Things I Forgot I Learned

Aug 13, 2015


Every few years, I randomly pull one or two of my old notebooks/journals/lifebooks off the shelf in the back of my closet and revisit my former self, mining the pages for forgotten wisdom and insights. I have been regularly keeping these notebooks, a combination of reflections, mementoes, sketches, wonderings, ideas and drafts,  for more than 30 years. Yesterday, I dove into March – June of 2005.

I had never heard the word mindfulness at the time, yet I had found my way there through poetry. I came across an entry in which I had reflected on a favorite poem, “Things I Learned Last Week,” by William Stafford. Here is my entry from June 18, 2005:

Hmmm, What if I wrote a “Things I learned Last Week” poem every week in my notebook? If I knew I was going to do so, I would approach life differently. Maybe that would necessitate me slowing down, notating and referencing, including specifics?

Things I learned this week:

  • that pink peonies can burst from a golf-ball-sized knot to a baby’s-head-sized crinoline in an afternoon!
  • that men need to be heroes and generals while believing there is the possibility of sex — all three, all the time, in order to be fit to live with. (Wish I knew how I came to this epiphany! Grateful that my loving, evolved husband only needs one of these, which I will not name, and is a joy to live with. )
  • that uninterrupted listening to four smart and reflective coaches-in-training discussing their learning edges has created new connections in my brain.
  • And I learned, again, that relationships, their quality and value, are the roots of any endeavor. If they have been nourished, tended, allowed to go deep and wide, the endeavor flourishes. If they have been delegated as secondary, the endeavor topples with the first stiff wind.

I am so glad to get the chance to remember this way of paying attention to my life, to begin again to practice it . Thank you, William Stafford! Here is his poem which inspired me to wake-up to my learnings.


Things I Learned Last Week

Ants, when they meet each other,

usually pass on the right.


Sometimes you can open a sticky

door with your elbow.


A man in Boston has dedicated himself

to telling about injustice.

For three thousand dollars he will

come to your town and tell you about it.


Schopenhauer was a pessimist but

he played the flute.


Yeats, Pound, and Eliot saw art as

growing from other art. They studied that.


If I ever die, I’d like it to be

in the evening. That way, I’ll have

all the dark to go with me, and no one

will see how I begin to hobble along.


In the Pentagon one person’s job is to

take pins out of towns, hills, and fields,

and then save the pins for later.

~ William Stafford

Leave a Comment