Goldenrod and Asters: My Life With Plants

Goldenrod and Asters: My Life With Plants

I like to imagine that they were the first flowers I saw, over my mother’s shoulder, as the pink blanket slipped away from my face and their colors flooded my consciousness. I’ve heard that early experience can attune the brain to certain stimuli, so that they are processed with greater speed and certainty, so that they can be used again and again, so that we remember. Love at first sight. Through cloudy newborn eyes their radiance formed the first botanical synapses in my wide- awake brain, which until then had encountered only the blurry gentleness of pink faces. I’m guessing all eyes were on me, a little round baby all swaddled in bunting, but mine were on goldenrod and asters. I was born to these flowers and they came back for my birthday every year, weaving me into our mutual celebration.

Dealing with a Mystery Disease

Dealing with a Mystery Disease

I ignored the blur in my right eye. About two weeks later, I figured I had time, so I made an appointment with Dr. Lowe, my ophthalmologist, for December 1.

The Missouri River Dinosaur

The Missouri River Dinosaur

The pallid sturgeon is, perhaps, the least sexy fish in existence. Prehistoric, armored, and occupying the muddy recesses of slow flowing rivers, it is one of nature’s leftovers from the dinosaur era. Large at maturity, the pallid sturgeon grows between 30 and 60 inches, and can weigh upwards of 85 pounds. Consistency is the modus operandi of the this fish, which has remained relatively unchanged over the last 70 million years. The pallid sturgeon is muted, having a gray coloration—like hair later in life. The sturgeon, which can live to be 100 years old, grows white. The tail is heterocercal, resembling a shark’s tail, and its body is wrapped in thick cartilage plates. In my youth, while fishing the muddy Missouri River, if we hauled a sturgeon to the surface, we cut the line immediately to release it back to the bottom world, where it would resume sucking and slurping minnows. I often named these armored tanks General Patton or General Sherman.

A Moveable Commons

A Moveable Commons

She said something about Josh, who was asleep on my shoulder. Such a sweet boy. Those eyes. I thanked her, asked if she had kids. A daughter, she said, eighteen. Was it hard, her daughter leaving home? Yes. When she looked at her did she still see the three year old the daughter used to be? Yes again.

The Ultimate End-of-Life Plan

The Ultimate End-of-Life Plan

My mother died shortly before her 85th birthday, in a quiet hospital room in Connecticut. One of my brothers was down the hall, calling me in California to say, too late, that it was time to jump on a plane. We were not a perfect family. She did not die a perfect death. But she died a “good-enough” death, thanks to choices she made earlier that seemed brutal at the time.

For You

For You

Maureen N. McLane’s poem “For You” appeared in the April 27, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.  A two-time BMC alum, she is the author of three books of poetry, including 2014 National Book Award finalist This Blue (FSG, 2014). Her book My Poets (FSG, 2012), a hybrid of memoir and criticism, was a finalist for the National Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She teaches at New York University and loves the Adirondacks—Blue Mountain Center in particular.

Coming of Age in the Time of the Hoodie

Coming of Age in the Time of the Hoodie

Earlier this year I decided to read Joe Brainard’s cult classic, I Remember. The book had long intrigued me for I had heard that it was widely taught in creative writing courses and was a favorite of many authors, including several well-known authors whose work I admire. I was immediately drawn to Brainard’s style, each line starting with the words “I remember.” As I read it, I found myself jotting down remembrances of my own, complementing Brainard’s memories of America with my memories of Nigeria.

Blue Mountain Lake

Black water dotted with stars—all
there is. I push my paddle
into the lake and pull the water