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The Light Side

I once went on a camping trip as a child and right when we got to the site, there was a huge storm.  The counselors set up our tents and then we rushed into them, our sleeping bags and back packs inside soaked trash bags.  We zipped up the door, damp but out of the rain–setting up our sleeping bags in the cramped space, trying to keep our gear away from the nylon side walls.

There were three of us in the tent.  One girl was my best friend (a girl from Pakistan), and the other was an older girl that I didn’t know well who was deaf.  The counselors brought us cups of peanuts and raisins as a snack and the three of us played cards all afternoon.  It was the coziest time; curled up on our sleeping bags, our tent miraculously dry in the storm.  And when you think about it, almost nothing in common beyond the fact that we all ended up at the same camp in the same storm.

I still ask about them when I bump into their mothers back in our old neighbourhood.


The underbelly of the dark side is the cozy tent in the center of the rain storm and the people who end up inside with you.  It seems as if we end up together mostly by accident–we choose a house and end up within walking distance of a new friend.  We swing by our cousin’s workplace and a few years later, end up with her co-worker as your husband.  We click on a link and start reading a new blog and years later laugh about how we found one another.

As I said in the other post, my internal world is certainly being affected by that storm outside–no one can have that much pressure and anger and frustration and sadness around them and not have it seep into the way they feel as they rub up against the world.  But on paper, things are actually quite nice right now.  While I always have simmering anxieties and jealousies on the back burner, overall, I am in a happy and productive space.

And I have wonderful people in my tent.

On Monday night, Lindsay, Paz, Calliope, and N sucked up the meatlessness and took me to a dive-y little vegan restaurant that I love.  They wanted me to be able to order anything off the menu.  Calliope popped my lottery cherry and Lindsay ensured that she’d be receiving baguettes this summer and we all mocked Paz for having never seen the Goonies and we all squeamishly wondered about the two chairs in the bathroom that were set facing the toilet as if one were going to pee for an audience.

During the meal, Paz pulled out your gift.  I’m still not sure how she arranged this, but Paz, Lavender Luz, Leah, Jendeis, Lindsay, Vee, E’s Mama, Smokeandashesbaby, Lucy, JJ, HereWeGoAJen, N, Somewhat Ordinary, Sunny, Michell, Dora, Kym, and Calliope all commissioned a DC poet to construct a poem for me, weaving in their thoughts and snippets from my blog.

I know–your mouth is dropped open right now too?  When I try to tell this story to people, everyone starts crying as I did when Calliope read the poem.

The poem contains two stanzas of 18–double life–for my 36th birthday.  There are 613 characters in each stanza (including punctuation), because there is a belief in Judaism that pomegranates contain 613 seeds which stand for the 613 commandments in Judaism.  And, as the poet explains, “The reference to cross-pollinating alludes both to a way of generating fruit as well as to Mel’s knack for spreading ideas and connecting people; also, the name Melissa means bee, the supreme pollinator.”

The poem:

Pomegranate Lollipop
for Mel at 36

It could be a flavor: whimsical, comforting,
a blossom at the end of intention,
bracing at the start of each day—
a circle of taste, a fresh taste of hope,
kosher, of course, and mothering, life giving;
or it could be a song: lyric of uplift,
lyric of weeping and cheer, chai
for today and tomorrow, chai for the day
and the night, ditty against disappointment,
dirge becoming delight; or a map with a sign
aimed from IF to THEN, a map of the underworld
turned upside-down, spilling Persephone
out into sunlight, Demeter out of mourning,
casting the arils in loam along the path,
ousting the pockets of emptiness,
cross-pollinating ideas, until the tree hangs heavy—
every bough, fruited and flowered alike,
sharing the same root: Melissa.

It could be a flavor, a lyric or a map, but it’s mostly
a gift: for stirring up empathy, honesty, strength,
for being the change, for making the mix tape,
for soothing the wounds with words;
for tying the threads, for rounding the journey:
carrying what can’t be carried, blessing the fruit,
eating the seeds that bleed and are whole again;
the gift of baking bread for the hungry,
the gift of sitting down to the table of friendship,
singing “sitting all alone, not by myself / everybody’s
here with me” and making of the song
a feast, making it mean
what it means to each of us,
we who have wandered
the island, picked up the gifts
you have laid at our feet, we who stand
with you now on our own, calling you friend,
blessing, wellness, Mel, Melissa.


