On Being A Carrot in God’s Garden

My older brother Rolfe is a poet among other things. He’s also a dancer, traveler, husband, seeker, dad, grandpa, purchasing manager, and a self-described “old hippie.”

Many years ago he invited me to a poetry slam at a pub in downtown Minneapolis. I hadn’t been to a slam before. The theme that night was “harvest,” so I dug through my index of poems in search of something appropriate. Finding nothing, I sat down and dashed off a poem about a certain kind of harvest we will all face – dying.

On Being A Carrot in God’s Garden

You can be sure the hand will pull you from the ground.
You can be sure.
No matter how longingly the earth presses against you.
No matter how sweet the mineral sips at the tips of your roots.
No matter how comfortable your somnolent, unchanging days,
When you are ripe, you will be taken.

In this slumbering time,
in this tiny, dark cradle,
you cannot imagine sky
or the clouds that splatter the surface above,
or the green lace of your own intricate leaves.

When the hand comes,
may your flesh be sweet in surrender.
When the soil falls away from your snapping roots,
may you slide easy into the light.
When you lie naked in the basket,
may the hand rub the last soil from your skin
and carry you — singing and fresh —
straight to the mouth of God.

© Barbara McAfee

As I sat in that darkened pub, nursing a Guinness, I was astonished to hear the genius, ferocity, and virtuosity of the hip-hop poets at the microphone. I realized that what I’d brought was completely wrong for the setting and set it aside for another, more rhythmic piece I knew by heart.

That poem I scribbled so quickly – and then rejected – has become the one that has traveled far into the world. I read it at the funeral of my 26-year-old friend Joel – and finished the poem by taking a bite out of a carrot from his parents’ garden. Several chaplains have used it at other memorials. It gets around, this little carrot poem.

Now plans are afoot to create a book out of it in collaboration with my brilliant nature photographer friend, Julie Marion Brown. You can see her lovely work at her Tumblr site — http://julesofnature.tumblr.com.  A mutual friend, Lucy Mathews Heegaard, also made a short video about her work – https://studio-lu.net/2015/09/25/jules-of-nature.

I wonder where the poem will go next? If you find a way to make use of it in your life, please tell me the story.

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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12 Responses to On Being A Carrot in God’s Garden

  1. Michelle Farinella says:

    My mother just died on May 15th. I have thought a lot about dying and the process surrounding it since. The poetry of dying is more satisfying to me than the facts. I’m glad there is a healthy selection of it around. This carrot poem is a good calming one. Thank you.

  2. Bruce OBrien says:

    Maybe I’m thinking of your Kindness song, I’m not sure, but I have purposefully tried to be kind lately. I thanked a checker-outer at the grocery store yesterday for her kindness, and to a mother at the coffeeshop being kind to her two little boys, I told she was a good mother. On the phone today with a clinic receptionist, I told her I appreciated her empathy towards me. It makes me feel good to connect with others in the world, spreading a little love around, is what will help this sorry place we call home. Anyway, Barbara, this is very kind writing. Bruce

    On Thu, May 26, 2016 at 9:20 AM, Full Voice — Barbara McAfee wrote:

    > Barbara McAfee posted: “My older brother Rolfe is a poet among other > things. He’s also a dancer, traveler, husband, seeker, dad, grandpa, > purchasing manager, and a self-described “old hippie.” Many years ago he > invited me to a poetry slam at a pub in downtown Minneapolis. I h” >

    • That makes me so, so happy to hear, Bruce! The kindness no doubt helps other people, but I find that it changes me as well. I look forward to making the Kindness video in a few weeks so the song (and kindness!) can spread more widely….

  3. Mary Morrow says:

    Oh my, that is the loveliest; being a gardener and yogini, and listening companion, always looking to the ways to live to the fullest and best of my given “vegetable type” while remembering that one day I’ll be harvested. Mmmmmm, makes my heart tingle.

    That, and I’ve just come from a lunch for volunteers of Hospice of North Idaho (I sing in a group and give spiritual companioning to the dying there), so I’d love to pass this along to the volunteers. I will forward it so your email stays in tack with reference to you. Is that ok by you?

    Also, I opened this as I’m preparing for afternoon yoga today where I’ll feature supported svasana – corpse pose. It may read well with that theme!

    Thank you Barbara, for being in my life (though physically removed now) and continuing to touch me.



    • Hello Mary! So good to get a glimpse into your new life. What good things you are up to. You have my blessings, permission, YES to share this any way you see fit. I do like when my website and/or email is connected so people can find me if they want. Namaste to you as well….

  4. sabinawalla@aol.com says:

    Thank-you Barbara for this beautiful gem. Iris Demitt’s (sp) song about lil ‘carrots and sweet-peas in the garden of life is always worth a listen. I think it’s called ‘Let the Mystery Be’, but I’m not sure. It’s a joy to sing. Good luck with the book!!!

    Big Hug, Sabina

  5. Ruthie says:

    Barbara, I’m here in D.C. with my sisters listening to the birds sing on a tender morning, just two days after burying my oldest sister’s husband. Steph, who you know, sent me this poem just now and twice I read it to them. Thank you for helping describe the indescribable with such Light.
    I so look forward to being surrounded by song in less than two weeks, see you then.
    Life is Beautiful!

    • Oh, Ruthie! Thank you for taking the time to write to me in the midst of your brother-in-law’s passing. I am happy to offer some “food” for your journey as you provide so much nourishment for us. I look forward to seeing you very, very soon. Travel well until then….

  6. I smiled as soon as I saw what poem this was. Thanks, darlin’ for remembering.

  7. Forgot to say how happy I am that a book is in the works – her photos are amazing.

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