Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The spirits of children are remote and wise,
They must go free
Like fishes in the sea
Or starlings in the skies,
Whilst you remain
The shore where casually they come again.
But when there falls the stalking shade of fear,
You must be suddenly near,
You, the unstable, must become a tree
In whose unending heights of flowering green
Hangs every fruit that grows, with silver bells;
Where heart-distracting magic birds are seen
And all the things a fairy-story tells;
Though still you should possess
Roots that go deep in ordinary earth,
And strong consoling bark
To love and to caress.

Ode on the Whole Duty Of Parents, Frances Cornford

A dear friend from college days phoned me and we chatted about
our children coming of age. It's a delicate balance to let them go,
yet be there for them, should the need arise. A bit like being "on
call", so to speak; shifting to an adult relationship, more casual,
easy and still be the strong supportive parent underneath.

Frances Cornford (1886-1960, Cambridge, England) was the
granddaughter of Charles Darwin. Her son John was a poet and
Communist who fought in the Spanish Civil War in the
International Brigade and was killed near Madrid in 1936.

(quote) "Magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life."

*photo by willow


  1. Beautiful and wise words.
    I am struggling with this issue as well. I understand it intellectually, though have trouble putting it into practice at times without becoming fearful for them.

  2. Letting your children venture out into the world can be scary , yet with my 3 oldest, they have flown with excitement and a longing for adventures, only 1 coming back home for a short spell. My youngest leaves next year and i`m not sure how I feel - some days I think of all the things I will beable to do and on others I feel sad and hope I am not lonely .. But, for a healthy relationship, we must let them go with our blessing - I have fantastic relationships with them all, the odd hic-up, but nothing serious - all part of the tapestry of life.

  3. thankfully, i don't have to face this yet, since my child is only 8 and i'm nowhere near ready...but i can see my husband doing so beautifully with his older daughter from his previous relationship...he's very graceful and gently funny about it. i love watching that.

  4. Daed-traa

    I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide to mind me what my poetry’s for.

    It has its ventricles, just like us -
    pumping brine, like bull’s blood,
    a syrupy flow.

    It has its theatre -
    hushed and plush.

    It has its Little Shop of Horrors.
    It has its crossed and dotted monsters.

    It has its cross-eyed beetling Lear.
    It has its billowing Monroe.

    I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide
    to mind me what my poetry’s for.

    For monks, it has barnacles
    to sweep broth as it flows, with fans,
    grooming every cubic millimetre.

    It has its ebb, the easy heft of wrack from rock, like plastered, feverish locks of hair.

    It has its flodd,
    It has its welling god
    with puddled, podgy face and jaw.

    It has its holy hiccup.

    Its minute’s silence


    I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide
    to mind me what my poetry’s for.

    Jen Hadfield, Nigh-No-Place
    Bloodaxe Books, 2008

    the link I sent last night was of Jen Hadfield reading her poem, this poem-daed-traa (which means slack tide) in her beautiful lilting Scottish voice.

    You know me and tide pools ...

    xo S.

  5. Such a beautiful poem and never a truth better told! As parents we're caught between the desire to let our offspring flee our nest and yet long for their return as soon as we lose sight of them

    Wonderful photo, too.

    Greetings from London.

  6. Lovely poem and I adore this photo.

  7. A happy new year to you Willow :)
    This is an important musing and one which will never be "solved" ... a lovely poem indeed.
    Hope you have a splendid creative and adventurous 2009 :)
    Rima x

  8. Willow, such a beautiful expressed sentiment,; I had not read Frances Cornford before. I like the line, "You, the unstable, must become a tree/In whose unending heights of flowering green /Hangs every fruit that grows, with silver bells;" So true that no matter what our nature, as parents, we are pressed to become the rooted place. The imagery of the silver bells is especially charming. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Willow,

    I really like the poem too and can understand the emotion even though it does not apply to me.

    But I loved your video of the Reynaldo Hahn (which I've just noticed, if it was there earlier!). It's one of my favourite pieces. The entire album is beautiful as is Susan Graham's voice.

