For someone who really loves Christmas, I’m late to get a tree every year, and this year was no exception. But since it’s just the two of us now, Phil and I aren’t too picky, so one week before Christmas we got into the car and off we went.
It was pouring rain, so tree farms were out of the question. We grabbed some coffee and drove the few miles to a church parking lot in Lake Oswego. The trees were pretty picked over, but I quickly found a grand fir, a favorite for me. I come from a long line of Californians, and I’m still deeply moved by the rich green of holiday trees here in Oregon.
After twining it to the roof and driving it home, we wrestled it through the back door on what must have been December 18. I don’t study the back yard in December, so I was surprised to see daffodils poking through the soil—new shoots. And of course, when anything untoward happens, the first thing I think to do about it is write a poem.
So I tried. I had no trouble describing the purchase or my surprise at the out of season vegetation, but what the poem turned on was a metaphor. The metaphor was a child waking up in a department store after having gotten lost while their parent was distracted. This happened to my nephew once. He got into the rounder at a Mervyn’s and went to sleep. My sister and I couldn’t find him for an hour. Ultimately, he woke up and climbed out to our great relief and irritation. This event has stuck with me to this day.
***I had the lines that involved the metaphor here, but the day after I published this the poem was accepted by a journal, so I’ve removed it. I imagine only my poetry group saw it–and they had seen it already…but imagine/a metaphor for daffodils being a child lost in a store. I’ll put the link here when the poem is published. Look for the Chaos Theory post next week!***
In this case, the metaphor was probably off point, but none of my writing groups could handle it. Which brings me to a consideration of metaphor. The delight of a metaphor is to discover that “this thing” is represented by “that thing,” and that even though you had never thought of it, by damn they’re just alike. A good metaphor first surprises the reader then gives them a satisfying wink, like they’re the only one that will get it. It’s magical and I love it.
But metaphors probably are successful by degree. Two things, say, coffee and tea, might be so alike that aligning them metaphorically would fail. But coffee and gasoline, that’s fun. Then maybe coffee and anger, okay…but coffee and grasshoppers? It’s not going to work.
It’s funny. Despite my absolute aversion to all things numerical, I sometimes find myself describing writing in terms of math (or my version of it). And this might be such a case. Or maybe it’s that game—Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon my husband uses regularly. How far can I go? How far is too far?
How far can you go? How do you know?
Until next time—write on.
July 18, 2022