In the places where it matters–Josh, the twins, my family, my incredible friends–I am inside the tent.  The rest of it–the failed cycles and the jobs I didn’t get and the oil spill and the murmuring societal anger–is just rain on the roof.  And I would like to state for the record how lucky I feel that we all ended up running through the rain together, our possessions in trash bags, to get in this tent.


1 serenity { 06.09.10 at 3:31 pm }

OMG, Mel. I have GOOSEBUMPS right now. I so wish I could have been there.

What a gorgeous poem.

And post.


2 Mrs. Farmer { 06.09.10 at 3:36 pm }

Ahhh wow!!! Beautiful!! You are all of this to so many of us! Thank you Mel and Happy Happy Happy 36th Birthday!

3 Delenn { 06.09.10 at 3:42 pm }

What a wonderful, beautiful poem to a truly beautiful person.

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.09.10 at 3:47 pm }

I love the pic of you at camp.

I am so happy to be able to share a virtual tent with you. As shelter from storms, as a place to kvetch, and as a place to eat and celebrate.


5 a { 06.09.10 at 3:47 pm }

That is a beautiful poem. I didn’t know you could commission poetry. Interesting. And I think the poet did an excellent job of both capturing you and all the appreciation that abounds for you. What a wonderful gift.

You have some great friends. You deserve them.

6 Melissa G. { 06.09.10 at 3:49 pm }

Wow. Just, wow.

This post gave me both goosebumps and tears. How incredibly thoughful, beautiful and amazing…

Thank you for sharing this.

7 Kristin { 06.09.10 at 3:54 pm }

Truly beautiful…just like you!

8 Hollie { 06.09.10 at 4:13 pm }

WOW! Amazing…
You have inspired so many, and made us all feel not so alone. For that, I will always be eternally grateful.

9 N { 06.09.10 at 4:17 pm }

♥ It’s a great place to be, that tent. (Plus, we’ve got loads of chocolate.)

10 Dora { 06.09.10 at 5:03 pm }

So beautiful! Mwah!

11 jill { 06.09.10 at 5:03 pm }

Wonderful! And so very thoughtful of them to do that for you 🙂

12 Sarah { 06.09.10 at 5:07 pm }

Beautiful, beautiful poem! Happy Birthday :). Definite tears in my eyes after that video…

13 Heather { 06.09.10 at 6:24 pm }

I had to come back twice. The first time I just bawled. Now I can see again to type.

There is blessing beyond imagination—friends that care THAT much. That is something not many people are ever able to say.

14 loribeth { 06.09.10 at 7:53 pm }

How fabulous is THAT??? Did you cry? I am, right now.

Thanks for welcoming us to your tent, Mel. I think it’s great how there’s always room for one more. : )

15 HereWeGoAJen { 06.09.10 at 7:59 pm }

Everything online I have, I have because of you. Thank you.

16 Michelle { 06.09.10 at 8:24 pm }

That is just so beautiful! Mel, you deserve it! You are so incredibly amazing. I have so many friends and so much wisdom given to me each day because of you. Your blog gave me a map to follow, it gave me hope. My only regret is I did not get online and find it so much sooner. I can never thank you enough!

17 Paz { 06.09.10 at 8:49 pm }

The poet, obviously a master wordsmith, is not the only one who has a way with words. Great post. Happy Birthday Mel. Rockin’ poem Matt!

18 liljan98 { 06.10.10 at 12:41 am }

What an amazing and toughtful and lovely idea for a birthday gift. Happy Birthday and congratulation for having these wonderful friends with you in your tent.

19 luna { 06.10.10 at 1:29 am }

that is simply incredible. crying with you, melissa. a brilliant gift to a fabulously worthy recipient who gives so much. just brilliant.

20 mash { 06.10.10 at 3:43 am }

I believe that’s why we get given the storms, so we can recognise the tents…

21 Mina { 06.10.10 at 3:52 am }

Ladies, thank you for having thought about doing such a sweet thing for our dear Mel on such a special occasion.
Mel, thank you for being so strong, so honest and kind, for giving us hope and insight, for being you.

22 edenland { 06.10.10 at 5:35 am }

That poem is spectacular. Just wow. The imagery of being on an island and you have laid gifts at our feet. Just so bloody beautiful.

I watched the video this morning, hours ago now. All day I have thought of it, and thought of you. At first I was all, “Ah, it’s too noisy I wish they had given it to her next to a quiet lake or something, with the birds tweeting.”

But then I realised that it’s like you are actually sitting right there in the blogosphere ….. and some utterly amazing soul-friends met you at a table in the middle of the blogosphere and gave you such an amzing gift. With the noise and the hubbub and the people talking in the background …. perfect.

