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In Honor of Cannas and Jim Barton

I am numb today, so I am up early and looking for my yard shoes. I’m not outside, because I want to beat the heat. Today it’s all about looking for a way to grieve my loss.

My poet friend died yesterday.

Right now, I’m aware that the people I love best do not mess around. They jump into what’s ahead for them, no matter the difficulty. They do not dilly-dally.

They jump into it like a bright red canna set on climbing straight and tall. Maybe they read everything they can find on a subject or get up early in the morning to make sure they have time and space for their passion. That behavior is believable.

They sacrifice time and sometimes money to do what they want to do.

My friend Jim Barton from Huttig, Arkansas, was that way. By the way, I think I’m writing about him in order to make his death more real for me.

I have to say or do something.

Once Jim discovered his poetic abilities at 47, he started climbing, focusing, creating, and sharing his work and what he knew. Many poets stood in awe of this man with a big smile and no pretense. He just was who he was—my eyes fall on a red canna, working hard and leaving the phlox and salvia behind.

Try telling a canna it cannot climb higher, once it discovers music in the air.

I love those people who have control over themselves and are willing to labor. Willing to labor and push forward and upward with massive patience.

That was Jim when working and when listening to people.

I want to hang out with people who will submerge themselves into the task. It doesn’t matter if it’s grocery shopping, mowing, or writing a poem. What matters is this: they are willing to put their backs into it and be kind and gentle to others while they are working.

Do you know how unnatural that is for the masses?

And yet, for Jim, it did not seem hard to make time for the people around him, to care about them, and still get tasks done.

To do that, I think people must have a rhythm they follow. Someone might even accuse Jim of being predictable or dependable. Yes. Those are the people I want to hang out with. Trustworthy. Predictable. Dependable.

That’s how Jim was. That’s how cannas are.

Not impulsive. Cannas move with a plan. They look tropical but seem native to the element they are in. They are vigorous, strong, upright, bearing long lance-shaped leaves. Generally, the blooms are lily-like in shades of yellow, tangerine, or red. They respond to watering and being with others.

I once heard cannas called “common.” Maybe. I must like what is common. Again, that fits Jim. Some called him JimBob, a nickname you’d give a buddy, a best friend. The very name sings relationship.

If you asked poets who knew Jim Barton, they’d probably say, “He was my friend.” His gift to the world was connecting in an easy way. We all felt friendship-kinship with this inexhaustible flame of a man who kept going through illness until he died.

In his last days, I’m fairly certain he knew much about fatigue and how to push it aside to smile at his wife or one of his seven children. He would do that for anyone in need.

And I have no doubt that he is now alive in God’s bountiful light.

If he taught me anything, it was to carry on and keep doing what I love. And that just untangles everything for me.

I pass that on to my readers and sign this blog, as always,

with blessings,

Pat Durmon

P.S. – Sign up at website, and when you read one of my blogs that touches your heart, you always have my permission to share it with others.

Photo of red cannas in Pat Durmon’s yard, Norfork, Arkansas. Photographed June, 2018.

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