548: I Wonder If I Will Miss The Moss

548: I Wonder If I Will Miss The Moss

548: I Wonder If I Will Miss The Moss


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

There is a meditation where you imagine your own death and it’s always fascinated me. I’m someone who is prone to a little paranoia when it comes to my own health. Most people I know who have had unexplained or diagnosed health issues tend to worry about their mortality a little more.

Oddly, the meditation about my own death has always helped me. Imagining leaving the world is the way I can remember how much I value it, how minor pain can be or anxiety can be, how much I want to live in the world no matter what.

Recently, a friend of mine posted on social media a speech from the beloved play Our Town. It’s the one where the character Emily returns to her grave and can no longer linger in the world of the living. She’s looking around Grover’s Corner and saying goodbye to everything.

I played Emily in high school and I remember there were moments when I could bring myself to really cry during that speech, not for dramatic effect, but because it was true. She says, “Oh, Earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?”

The stage manager responds and says, “No,” and then after a pause, “The saints and poets, maybe they do some.”

I don’t think poets are saints or have to be saints in order to produce good work, but I do think that the best poets are the ones that can recognize both the beauty and the brokenness of the world.

Today’s poem is by a poet who knew how to do just that. Jane Mead passed away three years ago and was admired by so many of us. And in this poem she allows herself to wonder what it might be like to leave the world, to miss the world, the small things, the animals, the daily living. To me, it’s a poem that reminds us not just to stay, but to live.

I Wonder If I Will Miss The Moss
by Jane Mead

I wonder if I will miss the moss
after I fly off as much as I miss it now
just thinking about leaving.

There were stones of many colors.
There were sticks holding both
lichen and moss.
There were red gates with old
hand-forged hardware.
There were fields of dry grass
smelling of first rain
then of new mud. There was mud,
and there was the walking,
all the beautiful walking,
and it alone filled me—
the smells, the scratchy grass heads.
All the sleeping under bushes,
once waking to vultures above, peering down
with their bent heads the way they do,
caricatures of interest and curiosity.
Once too a lizard.
Once too a kangaroo rat.
Once too a rat.
They did not say I belonged to them,
but I did.

Whenever the experiment on and of
my life begins to draw to a close
I’ll go back to the place that held me
and be held. It’s O.K. I think
I did what I could. I think
I sang some, I think I held my hand out.

"I Wonder If I Will Miss the Moss" by Jane Mead. Used by permission of the Estate of Jane Mead.