Sometimes I close my eyes and can “hear” blogland – all the murmering and talking and conversations, buzzing around.

I bet you have read that poem sixty-seven times by now. It really is beautiful, and so are you.


23 Twangy { 06.10.10 at 6:59 am }

Ooh, shivers! Lovely idea. Very fitting.

(It’s exciting when you can eat anything on the menu, isn’t it? Anything at all! Quite goes to the head.)

24 Shelli { 06.10.10 at 7:58 am }

So, so beautiful…

You are all part of my cozy place as well. I’m thinking I need a short road trip down I-95 soon. I’ll just soak in the love from my computer screen for now.

25 WiseGuy { 06.10.10 at 9:45 am }

Memories from childhood sometimes echo so deeply in our adulthood.

I am glad you have the tent, and the right people to share it with.

Beautiful poem!

26 Annie { 06.10.10 at 10:45 am }

Wow, what incredible gifts – the poem and all the wonderful people who love and care for you!

27 Kir { 06.10.10 at 10:47 am }

OMG, I’m crying (sobbing really) that I can’t even type.
THAT is /was/will always be the perfect Birthday gift for the girl who is “Our fearless leader” on this journey of infertility…

you are ALL those things and more…and I am soooo glad that these women made your birthday the TRUE GIFT it is.

WOW!!!!!!! xoxoxo

28 kristi { 06.10.10 at 11:34 am }

What a perfect gift for you.

29 Frenchie { 06.10.10 at 12:30 pm }

Wow. (*tears*) what a gorgeous poem. Perfect. Happy Birthday.

30 nh { 06.10.10 at 2:33 pm }

That’s such a gorgeous and true poem, and what an amazing gift. Keep it close and remember your tent!

31 Angie { 06.10.10 at 3:06 pm }

When I first read this on my blackberry, I teared up. So gorgeous, with so many hidden pockets of love and meaning. What an amazing piece. Finally in front of the computer listening to it read, and seeing your face as she moves through how much you are loved and appreciated, i was full on crying. Happy birthday, Mel. It has been said so much more eloquently than I can say it, but thank you.

32 TeamWinks { 06.10.10 at 3:39 pm }

What a wonderful and special gift!

33 Chickenpig { 06.10.10 at 8:39 pm }

What an amazing gift! You are truly blessed 🙂 I’m so glad to be able to share your tent.

34 Justine { 06.10.10 at 10:46 pm }

This is a tent you pitched for us. The poet hit the nail on the head. Thank you, and happy birthday!!

35 JJ { 06.10.10 at 11:05 pm }

Tears streaming down my face–so beautiful to watch Cali read that to you–and I felt so honored to be a part of something so incredibly beautiful for such an important person in my life. I, for one, am a camping fan–and I always bring stuff to make s’mores. So you will always have me in the tent–always. xoxo

36 Leah { 06.11.10 at 8:08 am }

Even better to hear Cali read it. I’m so in the tent with you. The cool tent, the one with good snacks and fun music. And lots and lots of laughter. 🙂

37 Aurelia { 06.11.10 at 11:29 am }

This is wonderful, what a lovely lovely gift. And what a nice tent full of people you have. ((hugs))

38 Foxy Popcorn { 06.12.10 at 12:50 pm }

I love the tent analogy. and I can so clearly think of similar times in life when I really was warm and safe while storms swirled around outside. I feel so blessed to have found myself in this virtual tent with you Mel, and everyone else here. I wandered alone in the storm for too long, and showed up all wet and cold, and scared. You have welcomed me into this tent, nourished me, and made me so warm and comfortable.

What a beautiful gift. Happy Birthday Mel.

39 Bea { 06.12.10 at 9:00 pm }

Oh my goodness, Mel! That’s such a cool idea, and how well did it turn out? An amazing poem. Well done to those who thought of it!


40 LJ { 06.13.10 at 1:08 pm }

We have such a cool little tent, plus in addition to the chocolate that N mentioned, we also have disco glass contraband items.

41 Orodemniades { 06.13.10 at 10:37 pm }

That? Beyond wonderful. Damn, I’m all a-teary.

42 Cherish { 06.15.10 at 2:38 pm }

Oh my gosh what a beautiful post AND poem!

43 coffeegrl { 06.27.10 at 2:43 pm }

Wow. I’ve never really been one to “get” poetry. I often read poems and think, “What am I missing?” And then I read something like this and think, “How totally moving and inspirational and fitting and THIS is what poetry is about.” I get it. And I love it. Amazing.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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