When You Look Up
Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, read somewhere that looking up can reduce one’s stress and she certainly agrees that this is true.
Precious, a “traditionally built” Botswanan woman, also knows that red bush tea can relief stress. She drinks a cup while walking around her bean plants in the morning, throughout the day at regular times and certainly when clients appear (the more the better, both tea and clients), and in the evening while sitting on her verandah on Zebra Drive. She has also been known to say this tea helps with digestion and even makes the skin clearer, though she has to be careful not to offend anyone about the clearer skin.
Precious has found that looking up can do more than relieve stress. It can remind you of important lessons. For this extra benefit, she takes the time to remember someone she loves who is no longer on this earth.
Because I find her wise, I have been trying this practice of looking up on my daily dog walks. I need to make sure not to trip over the mole mounds and stumps on the path through the small woods and meadow that we follow. My daughter Helen often tells me she worries that I’ll fall on these walks, and it’s true that I am being pulled by an 80 pound dog and constantly looking behind to see where the aging arthritic dog is. But I always carry my cell phone, for the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” scenario. Also, like Precious likely does, I sometimes come to a complete stop and appreciate that big dog Finn tries to be patient. This stopping helps to focus and appreciate.
As Precious looks at the vast African sky, she thinks about her father Obed Ramotswe, late these many years. She sees him with his beloved cattle, grazing on the sparse grass of the Kalahari, patiently waiting for rain. And she remembers all he taught her about the ways of traditional Botswanan people, the willingness to take time to listen, to help whenever possible, to be kind, to treat the cattle well.
When I look up at the vast prairie sky, I too can picture my own father, late these many years. I see him with his beloved asters, grown in a small backyard in Kansas. He knew if he kept watering them during the intense heat and infrequent rains of August, they would bloom. Like Obed, he liked to listen, to help and be kind. And he understood the beauty of things often overlooked, like the less than showy flowers.
My Father Loved Asters Best
He grew them from seed
ordered from a Burpee’s catalog
in early spring.
Late summer was when they bloomed
and as a child I anticipated with him
then felt disappointment at their smallness,
the faintness of their colors.
Hoping to prove the wisdom of
a father gone from earth
many years now,
I ordered aster seeds
from a Pinetree catalog
in not so early spring.
It seemed they’d never bloom
and I grew tired of waiting,
as we among the living do.
But then I saw some buds,
and just this week the blooming has begun,
in front of bachelor buttons
long past their prime,
behind browning yellow annuals
I bought but never learned the names of.
At this moment I love asters best,
their delicate petals
of pinks and lavenders,
their blossoms like the upturned skirts
of ballerinas on a heavenly stage,
as though from the faint breath of those
still bound to earth.
(August 28, 2007)
Go outside, stand still, and look at the sky above you. Remember someone long gone, someone you love. Think about what they loved. Think about what they taught you. Precious Ramotswe is indeed a very wise woman.
Note: Read more about Precious Ramotswe in the Alexander McCall Smith series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”, available at many public libraries.