Letting Go, and Letting Go

Swordfern – Letting go of winter

It’s Lent, and I find myself in a process of letting go, and letting go.

David and I are preparing two plots of our wooded acreage for spring sale. We’ll use the proceeds to build our cottage in town.

I’m ready and eager for the move to town, so my mind wants to fuss about how long it could take for all the dominoes to fall.

Dear mind, I tell the fussy critter, you just have to let that go. 

And then, I might be resolutely working here at my desk, or puttering around in household chores, or clearing the forest paths of winter debris, and it’s as if something—not my little mind, but something bigger and kinder—gives me a gentle poke. I look up to see our current home with new eyes. The place tugs at me, and it tugs against me, and I’m holding on and letting go.

When I say that I see with “new eyes,” I don’t mean the eyes of initial seeing. I remember the first time I saw this property, a quarter of a century ago. It felt good, but I did not fall in love at first sight. No, it’s as if I suddenly see without the blinders of everyday habit and use.

What is it that makes us slowly, over time, grow blind to the beauty that we’re used to? The curve of a banisterThe tree outside the kitchen window. Even the features of the one who sits across the table every day — even these fall to the background as years pass. It takes a conscious effort to look anew, to pick out the subtle changes that time has made, and to notice what does not change.

However it happens, the blinders seem to be falling away from me in this period of letting go. Falling away and leaving me vulnerable to feelings for a place that I hardly knew I had through all the yearsfeelings that took root and grew in forest shade, and in the good earth of time, work, shared dreams, and beauty.

It’s Lent,  and I’m letting go, and holding on, and letting go.

This Land Shall Be Your Possession
(Numbers 32:22)

In ’87, we bought
this plot of second-growth
fir and cedar,
and in doing so turned,
from migrants into residents.

the green boughs
arc and sway,
I laughed—
How could I own
this earth, these trees?

It was clear they belonged to themselves.

Each spring since, the proof:
lime green shoots from last year’s
dark green wand
pink blooms timed just so
for ruby-throated hummers.

Life loves itself.

One year we cut a path,
hoed to mineral soil,
hacked brush, unveiled
a hoary stump:
the clear-cut’s aftermath
now crowned by lichen,
slimed by snails.

We own this land
the way the lichen
owns the stump it blessed,
the way the cedar
grips its earth—
possessor and possessed.

* * *

Here’s wishing for us all the blessings of the places of our lives,


About Margaret D. McGee


  1. Alison H. says:

    A beautiful post, poem and pics. My husband and I are thinking about selling our place, but we have so much work to do to get it ready…I am visualizing that the perfect buyer(s) will be attracted to your home. I love the poem, especially these lines (though it is “just right” all the way through):

    the green boughs
    arc and sway,
    I laughed—
    How could I own
    this earth, these trees?

    • Thanks, Alison — I’m glad you like the post. Yes, it’s a lot of work … we’re trying to take it a step at a time. (And thanks for your visualizations!)

  2. Brad Offutt says:

    Margaret, today I’ve been reading poems by Paulann Petersen, Oregon’s current Poet Laureate and a poet who really understands a sense of place. Now I’ve read your Bench again. So this is about me, and maybe about you too, and certainly about letting go:

    Grandma brought day-lilies in 1912
    to her new, own home. They followed her
    to later lives. I took bulblets
    to Virginia but did not
    bring them West. I do not
    mourn them.
    I am happy here and
    I remember them.
    I will always remember them.

    • Hi Brad — what a lovely image, to carry day-lilies from one place to another. Very evocative. As a matter of fact, I’ve taken cuttings from some of the red-flowering currant bushes that surround our house, and they are residing in pots next to the shed. Red-flowering currant is one of my favorite native shrubs because it flowers so early in the spring. (They are in full bloom now, starting to fade.) I plan to take some of those cuttings with me to the new place in town. So I am carrying on your Grandma’s practice. And there are many species here that I’ll leave behind, and always remember. Thanks for sharing your beautiful poem.