Sunday, July 28, 2013

Picture This

Special thanks to Shutter Sisters for featuring this photo on their Instagram Feed last week!

Picture This

You live in a foreign country,
except to you
it isn't foreign
because it's where
you were born
in this, a different life--
pears grow there
on your very 
own tree,
or maybe--get wild--
they're figs,
and you can use
the word pluck
for the first time
in your whole life,
at least this life,
but in that one
you pluck practically
every day:
harp strings, heart 
strings, whole mornings,
and the figs, of course--
but only what you need.
You never horde.
each fig is the first,
the last--
pollinated by the tiny moth
that has climbed inside
the fruit's tiny mouth,
laid her eggs
and waited 
for her prince to pluck
her out.
inside your mouth
for one moment
you hold seed
and flower
and egg,
all that you 
could ever want,
the world--
its birth,
its death 
your mouth.

Copyright 2009 Gigi Thibodeau

Today I have reposted a poem I wrote back in 2009.  My life was headed in a very different direction then.  I was the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence at the University of Massachusetts Lowell; I'd just had a collection of poetry published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and had just won a couple national writing awards; I was preparing for a more permanent position teaching poetry writing and children's literature at UML after having taught these and other classes there for nearly a decade as an adjunct professor.  I knew who I was, where I was going, what I would do when I arrived there.

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley / An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain / For promised joy" (Robert Burns, "To a Mouse"). 

And then, everything that was supposed to happen did not.  Namely, I lost the newly created position at UML--in the most spectacular and ugly way--due to hideous campus politics.  I lost many friends and colleagues.  I lost all belief in myself.  Every last bit of it.  And I lost all sense of who I was.  I had been a teacher for a very long time, not just at UML, but before that, too, in many other places.  Suddenly, I felt like that life had been a lie.  

This lie brings me full circle back to the poem.  I'd crafted it while I was writing my Kerouac lecture and poetry reading.  It was full of hope and excitement about the future.  When I read it now, I feel empathy for the woman who wrote this, for what she was about to experience.  I also feel a small sense of relief that nothing I hoped for came true.

Instead, with the support of my husband, I picked up the shards and shattered bits, and I began again.  We moved back to Maine, the place we both loved.  I started working one-on-one with writers, helping them shape their work and their words into stronger and stronger finished drafts.  I began selling more and more photographs.  My own writing grew richer.  The whole world split open.  Isn't that always the way when we keep our commitment to the muse, even in the midst of despair?      

We rented an apartment for two years while we saved our pennies.  Then we found a little cottage with enough land for gardens, and we scooped it up as quickly as we could.  We'd learned after many trials and disappointments in life to act quickly when it feels right in our hearts.  Here over the last year we've dug and planted several gardens . . . and have plans for more.

And we bought our first fig tree.  A Brown Turkey, it's called, and it's not cold hardy all the way up here in Maine, so we will have to coddle it, bring it in each winter to go dormant, coax it back to life each spring.  Already it's been fruiting like mad, though, and, yes, that photo above is of our very first ripe fig.  
And, yes, I plucked it myself.


  1. I am loving the foggy photos and am almost wishing we could have some fog in these parts so I could try and take some.

    Your post proves that experiences in life which seem bad at the time can turn out to be for the best in the end.

    1. Yes, indeed, Cait. Thanks for your comment. I love taking pictures in the fog. It allows for endless opportunities to create moody shots.

  2. OH, I love you! The poem is delicious and rich -- and then I read on. Your tenacity, courage, and ability to live life fully -- no matter what it brings -- give me courage and hope.

    1. I love you, too, Miss M! You know better than anyone about how hard that crappy year was, and you were tenacious, too. I'm proud of both of us for holding on through it all and for coming out on the other side stronger and wiser than before. xoxo

  3. in the yard of every new-to-her house she owned, my mother always planted a fig tree first. my childhood (and adulthood) is full of memories of her, standing at her fig tree, eating only what she wanted. this poem, this post, feels like a wink from her.

    i think your fig tree is a sign of good things to come. i am picturing you reaching into its branches. plucking.

    1. Oh, my heart! Thanks for telling me this about your mother, d. I love that she's winking at you from right here in my post. This makes me happier than I can say. xo

  4. Lovely, lovely, lovely!

    From the time I was a little, little girl......(I think, two?) I loved the fig tree next door!

    Now I will plant one! I will not regret it took me all these years !!


    1. Absolutely, Penelope! No regrets; just figs. xo

  5. Yes, sometimes life does split us wide open and we gasp for air. Somehow we come to the surface a better person, a different person. I am so glad you are who you are now. Thanks so much for sharing your words of wisdom. I am especially thrilled that you are planting gardens and reaping new fruit.

    1. Oh, thank you, Marilyn. I wasn't sure if I should even write this post, but everyone's responses make me glad that I did. You are such a wonderful and encouraging friend. xo

  6. This is beautiful... how you have grown from the adversity of the collapse of the world you created and how you adapted your strengths to create a new life. Just like you are nurturing your new fig tree... to me, gardening is about the cycle of life, the burgeoning growth of new shoots in spring, ripening fruit in summer, and then the drying out and browning in the fall and winter, only to come back again in the spring.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and congratulations on already having figs!


    1. Thank you, Liz! That's just how I feel about gardening, too . . . and about life. xo

  7. Oh Gigi. This is beautiful. Your words, your images, your honesty. You know, this is just another confirmation for me, of how the right thing just always happens, even if it takes some time to be able to see that it's the right thing.
    Thank you for sharing, I know it wasn't easy. I'm just so happy that you now find yourself in such a wonderful place. And who knows what is ahead! xxxx

  8. Gigi, often life does not grant us the door we are hoping - expecting to go through and for good reason; she has other plans for us. It is always hard when our feet flop out from underneath us and we plop not so gracefully onto the ground. However, this is the time when we learn the most about ourselves, our dreams, our hopes, our goals, our lives. We come out of the dark cloud much brighter than we ever would have otherwise and Mother Nature knows that. :D
    You are doing brilliantly, keep it up girlfriend!
    Beth P

  9. I always say, 'Life sometimes takes hold of all the cards we hold in our hands and throws them into the air, so that they all rearrange themselves and we don't know who we are any more.' But then further on down, via the heartbreak and the tears and the laughter and smiles we look back and think,'You know what, that was supposed to happen, so that I should wind up where I am now...become who I am now, with the people I'm with now.'
    It's a nightmare at the time I agree, but in the end we live through if we're lucky. You are SO brave to share your story GiGi, and oooh! how I wish I too had my own little fig tree.


  10. I am so glad that I just took the time to look back and see what posts I have missed here. I am thrilled that you are now so happy in Maine.

    I think I am going to go out and buy a fig tree tomorrow...and print out this poem too:)


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