    And also the Maggie Smith tribute. I clicked through to YouTube to find who is singing this lovely song too. Thanks.

  10. Great poem, but yes, it's not as easy as the verse suggests.

  11. I'm in that same place with my children, now. It's different, for sure, and I have to be careful, or I forget and over-step my bounds.

    Thanks for posting this. It reminds me that I'm not the only parent out there facing these challenges.

  12. Lovely picture, which spoke to me as much as the poem.

  13. The nest has been empty now for eleven years and it seemed it was a bit like changing of the guard.
    I became the best friend and suddendly I was "smart" instead of "crazy". It went from never taking my advice,to seeking it!

    For some reson that beautiful poem reminded me of a time my young
    daughter got her heart broke and I was holding a sobbing child trying to console her.

  14. Susan, you are right! I LOVE this poem! I am going to see if I can find her reading it. I want to hear her accent, as well. Thank you, my bloggy friend!

  15. "The whole duty of a parent" -- yes, indeed. Lovely, Willow. Is the picture of the manor grounds? Did you get snow? It's beautiful!

  16. The poem really seems to capture the struggle of parenting and letting go.

  17. Derrick, I'm glad you enjoyed my new sidebar clips! I have the album of Susan Graham singing the Hahn songs, as well. It's one of my favorites. And that is Rod McKuen singing "Jean". I addded that to the title.

  18. Peggy, yes! Snow at the Manor! Yay! :)

  19. I'm getting a taste of this with a high school senior. I hope I'm cultivating a relationship that will last forever. I love what Cuban in London said about them leaving the nest and then wishing they would return as soon as you loose sight of them. You cut the apron strings but not the heartstrings!

  20. Beautiful image to go with the poem.

  21. Frances Cornford also penned the immortal words
    "Oh fat white woman whom nobody loves
    Why do you walk through the field in gloves
    Missing so much and so much?"

    Did you ever read Gwen Raveret's "Period Piece?"
    She was a print-maker and granddaughter of Darwin.
    A memoir of an amazingly fascinating family.

  22. Elizabeth, I've got to check out "Period Piece". Thanks for the suggestion!

  23. Beautiful post, Willow, that really resonated with my recent ponderings about my boys' coming of age. I've still got so much ahead of me, and so much to learn.

    Gorgeous photo.

  24. Being in an adult relationship with my children is the best time we've ever had, casual and easy. We get each other, enjoy each other's company, and are best friends. It's nice.

  25. Do you remember what it was like when you came of age?

    I remember my supreme disappointment in discovering that my parents weren't really giants, weren't superheroes or the smartest people on earth, but just folks living out their lives.

    It is a tricky moment, but rich in terms of wisdom and compassion. I'm sure you're doing a great job.

  26. Beautiful photo, Willow. I enjoyed the poem specially the verse-
    "You, the unstable, must become a tree"
    When I'm down I get my sanity back by walking near trees. Trees are healers. Thank you for the poem.

  27. Another beautiful poem; another lovely image to accompany it. You always find the perfect visual complement to the words (yours or someone else's)that you post. And this poem is so apt--really hit me where I 'live' right now, unstable, trying to become that well-rooted strong-barked tree for my daughter. Thank you for making my morning!

    Also, Gwen Raverat was married to the French painter Jacques Raverat and they corresponded with Virginia Woolf for many years. The letters are fascinating, offer real insight into the relationship between art and writing...


  28. I'm glad I'll never have this worry, to be honest. I know how hard a time I gave my folks and it was one of the reasons I decided not to have kids myself.

    Lovely poem though

  29. Ahhh,showing them you love them but not is indeed a delicate balance. But such an interesting time, and I just love the new interactions...what a lovely poem.

  30. Beautiful Willow. Thanks for sharing. I am not looking forward to when my children are grown and going off to their lives mission.

  31. Touching poem .. I am c/p'ing it for all my friends with quasi adult 'children'

  32. I thought I had come to terms, quit crying in quiet moments, blessed my son, wished him well in his new found independence- gone from my home forever...then I read your post and WAHHHH- started all over again...I really hate that he is gone into his full blown life- I love it when he calls asking for something, anything- I always sya "YES!"

