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Friday, November 20, 2009

Wheelbarrow musings

My 12th grade English class studied William Carlos Williams’ famous brief poem:

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


We seasoned teenagers scoffed. This is an American masterpiece? You’ve got to be kidding. What a joke! We could write something better ourselves.

We always thought Mrs. Parker (the teacher who, the rumors said, postponed her planned retirement to the next year because she didn’t want our disappointing class to be connected with her legacy) was a bit … odd. But this? Cuckoo!

One of the student body officers even typed the poem into the electronic message board in the lobby for comic relief.

The poem's simple beauty? We didn’t get it.

Whether it was the red dots of the quickly advancing text, or Mrs. Parker’s misunderstood passion that has helped me remember this poem all these years, I can’t say. Just a month ago I thought about the poem as I used my own rusty red-orange wheelbarrow to haul the last of the gourds and squashes out of the garden.

I thought about it again as I worked in my kitchen and heard a snippet of radio news. Somehow, the crisp British voice rose above the usual cacophony that is lunch and dishes, and I heard declarations of a catastrophic food crisis if current population patterns and food production methods don’t change. Further, with Ethiopia noticeably hit, the United Nations warns there are more hungry people on the world and less food aid than ever before. (Here's the link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8319166.stm.) While not exactly new news, it hit me that day.

It’s a lot to process, even more than trying to understand Williams’ celebrated use of meter and imagery (or why it was celebrated!). Knowing that government and agricultural researchers don’t have all the answers – at least right now -- could make me feel defeated, but I won’t let it.

Instead, I want to do my part in taking care of the land and learning all I can to grow a garden and feed my family.

So much does depend upon a red wheelbarrow, but more so upon someone grateful to push it



Dale Johnson said...


What great thoughts! Mrs. Parker would be proud. I will never look at a wheel barrow the same way.


megan said...

Such beautiful words, as always. I am so grateful to have you writing for this blog. I love it.

非凡 said...

I'm appreciate your writing skill.Please keep on working hard.^^

Dale Johnson said...


I keep reading this over and over and I may have much of your celebrated use of words and imagery committed to memory just as you had Williams poem committed to memory.