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/
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