I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
I like the idea of belonging, how we can call the world closer to us. I believe in the connectedness of living things. And rituals. And the power of language. Those small ways I can help ground myself when I feel like I’m spinning off into the chaos of the world. I light candles for friends or family who are sick or need support. I grow and braid sweetgrass and give braids to friends. I think it’s important to make eye contact when you’re toasting someone and like my friend Fernando taught me, I say “ojos, ojos” if someone tries to drink before looking me in the eyes.
I talk to my house plants. I believe plants can get lonely in an empty room, even with the right amount of light or water. I say hello to the three crows on my morning walk. I don’t think we are friends yet, but they seem to put up with me and the dog. Part of my belief in these moments of what some might call superstitions or rituals is that I want to be sure that I am acknowledging the world around me. Not just staring at my phone or doom scrolling or worrying about what’s next.
Staying closer to home these days, I’m always noticing the trees and birds and grasses that surround me. I learn their names too… it’s a way of feeling like I’m not alone. I know we live in the Cane Run watershed for example. I know the names of the trees on my morning walk. Speaking to the natural world, witnessing it, noticing the way it changes and shifts makes me feel like I’m a part of something. Now that I travel less, see my family less, I need to feel a part of something.
In today’s poem, we get to see how that connection to the natural world is also passed on through generations. How deeply watching or speaking to the world around us infuses who we are as children, as parents, as humans. This poem makes it clear that legacy isn’t just about the human family and identity doesn’t always have to do with a country. How we love our natural world is how we know where we belong.
by W. Todd Kaneko
Remember me, my father sings to the forest, his mouth wide, eyes looking back into darkness like he can see every creature on the island—field mouse, stray dog and house cat, white-tailed deer. That waitress at the Chinese restaurant once asked his name, then fed him every night for the rest of his life without ever showing him a menu. Some nights, the sky speaks to me of so many things I will not forget to be glad for—the horizon’s swift departure against the porch light, a fluster of bats over power lines and across the park, that taciturn music made by the wind’s hollow breath outside while my son kicks off his blankets, the sound a flag makes.
"Invocation" by W. Todd Kaneko. Used by permission of the poet.