From Blossoms.

By: Jen Shoop

I have re-read this poem by Li-Young Lee nearly every day the past week, and find myself idling in this couplet in particular:

O, to take what we love inside,

to carry within us an orchard

The poem makes me think about the way we are never absorbing, or feeling, one thing. A single peach carries with it the wondrousness of fruit transformed from seed, the sun and shade of many days, the labor of field workers, the roadside marketing of a peach stand, and our happenstance meeting of it. Not to mention, of course, the wildflower idiosyncrasies and imaginations of our internal worlds. The way a peach might carry with it “the familiar dust of summer” — or the prismatic memory of a mother who adored the fruit, or the time you drove those dirt roads of Charlottesville that summer. Our lives becomes mosaics of the people, and places, we love.

I am comforted by the image of carrying orchards inside: how finite time is, but how wide our capacity to hold and love and draw in while we are here. How I might find myself donating the too-small shoes of my toddler son, but the memory of his feet padding around Glen Echo, and up the driveway of our home in Bethesda, and down the hallways with Tilly at his heels, will stay. How a peach is never just a peach, but the pinpoint access into a trove of memory, and reference, and the rhythms of the entire natural world.

And then the final stanza —

There are days we live

as if death were nowhere

in the background; from joy

to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom to

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Wow! Carpe diem. Let’s find a day where death is nowhere in the background and we are instead transfixed by the joy of a peach, a wing, a single blossom — ciphers enclosing the unfolding universe.


+Another poem I love, on parenting. It of course hits differently this re-read: “Show them how to cry
when pets and people die. // Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. // And make the ordinary come alive for them.
” Amen.

+In praise of a normal day.

+These are the good ol’ days.

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+This pretty slip dress is in my cart.

+Currently writing this while wearing this embroidered white top. I feel like spring incarnate!

+Three other pretty spring tops, these under $130 apiece: floral, striped, abstract floral.

+Sneaker restocks! A) Sambas in a new spring colorway, with a wider gum cupsole — what do you think of it? I have to say my Sambas are my most-worn casual sneaker. They are so comfortable! B) NB 9060s.

+Beginning to collect items for the children’s Easter baskets. I ordered these hatching rainbow eggs — these types of dissolving experiments are a big hit with my children. For Valentine’s Day, my son gave out Valentines with dissolving dino eggs — similar to these! — and they were well-received! (Also nice to have a non-sugar treat.). And, these tokens we had from last year will be reused this year! We put them in the Easter eggs buried around the house.

+My mother wore this dress to my sister’s wedding two years ago and stunned in it. Now out in a pretty blue pattern. IDEAL mother of the bride dress.

+These embroidered shams ($15!) remind me a lot of my Serena and Lily set.

+Reformation’s latest linen-focused collection is gorgeous. I love this simple mini.

+Speaking of linen, these bustier-style linen maxis from Sir available in brown, red, or floral have captured my imagination for a saucy summer date.

+Love this belted denim over-shirt. Feeling denim everything right now – coats, shoes, shirts. See my favorites here.

+The best Amazon sleeping pillows! We have these in most of the bedrooms in our house.

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17 thoughts on “From Blossoms.

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful reflection! Today, after analyzing Rita Dove’s “Daffodil” and “Testimonial,” we shared “From Blossoms” and this essay of yours with our students (6th graders) as a part of a larger poetry unit where we are practicing the skill of savoring the extraordinary things in our ordinary lives (through memorable flavors, delighting in language, finding awe and beauty in nature, architecture, etc). We are in Charlottesville, and will be going to Grounds tomorrow to notice the changing of the season and write in the Pavilion gardens! National Poetry Month is right around the corner, and we are looking forward to participating in this exercise– just love the poster too!

    Anyway, thank you for taking the time to write these essays (they also loved Song of Charlottesville!). We thought you’d like to know middle school students in Charlottesville are savoring them as well! 🙂

    Clare and Jaime

    1. Oh my gosh! I’m bowled over by this note — hi to you and your sixth grade scholars! Thank you so much for letting me know. How special to be collaborating in scansion together, across states and generations! xx

  2. that last stanza feels especially apropos given yesterday’s mass of laetare – the liturgical moment of joy in the midst of the somber season of lent (a thematic pause I had somehow never noticed during lent in year’s past?). this post and yesterday’s homily feel like a great reminder to seek out the joy in the thick of things, whether that’s a harried, overscheduled week or a season of grieving and reflection in a heavier sense.

  3. Hi Jen,
    Wondering if you have insight on comparing a few items for me. I’d love to buy some gauze clothes this spring, but I’m stuck deciding between Xirena, Michael Star, and Alice Walk. I believe you own gauze items from all three companies- can you compare them? Which are the softest/most see through/scratchiest? Or something I’m not thinking of?
    Thanks for your thoughts! Looking forward to spring!

    1. I have purchased some white gauze pants and cannot figure out tops. Would be interested in how you outfit these pants too please.

