have written a birthday poem to help myself reflect on life and come to terms with the incessant aging process. I’m now in my late twenties – there is no denying it – I am definitely out of my mid-twenties and on my way to thirtydom. I keep reminding myself to welcome it with open arms but dang, that is hard. So poetry is my way forward.

This poem is a twist on Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man” from the play As You Like It; however, I have given it an added twist. I haven’t copied the structure. Instead I wanted to challenge myself and write in the sestina scheme. Here is the breakdown of stanzas:

Shakespeare’s seven ages:

My seven ages:

1.    Infancy 1.   Infancy (part of a family)
2.   Childhood 2.   Teenage years (phases that NO ONE wants to relive)
3.   The lover 3.    Young adult (maturing, travelling, committing my life to God)
4.    The soldier 4.    Marriage (current ‘age’) (getting hitched, moving to England, becoming an adult)
5.    The justice 5.    Motherhood (I guess that is next… AHHH!)
6.    Old age 6.    Grandmotherhood (Looking forward to this in a few decades)
7.    Mental dementia and death 7.    Death (I guess it’s one of two guarantees in life)

 So what is a sestina? A sestina is a type of poetry made up of seven stanzas following a complex scheme. In each of the first six stanza the lines end in one of six words and the seventh stanza is short but still also uses all the words as a treat. My six words are:

A = balanced;    B = patient;    C = loved;    D = world;    E = be;    F = sweet.

Stanza 1 Stanza 2 Stanza 3 Stanza 4 Stanza 5 Stanza 6
1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B
2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D
3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F
4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E
5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C
6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A

Confused? Don’t worry, it’s the enjoyment of the poem that’s the important bit –  not the fancy schamncy scheme.

So how did I go about choosing these six special birthday words you ask? I asked my friends! Thanks friends!

Enjoy the poem and a happy day to you, especially if it’s your birthday too.

The Seven Ages of Jen

My world is a stage: curtain drawn. A balanced
Part comedy, part tragedy of a not-so-patient
Woman’s journey, learning to love and be loved
And finding her – my – own way in the world.
My mom told me once that I taught her how to be.
I? Only a baby in this gift of family, bittersweet.

Many things children do not see as bitter or sweet –
But they are all gifts. Between school and chores, small hands balanced
Living and growing and learning through trial. I dared to be
Grunged and gothed through the early acts, not patient
But fighting through change in the staged world
Hungrily grasping at what it was to ultimately be loved.

And I, a young woman came to know how to be loved,
Truly, by God. And the moment of sweet
Forgiveness – to know my place in the vast world
Downstage or up, or hiding in the wings. I found myself balanced
Learning to be still. Then, off on adventures to China to find fruit: the patient,
Loving-kindness, goodness, and faithfulness that I can be

And bring to others. And so one day upon my stage I, a wife to be,
My husband appeared at stage right and instantly we loved
Each other in a new way of deep, true, patient
Love, and I savoured those moments so dear and sweet.
And I changed the props to England’s castles and cups of tea and I balanced
New things: baking, blogging, teaching, loving in this wide world.

Now who I can invite to this stage in my new world?
To become a mother next, perhaps I will be
And learn a new dance, a new walk, to be balanced
With a swollen belly, children already loved
And wanted. They will be gentle and sweet
As peas. I will learn again, to be patient.

The audience will want to stand for an ovation – be patient.
I’m still watching them grow, to learn and marry and make a world
Of their own and I’ll treat them all to my dad’s sweet
Secret ingredient recipes. I’ll stand downstage to be
Master of the dramatic soliloquy reflecting on how loved
They are. A comedy, a tragedy, a history: well-balanced.

Then my patient heart will be met with the ultimate bride-groom to be,
Who conquered the world and loved it first.
Then all will be sweet and balanced.