My dad grew up in Waterloo, Iowa. Some of my loveliest summer memories come from the annual pilgrimage my family made to visit my grandparents, Jesse and Jennie Palmer, née Parker — which, in case you were wondering, is how I got my name!
Fifty miles northeast of Waterloo, there’s a beautiful hilltop cemetery overlooking a “sweet especial rural scene,” to steal a phrase from Gerard Manley Hopkins. For seven decades, I’ve loved visiting this peaceful place — full of old trees, old headstones, and old stories — where some of my ancestors are buried.
The rolling Iowa countryside, with its gentle risings and fallings, is alive with feeling for me. Several generations of people I loved — people who gave me life — lived and died on this land.
Several years ago, those feelings came together in a poem about life, death and the intimate connection between earth’s body and our own.
by Parker J. Palmer
We and this green and supple land
Created by caress
From darkness drawn by Lover’s hand
In chaos stroked with tenderness
Evoked from naught the sensual line
And loving bodied forth
These human-torsoed turns of earth
That lie here naked, unashamed
Echoing the earthy shapes
Of our own sculpted frame
This downy, downing nape of neck
This jointed shoulder, rising breast
This languid belly of a hill
This darkling, moist and fertile dell
This lank and sloping plain of thigh
And wind through grass a lover’s sigh
The grass that greens and overgrows
Earth’s body and ours in repose
We die caressed by Lover’s hand
We rise again in lines of promised land