      1. Hi Cynthia! I like with a tee or tank tucked in — all white, or navy-and-white stripe would be my initial color go-tos. I feel like the gauze pant looks a little strange if styled with a dressier top, so I’d avoid blouses, anything in a silk or satin, etc, and stick with cotton basics.


    2. Hi Molly! Love this question! Alice Walk feels like the most opaque of the three, and I find it runs generously — at least that is my experience with their shirtdress. Xirena is a bit more sheer (semi-sheer) but you can absolutely wear for day with nude underpinnings. I love (!!!) their gauze Lark top ( One of my all time favorite buys. I’d say they make the softest gauze on the market? And that it keeps getting softer with wash/dry? I actually want to put it on right now while writing this. Finally, Michael Stars — the caftan I own of theirs feels the most like beachwear, e.g., most sheer, most like a cover-up.

      Those are my thoughts!!


      1. Thank you! I pulled the trigger today on an Alice Walk dress from the warehouse sale and a Xirena lark top from therealreal- now just to wait for delivery!

        1. Oh yay! I actually wore that dress last night. I like to switch out of my “day/work” clothes into something more comfortable but not quite pajamas between the hours of six and bedtime, and this dress fits the bill. SO soft and easy to wear and lounge in. You will love.


  4. Hi Jen,

    What a lovely poem!! My husband and I have recently sorted out which of our treasures (childhood books, a few stuffed animals, though sadly not a lot of the older action figures/plastic due to lead concerns) can be used by our kids and displayed in their rooms. I made a shadow box of a few favorite medals, and let my son lightly destroy the same ballerina music box that I put my name on in marker as a five-year-old. He’s been wearing my husband’s old Barney baseball cap even though he has no clue who Barney is. My husband’s “treasure chest” is no longer full of power rangers and special rocks, but of my son’s color wonder markers, a talking remote, a pair of Barbie-branded crew socks, and every muffin liner that’s meant to be in our kitchen.

    All this is to say, as the old associations get overwritten, the sweetness just heaps on. I watched my infant daughter roll around on the hand-stitched quilt that was my nana’s as a baby in the 1930s, a treasure so precious she never used it with her own children. I remember it on display on a wall when I would visit as a child. It’s a matter of time until it gets spit up on or worse, but the beauty is in the using, and my nana can see it in the background of our photos, an ocean away. An orchard within us, indeed.

    I’ve been revisiting the comments on this post, especially Elizabeth’s about practicing parenting with low stakes!
    I’ve made a change and been bringing my son with me to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and even holding hands to walk there rather than take the stroller, no small feat for a two-year-old in the city. He whispers “hurry hurry hurry” whenever we cross the road. Trying to show him the rhythms of daily life. We use the grocery list app “Bring!” and he can mostly parse the little icons for each item. At our local market an employee weighs your produce, so I get to teach him about standing in line, politely greeting the employee, saying farewell. It’s been an unexpected source of joy. He’s come with me to drop off meals for a new mother, to drop items off for repair, to donate things. He’s walked to the doctor, and that bit of empowerment made it go much better than even a month ago, when I toted him along in the stroller. Now we go to the duck pond some mornings to roll cars down the sidewalk. I’ve been trying to weave him into the fabric of our city.

    Our Easter baskets so far have Yoto cards, some play dough, chocolate lady bugs, marshmallows, pate de fruit jellybeans, bubbles, and an enormous Ferrero Rocher for my husband. We normally just do a pot of daffodils for the adults, but my son saw it at the grocery store and picked it out for his dad I’m on the fence about whether to add stickers. My MIL tried to plan an egg hunt without consulting me, after I’d already invited her to our Easter lunch and to join me for Mass over a month prior, so just shaking my head and trying to be graceful about the fact that she seems determined to make her gifts bigger and better than ours at every turn.

    1. Hi Kelly! I love your interpretation of the poem and even moreso your referencing of that Magpie’s comment, which has also been on my mind since reading it. One thing I’ve been doing more often is sending my daughter off to do little errands (drop something at the neighbor’s, put an envelope in the mailbox at the end of the street, check for packages). She loves these small excursions of independence and it’s helping me work up the muscle to let her do other things independently. I love your examples, too. Slow parenting!!


    2. I struggle with similar gift issues. And, for what it’s worth, I find calm in the fact that I really don’t remember many of the gifts I received as a kid. But I do remember going to the dry cleaners and grocery store with my mom and the cassette tapes she played in the car and how her hug is the one I think (despite the impossibility) that everyone is referring to when they say “X is like a warm hug.” I remember exactly how my grandma and grandpa’s house smelled, the music, the card games, the many, many stories – but I don’t remember the gifts. I like to focus on what my kids will remember when I’m watching them open mounds of gifts that I know I will quickly pass on to the donation bin. It helps put the petty into perspective. So, solidarity from this stranger on the internet – and, I think your son will remember the duck ponds and the cars and so many other little glimpses on the days you spend together, no gift could top it.

      1. What a beautiful sentiment, and so well-put. I teared up when you wrote, about your mother: “how her hug is the one I think (despite the impossibility) that everyone is referring to when they say “X is like a warm hug.” So sweet. Thanks for sharing that.


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