Basil and Bits of Wisdom

Photograph: Shutterstock

We are planting a garden again. I see all the little things I have missed. The wonder of growing and eating your own food.

I’m thinking about all of this as Evan is about to venture off on his first ever camping trip with his school class. They are sixth graders now, and they will stay three days at a beautiful campground inside the Sleep Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

I know they are well-planned. I know his teacher is diligent and careful, but still I worry about all the things mothers do. He will be sleeping solo in his tent for the first time ever.

I started this poem a year ago and today, thinking about my own baby bird, it seemed the right day for reworking and finishing it.

I know it will all be ok. I know my baby bird needs to test his wings and fly, so a-camping he will go. But in the meantime, I’ll pray away the murder of crows.

Put the basil in the oil

and simmer gently. Breathe in
the rich aroma of earth and
life beckoning. I reckon
I’ll stop a while and savor the scent.

While I waited, the garden
started to green; flowers
popped up on strawberry plants;
and the bumble bees buzzed

around blooming flower pots.
Deck sweeping becomes my
new daily chore—helicopter
seed pods, my arch rival. But

the scent is right for mid-spring
and a robin has built its nest
atop the back porch light. She
guards her eggs carefully from

the fence post, flying at anyone
who dares to walk too close.
Most mothers are alike, you know,
let a stranger even look too long

or wander dangerously close,
and you’ll see us fly off
with beaks pointing like a sword,
dive bombing the noted offender.

But what if the offender
looks like a bird?
That’s the real danger—
Crows can be tricky.

My son told me that the murder
of crows are back again
this year in Chicago. Seems to me
a fitting thing for this year.

So what about that murder
of tricky crows? Well, doesn’t
that just muddy the waters?
Bring on the mud daubers I say,

because they muck around
building their nest from spittle
and dirt, never bothering anyone
unless provoked, and then,

oh! Oh and then those daubers
reveal the truth in the saying,
“Float like a butterfly
sting like a bee!”

Basil and gardens and earthy scents;
birds raising families the best way
they know and murderous crows
ruthlessly cutting them down.

What shall I do with the madness?
When all I want is the bounty
of summer in the middle of drought—
in the middle of monsoon rains.

After the babies have hatched
and grown feathers of their own,
they fly up and over the garden wall
and into the wild open spaces.

The danger of crows prevails,
but I wonder how they will know
the rich aromas of life on earth
beckoning them to explore

I wonder how they will grow
and plant and rise up;
how they will be strong
and wary and yet somehow

wiser than those who came before?
Please dear God, let them
be wiser than those who came before.
Let them be wiser than I.

—by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
A typical day of “outdoor” school in 2020-2021. He’s got his camping chair and backpack, lunch, and violin, and it’s all held together with carabiners—his favorite accessory.

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