  33. this is such a true poem. my parents are always "on call" when I need advice or have questions. hopefully they don't mind those odd-ball calls sometimes. I have no idea what I would do if I didn't have my parents, but this poem is a great reminder for me not to take their time in my life for granted... ever.

  34. Such a gorgeous poem. The gift of strong, wise and comforting parents can never be underestimated.

    Get out in that snow and play! Too much fun to waste!

  35. one word... AMEN!

  36. Beautiful poem, Willow. I echo The Pink Cowboy's comment - that's my favourite line of the poem too!

  37. And I might add you gave your children a true foundation to build their lives upon, nourished with love and support; and then becoming their life long friend.
    Good job Willow and WT.
    Best, The Bach

  38. try copying and pasting
    this into your browser

    click listen in blue -
    hope it works and shhhhsh please on the man talk. I'm trying to "not" think about it too much or not make a big deal of it. Painfully reclusive I am, I know - wink. xo S.

  39. Being the step-father to two grown young women, I'm always there for them whether it be using my truck to haul whatever, watching the grandchildren (my favorite), or be Mr. handy man (I'm not so sure how handy but I try).

  40. I baked your cookies....had a warm one...yumm-o. :)

  41. This is so beautiful, thank you! My little one is only 4, and yet I'm already aware of the delicate balance of which you speak.

  42. A very moving quote Willow. My grandmother always advised to give children wings and roots.

  43. Bach, thank you for those kind, kind words. They mean so much coming from someone who actually knows me. :)

    Betsy, hey, glad to hear you are enjoying the recipe. It's a perfect snowy day for a warm chocolate chip cookie. It's making my mouth water just to type it.

  44. That Poem! Goodness, it struck a chord. My teenaged daughter withdraws, and then comes toward me again; and I feel like I have to stand very still, careful not to "frighten" her away.

    Those Darwins were certainly a talented family! I was in London today and noticed posters for a new Darwin exhibit at the Natural History Museum.

  45. And then we become Grandparents, that is the Disneyworld of my life...I didn't have much time for the games with my Daughter, as a single parent, it was all about the rent and the groceries. For some reason they are harder to release then your own children, with them you had the time to play.

    I think we have about 7 inches, too cold to shovel, as the wind blows it all right back at ya...I think I'll wait for calmer seas.


  46. After spending the night camping in the backyard with my 7-year-old, I'm kinda looking forward to them venturing beyond the back gate ... it will be so much easier to get a good night's sleep!

  47. Like all have said this is a beautiful poem. I love pictures of snow, so thank you for sharing.

    We have cared for them and if we are good parents we have made them strong and independent so they can fly the nest.

    I have released five wonderful birds. One of the birds has released one into the Navy.

    He is now on his third deployment. I was out in San Diego to see him off on his second deployment a year and a half ago. I have to say that was the hardest bird to release.

  48. Ah...My parents where glad to get rid of me..."go shoo shoo, go back to the library or over a hill, hide in pail or bake a cake, drink some pie or eat a drink..just go away!"--so I did. I wish my coming of age was more graceful! Excellent post Willow dear.

    Ever Yours,
    Clayrn Darrow

  49. Where do you find such wonderful prose? It's always refreshing.

  50. The whole parenting thing is such a delicate balance when they become adults. I love how my daughter is one of my best friends. We are always there for each other and we lived through many challenges and adventures. She is 37 and it all went so fast. I so enjoy seeing how she is loving to her daughter. The hard times were that period when it was so difficult to know when to push and when to pull. Finding our way in life is not always easy, but I am thankful I had love.

  51. I am getting there with my oldest slowly for her, too fast for me! It's such a balance, isn't it?

  52. I loved this poem, gorgeous!

    I don't have kids myself, although JC is really working hard to talk me into them. I told him to get the ring first and we'll talk more about kids later. He he he.

    Anyway ... I'd just like you to know, at the cusp of setting your birds free, we always come back, and usually because we need money. *winks*

    bright blessings!


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)