Original Poem: "Autumn in Our Backyard" with Commentary

Updated on November 2, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, and taking a creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my growing interest.

Autumn in Our Backyard

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Introduction and Text of Poem, "Autumn in Our Backyard"

My original poem, "Autumn in Our Backyard," takes the form of an American sonnet. The American sonnet is a fascinating form. It is also called "Innovative Sonnet." The term innovative describes perfectly the fact that the American sonnet is based very loosely on the traditional sonnets. While the traditional sonnets—Petrarchan and Elizabethan—display in a tight, strict structure, the American sonnet expresses more freedom of movement.

The American sonnet often lacks a rime-scheme or a patten of rhythm. (Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.") Only the number of 14 lines remains a constant that adheres to the traditional sonnet scheme.

The subject matter of the American sonnet remains similar to that of the traditional sonnets in that it almost always focuses on topics that are heartfelt human issues—love, suffering, death, truth, beauty, and the mysteries of living the life of a human being.

Autumn in Our Backyard

for Ronald

Winter coming on catches me at the sliding door
summing up blessings, fixed between you and the glass.

The vegetable garden is losing its summer blush
& the flower bed is turning back its quilt.

Shadows of the evergreens lengthen into afternoon.
The sycamore submits to the grass its finished poems.

And the grass fingers each leaf until snow covers them.
The grass is steadier than tomatoes, reminding you

of summer as long as it holds the word.
The grass underwrites all that happens here,

hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds,
patterns a flag for the poet.

Winter coming on catches me reading the remnants of summer
watching the shuffle of autumn in our backyard.

Autumn in the Village

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Commentary

Dedicated to my husband, my poem, "Autumn in Our Backyard," is slated to appear my forthcoming collection, "As Tulips Dance and Sway."

First Couplet: A Place for Musing

Winter coming on catches me at the sliding door
summing up blessings, fixed between you and the glass.

The first couplet recalls the speaker standing at their patio door, looking out into the backyard, her husband standing behind her, arms wrapped around her, as they both admire the beauty of their backyard.

Second Couplet: Raising a Garden Together

The vegetable garden is losing its summer blush
& the flower bed is turning back its quilt.

The speaker notions that the sustaining vegetable garden has headed into fall, harvest over, recalling the activities that were shared by the couple.

Third Couplet: Shadows of Trees

Shadows of the evergreens lengthen into afternoon.
The sycamore submits to the grass its finished poems.

The speaker submits an image of how the shadows of trees grow longer as the sun moves across the day, then in observationally metaphoric mode, likens the leaves falling from the trees to poets sending out their wares to publishers, in the often vain attempt to get published.

The leaves will have no such problem as it submits its leaflets. The grass behaves in its natural way, allowing the leaves to join its manifold expression.

Fourth Couplet: The Chemical Acceptance

And the grass fingers each leaf until snow covers them.
The grass is steadier than tomatoes, reminding you

The grass accepts each poem/leaf and fondles it until the winter snow blankets both the grass and the leaf, publishing those poems into the chemical acceptance to which they utterly belong.

The speaker notes that the grass is pretty much always there—not like tomatoes that appear, you pick them, and they are gone until next year. The speaker then teases with “reminding you"— of what?

Fifth Couplet: The Duty of Grass

of summer as long as it holds the word.
The grass underwrites all that happens here,

That the grass reminds you that it is summer as long as it remains green. But unlike tomatoes, it will still be there looking kind of brown but there.

The importance of the grass has now taken over the narrative; somewhat Whitmanesquely, the grass becomes a ubiquitous entity with a catalogue of duties: it "hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds, / patterns a flag for the poet."

Sixth Couplet: A Ubiquitous Entity

hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds,
patterns a flag for the poet.

The grass becomes a ubiquitous entity with a catalogue of duties: it "hives worms, carpets feet, spreads a tablecloth for birds, / patterns a flag for the poet.” No one can deny the importance of grass.

Homeowners demand a fine bunch of grass surrounding their house. Lawn care has even become a big business venture.

Seventh Couplet: The Tranquil Notion

Winter coming on catches me reading the remnants of summer
watching the shuffle of autumn in our backyard.

