Poetry Friday: How You Get From Butterflies to
Lucy Van Pelt to the Tao Te Ching

h1 August 3rd, 2007 by jules

This photo today is compliments of my mother, Beverly Walker, who takes some really gorgeous nature shots, and it’s just one of many beautiful photographs she’s snapped. And I thank her for letting me borrow it for our blog today.

When I look at her photography — whether it’s of a sunset or, in this case, an insect getting all the nourishment it needs from the nectar of a flower — it feels like someone is reminding me to slow down, to want less, that we with our busy lives are foolish to be burdened with worry, though I suppose it’s our nature as humans. You know, the lilies of the field and all that stuff (that’s a lame attempt to quote Lucy in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when she says, “you know, deck them halls and all that stuff” . . . but, well, that wasn’t very effective, since I had to explain it).

Anyway, that brings me to my Poetry Friday entry for today. I had to go look this poem up; I had written it down around this time about two years ago, and I’m glad I did. It communicates what I’m trying to say, the thoughts that go through my mind when someone as talented as my mom captures a moment like you see above:

Stop being holy, forget being prudent,
It’ll be a hundred times better for everyone.
Stop being altruistic, forget being righteous,
people will remember what family feeling is.
Stop planning, forget making a profit,
there won’t be any thieves and robbers.

But even these three rules
Needn’t be followed; what works reliably
is to know the raw silk,
hold the uncut wood.
Need little,
want less.
Forget the rules.
Be untroubled.

— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, “Raw Silk and Uncut Wood,” translated by Ursula K. LeGuin

cloudscome over at a wrung sponge has more butterflies fluttering by for you. Go see.

10 comments to “Poetry Friday: How You Get From Butterflies to
Lucy Van Pelt to the Tao Te Ching

  1. The first principal I worked for once said to me, “No one looks back from their death bed and says, ‘I should have worked more.'” I don’t know if it was that wise to tell a first year teacher to work less, but I’m glad she did. Not as poetic as Lao Tzu’s, but I can definitely understand why that one stuck with you.

  2. Good poem, lovely photo, and great advice. Thanks, Jules.

  3. What a wonderful reminder to us all. I love the poem and your mom’s picture. Here’s to great moms!

  4. Love, love this, jules. Only you could put together this photograph, Lucy and Lao Tzu. How interesting that Ursula LeGuin translated it…I didn’t know she did that.

  5. Thanks, everyone.

    Sara, I also had no idea that LeGuin did that. I got that from an Ariel Gore book on motherhood (I believe it was from her series of essays on motherhood that I reviewed and pictured here way back this time last year).

    Hope you’re still having fun at SCBWI!

  6. Hi Jules.

    I got a photo like that last year for my blog when two butterflies landed on a pear in the tree just outside my front door. It’s really amazing seeing them in action up close.

    Thanks for sharing the poem — it’s lovely.

  7. Oh, and for my birthday, I tagged you both for a meme:



  8. I love this poem. Le Guin has a translation of the Tao Te Ching. Saw it at Powells last week. I, too, thought it interesting that she had a translation. I have spent this month’s personal book budget money. Will need to wait until next month.

  9. “what works reliably
    is to know the raw silk,
    hold the uncut wood.”

    Wow. That’s really beautiful.

    I love the photo too. Thanks for the shout out!

  10. This was a fantastic poem. Just what I needed at the end of what feels like an unproductive week. Thanks!

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