Instructions on Not Giving Up – Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Instructions on Not Giving Up

As I marvel each day at the succulent green fans of my ginko tree, this spring-time poem calls to me, describing much of my own response to the greening of the season. Yes, I know it is technically almost summer, but let us stay with spring a moment more.

The greening of trees really gets to me too. Every year, I watch the bare branches, knowing that they will faithfully transform their barrenness in time. It can feel like they will never open, those first closed buds. But they do, tiny, growing infinitesimally, gradually unfurling like a fist to an open palm.

What a joy to see these bright young greens, to feel their new-life energy, to be reminded that life goes on, the strange idea of continuous living. All this despite / the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. We all know what that is like, be it in winter or another season.

When she says I’ll take it…I’ll take it all, I am reminded of the line in Ellen Bass’s The Thing Is I will take you / I will love you, again. Saying yes to the green leaves of spring, to life, to all of it because life is sorrow and beauty.

When you feel like giving up, take a closer look at the leaves around you – take it all in.

8 thoughts on “Instructions on Not Giving Up – Ada Limón

  1. Dear Jan – Yes, yes, yes! This green lushness, the long sweet drink after 6 months of winter! What a gorgeous poem – thank you for introducing me to it. Love – Mary Lou

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  2. Oh, Jan, your commentary is beautiful and adds just so much to the poem itself. What a joy to see these bright young greens, to feel their new-life energy, to be reminded that life goes on.

    Thank you so much! Margaret 613-725-6941 h 613-795-9879 c

    “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”

    – Thich Nhat Hanh

    >

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  3. Dear Jan, Another beautiful poem and an opportunity to read it over and over and reflect. Bare, snow covered branches with their own stark beauty and then the first glimpse of green…it’s magical as the leaves form and open “…like a fist to an open palm…” Thank you for sharing this – another gift. Lisa

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