The speaker returns to the tranquil notion that she is watching her backyard turn to autumn: summer is raucous with activity; now things are shutting down, life shuts down, and the beauty of shutting down needs to be explored.

If a backyard can dramatize the “shuffle of autumn,” what might the shuffle into the old-age of a human being portray?

SRF Lake Shrine, Windmill Chapel

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Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes

The following original poem captures the tranquility of my favorite meditation place in Los Angeles, California, the Windmill Chapel at Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine.

The Windmill Chapel

In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.

Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.

The Literary Life

Born Linda Sue Richardson on January 7, 1946, to Bert and Helen Richardson in Richmond, Indiana, Linda Sue grew up about eight miles south of Richmond in a rustic setting near the Ohio border.

After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.

As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.

Literary Studies

Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.

However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.

After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.

Publishing History

Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.

Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.

Currently, at Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) posts her poetry commentaries. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes. on Delishably. She posts her politically focused pieces at Soapboxie, and her commentaries focusing on music at Spinditty. Pieces on the writing process appear at Hobbylark.

Spirituality

Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."

Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.

Online Literary Presence

In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries. Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.

My Spiritual Journey: Why I Am a Self-Realization Yogi

"By ignoble whips of pain, man is driven at last into the Infinite Presence, whose beauty alone should lure him." –a wandering sadhu, quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Introduction: Salvation Is a Personal Responsibility

I am a Self-Realization Yogi because the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who in 1920 founded Self-Realization Fellowship, make sense to me. Paramahansa Yogananda teaches that we are immortal souls, already connected to the Divine Reality, but we have to "realize" that divine connection. Knowing the Great Spirit (God) is not dependent upon merely claiming to believe in a divine personage, or even merely following the precepts of a religion such as the Ten Commandments.

Knowing the Creator is dependent upon "realizing" that the soul is united with that Creator. To achieve that realization we have to develop our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies through exercise, scientific techniques, and meditation. There are many good theorists who can help us understand why proper behavior is important for our lives and society, but Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings offer definite, scientific techniques that we practice in order to realize our oneness with the Divine Power or God. It makes sense to me that my salvation should be primarily my own responsibility.

No Religious Tradition

I did not grow up with a religious tradition. My mother was a Baptist, who claimed that at one time she felt she was saved, but then she backslid. I learned some hymns from my mother. But she never connected behavior with religion. My father was forced to attend church when he was young, and he complained that his church clothes were uncomfortable as was sitting on the hard pews.

My father disbelieved in the miracles of Jesus, and he poked fun at people who claimed to have seen Jesus "in the bean rows." My mother would not have doubted that a person might see Jesus, because she saw her father after he had died. My mother characterized my father as agnostic, and she lived like an agnostic, but deep down I think she was a believer after the Baptist faith.

Here’s a little story that demonstrates how ignorant about religion I was as a child: When I was in first or second grade, I had a friend named Caroline. At recess one day at the swings, Caroline wanted to confide something to me, and she wanted me to keep it secret. She said I probably wouldn't believe it, but she still wanted to tell me. I encouraged her to tell me; it seemed exciting to be getting some kind of secret information. So she whispered in my ear, "I am a Quaker."

I had no idea what that was. I thought she was saying she was magic like a fairy or an elf or something. So I said, "Well, do something to prove it." It was Caroline's turn to be confused then. She just looked very solemn. So I asked her to do something else to prove it. I can't remember the rest of this, but the point is that I was so ignorant about religion.

The Void in My Life and My First Trauma

Looking back on my life as a child, teenager, young adult, and adult up to the age of 32, I realize that the lack of a religious tradition left a great void in my life. Although my father was on the fence regarding religion, he would listen to Billy Graham preach on TV. I hated it whenever Billy Graham was preaching on TV. His message scared me. Something like the way I felt when my father's mother would come and visit us, and when my father would let out a "Goddam" or other such swear word, she would say he was going to hell for talking that way. I was afraid for my father. And Billy Graham made me afraid for myself and all of us because we did not attend church.

I never believed that things like swearing and masturbation could send a soul to hell. But then back then I had no concept of "soul" or "hell." I believed it was wrong to kill, steal, and to lie. But I'm not sure how these proscripts were taught to me. I guess by example. It seems that I had no real need for God and spirituality until I was around thirty years old.

