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
subtle variations
of pinks and lavenders,

their blossoms like the upturned skirts
of ballerinas on a heavenly stage,
fluttering gently
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.

15 thoughts on “When You Look Up

  1. Ginny

    Ann, Such lovely thoughts. Precious has many lessons for us. Thanks for the reminder to pay attention. Animals are such sweet companions. Ginny

  2. Leena Chakrabarti

    Dear Ann,

    Such beautiful poetry! Yes, the text is also a poetic canvas to me! The blue skies are also my favorite and it makes me hopeful whenever I look up…


    1. Ann Carter

      Leena, you are a person who continues to see the positive in everything and everyone! And someone who of course appreciates the sky!

  3. Marsha D.

    Hi Ann, I loved your comments about flowers. Their blossoming comes in their own time, no matter how much we want the blooms appear–perhaps to put on a cheerful show at a family gathering, or become a sign of hope and warmth coming.

    When winter hits in Australia, I’ll remind myself to wait for spring.

  4. Marsha D.

    Hi Ann,
    When You Look Up–what an enjoyable and thoughtful read. I imagined your father doing the planting and maintenance to create his garden, but always aware there may be as many successes as failures. Thanks for posting.

  5. Ann Jamason

    Thanks, Ann, for sharing. We just returned from KS and my grandson’s graduation. Everything
    was so green and the air felt lovely. We got caught in the spell and just may move back there
    sometime in the future. I closed my studio and your beautiful prints are now in a place I see
    them all the time. Hope you are well and let’s keep in touch. Ann J.

  6. Terry

    I agree with Leena. Beautiful poetry. And i appreciate the reminder to “look up”. The sky has been so interesting lately.
    Thanks for always encouraging us to see the beauty.

    1. Ann Carter

      Terry, you capture in your poems and photographs the every day things that hold beauty and magic.

  7. Madonna

    I love Precious Ramotswe. She is so wise. Too bad she’s a fictional character. Once, I dreamed of putting a bumper sticker on my car that said “Precious Ramotswe for President”.
    I think I would have also liked your Dad. You’ve got to like a man who appreciates the simple beauty of an aster.
    Nice thoughts. Lovely poem.
    Thanks, Friend.❤️

  8. Lisa


    So lovely to read your words again. I do try to remember to look up, look around and notice what’s there. I also love Alexander McCall Smith books about Precious and the others.

    Love Lisa

  9. Mai-Lon Gittelsohn

    Hi Ann, I loved the series about Precious too. Thank you for the reminder to keep looking up! I will…


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