Lessons by Constance Hanstedt

by Constance Hanstedt

I’m pinching tomato plants and basil, 
pruning the purple morning glory  
as hummingbirds dip and dive on currents
of memory. I smell the damp earth 
and recall my father’s muddied hands 
digging in his garden. Never crowd seeds
together, he said. Give them room to grow.
It was his confidence I loved then, 
his hearty laugh, his cotton rolled-up sleeves
swiping sweat from his brows. Now,  
as I fill a watering can, I see him sprinkling
his neat rows while eyeing the raspberries
that separated our yard from the next.
All summer I picked crimson clusters
before supper, when humid air retreated
and my skin felt the first cool rush of evening.
Sparrows settled in the maple, and the earth
grew quiet. As my father lounged in our
screened-in porch with his pipe and a book
on his lap, I understood the importance
of a job well done. Shoulders lightened.
Breaths deepened. Muscles softened like
silky threads of moonlight. Fifty years later
and I still remember his voice, coaxing
tomatoes and carrots to rise, praising
soft rains, their tender ballads of hope. 

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Constance Hanstedt was raised in the Midwest and currently resides in Livermore, California. She was employed as a high school English teacher and proofreader/editor before becoming the co-owner and CFO of a general contracting firm for 30 years. She is the author of the memoir Don’t Leave Yet, How My Mother’s Alzheimer’s Opened My Heart (She Writes Press, 2015), which was named a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in 2011 and a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards in 2015. While she continues to write memoir and essays, poetry is her first love. Her poems explore the integral aspects of family, history, loss, redemption, and compassion. They have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Calyx, The Comstock Review, Rattle, Naugatuck River Review, The Porter Gulch Review, and California Writers Club Literary Review. Her poetry chapbook, Treading Water, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2022.

Constance has been on the Executive Board of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch since 2015. She is most proud of forming and leading the Poetry Critique Group, which meets twice a month and offers support, encouragement, and validation.

To learn more about Constance, visit her website at www.constancehanstedt.com.

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