My life went fairly smoothly except for two major traumas before age thirty. The first trauma was experiencing a broken heart at age eighteen and then undergoing a failed marriage, after which I thought I would never find a mate to love me. But I did meet a wonderful soulmate when I was 27.

Heretofore I had thought finding the proper marriage partner would solve all my problems, but I learned that my difficulties were very personal and at the level where we are all totally alone, despite any outward relationships.

The Second Trauma

A second trauma that added to my confusion was being fired twice from the same job at ages 22 and 27. At age 27 things started to make no sense. And it started to bother me intensely that things made no sense. I had always been a good student in grade school and high school, and I was fairly good in college, graduating from Miami University with a 3.0 average. That grade point average bothered me, because I thought I was better than that.

But then not being able to keep my teaching job and not being able to find another one after I had lost it very much confused me. It seemed that I had lost touch with the world. School had been my world, and my teachers and professors had expected great things from me. But there I was at age 27 and couldn't get connected to school again.

Feminism and Zen

I began reading feminist literature starting with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, continuing with Ms. Magazine, and many others. The result of taking in the feminist creed led me to believe that I had someone to blame for my failure—men; men had caused the world to be arranged so that women cannot succeed outside the home. I began writing again, an endeavor I have sporadically engaged in most of my life from about age sixteen. I decided to apply for a graduate assistantship in English at Ball State University, feeling that I was ready to get out in the man’s world and show it what a woman could do. I felt confident that I could succeed now that I knew what the problem was. But that didn’t work out either. I finished the year without a master’s degree in English, and then there I was, confused again, and still searching for something that made sense.

I had heard about the Eastern philosophy known as "Zen" at Ball State, and I started reading a lot about that philosophy. Zen helped me realize that men were not the problem, attitude was. I kept on writing, accumulating many poems, some of which I still admire. And I kept reading Zen, especially Alan Watts, but after a while the same ideas just kept reappearing with no real resolution, that is, even though the Zen philosophy did help me understand the world better, it was not really enough. I got the sense that only I could control my life, but just how to control it was still pretty much a mystery.

Autobiography of a Yogi

Then in late 1977 on one of our book shopping trips, I spied a book, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and I recommended it to my husband, because he liked biographies. I purchased poetry books, and we purchased the autobiography for him. He did not get around to reading it right away, but I did, and I was totally amazed at what I read. It all made sense to me; it was such a scholarly book, clear and compelling. There was not one claim made in the entire 500 plus pages that made me scratch me hand and say "what?" or even feel an uncertainty that this writer knew exactly whereof he spoke.

Paramahansa Yogananda was speaking directly to me, at my level, where I was in my life, and he was connecting with my mind in a way that no writer had ever done. For example, the book offers copious notes, references, and scientific evidence that academics will recognize as thorough research. This period of time was before I had written a PhD dissertation, but all of my years of schooling had taught me that making claims and backing them up with explanation, analysis, evidence, and authoritative sources were necessary for competent, persuasive, and legitimate exposition.

Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography contained all that could appeal to an academic and much more because of the topic he was addressing. As the great spiritual leader recounted his own journey to self-realization, he was able to elucidate the meanings of ancient texts whose ideas have remained misunderstood for many decades and even centuries.

The book contained a postcard that invited the reader to send for lessons that teach the techniques for becoming self-realized. I sent for them, studied them, and I have been practicing them since 1978. They do, indeed, hold the answer to every human problem.

I know it is difficult for most educated people to believe that all human problems can be solved, but that’s because they get stuck in the thought that they cannot. If you believe that you can never really know something, then you can’t, because if you believe that you can never really know something, you won’t try to know it.

Yogananda gives a map with directions to reaching God, and realizing that one’s soul is united with God brings about the end of all sorrow and the beginning of all joy. Just knowing the precepts intellectually does not cause this realization, but it goes a long way toward eliminating much suffering. The faith that we can overcome all suffering is a great comfort, even if we are not there yet. I realize that God is knowable, but most important is that I know I am the only one who can connect my soul to God—and that is the spiritual journey I am on.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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