Yesterday the world lost Mary Oliver, a person who taught me how to write and how to live. Rest In Poetry, Mary. We will certain rest in yours.
Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate.
Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind.
And much can never be redeemed.
Still life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ~Gilda Rader
The older I get, the more I’ve learned to love the imperfections of life and of people. The crooked path, the flaws, the messiness. Those things are what I remember. Those are the things that taught me what I needed to learn. Perfect hasn’t given me anything except anxiety and fear. Imperfect has given me possibility, opportunity, empathy, and compassion. Which would you prefer?
What if you
could run hard
to the edge of the cliff,
take to the sky,
Where would you go?
What would you do?
You’d find me
soaring higher, higher, and higher,
just to see how far I could go.
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot lately. I’ve been listening to the anxiety and sadness of my friends, and of the world. I’m struggling a little to find the best ways to help as many people as I can, as well as I can. And sometimes that desire to help, that feeling that I’m just not doing enough to that end, overwhelms me. So a poem like this that reminds me to find comfort in nature, seen and unseen, and always felt, helps me breathe a little easier. Once I have my breath again, I can keep going, doing as much as I can with what I have. And knowing that that is enough.
I haven’t written poetry in a very long time, and as I was walking to work this one popped into my mind. I don’t know where it came from, but I felt empowered as I wrote it down. I hope you feel empowered reading it.
Do not mistake my kindness for weakness,
or my desire to collaborate as an inability to lead.
I have been through the intense pressures of life and emerged bright, shiny, and polished.
Like clay in a kiln.
Like a buried diamond, now free.
Believe me when I say I stare into the fire and smile.
Do not underestimate me.
I was on the subway yesterday. The MTA has a set of poems that they’ve commissioned and post as part of their Poetry in Motion project. This one really struck me and I wanted to share it with you. It speaks straight to my heart. These lines capture exactly how I feel about New York. A sense of community, wonder, and individual empowerment line every inch of my beloved city. And let’s face it, nothing beats a Sunday in New York.
“All we want is a metropolis of Sundays, an empire of hand-holding and park benches. She says, ‘Leave it all up to me.'” ~
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
Inspired by a recent post on the Two Drops of Ink blog, this idea of the play between painting and poetry speaks loudly to me. I paint with paper through collage work. Whenever I’m stuck in my writing world, or just looking for a new medium to use a different part of my brain for a while, I turn to collage work. I’ve never been much of a visual artist, or at least I wasn’t until I started to do collage work. There is something so satisfying about cutting up tiny bits of paper and reconfiguring them as a way of painting a canvas. Art does have a story, and stories do have an art to them. I’m fortunate in my case that I love art as much as I love books, and I’m immensely happy that my book about Emerson Page honors this connection between all art mediums. Ultimately art in any form expresses what we feel and know in our hearts and souls. And by expressing and sharing those feelings, a part of us lives on far beyond our years.
As you fly swiftly underground
with a song in your ears
or lost in the maze of a book,
remember the ones who descended here
into the mire of bedrock
to bore a hole through this granite,
to clear a passage for you
where there was only darkness and stone.
Remember as you come up into the light.
New York City’s subways have a program called Poetry in Motion in which they commission works to post on our subway trains. This one by Billy Collins was posted in my subway yesterday and it was a beautiful reminder that there are so many reasons to be grateful.
I’m so honored to be part of the second Creativity Loop created by my amazing friend, insanely talented poet, and Penn roommate, KaRyn. Her organization, Writers Writing Alone Together, puts together retreats for writers. This is the gorgeous package I received in the mail. Then I used this poem to inspire a work of my own creation that I sent on to the next person on the list. Excited to see what our loop builds together. In these crazy-ass times we’re living through, being able to express our creativity together is what keeps hope alive. I wish each of you a creative, imaginative day. To learn more about KaRyn’s retreats, check out http://bit.ly/wwatwoodsinterest.
“You see, life is a very special kind of thing, not just for a chosen few. But for each and every living breathing thing. Not just me and you…Say a prayer for the wind, and the water, and the wood, and those who live there, too.” ~Alfie as told by John Denver and The Muppets
Over the last few days, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and writing. All my life, words (mine and those of others) have helped me through difficult circumstances. Yesterday, I looked to the potent words of one of my favorite set of philosophers, The Muppets. I usually wait until closer to Christmas time to post this poem, but after the week we’ve had I think we need it now. I certainly do. Though I don’t celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas, I do very much hold to the spirit of the season, and its ideals, hope, and light. (And I of course support my friends who do believe in its religious significance.) The poem below tells the story of Alfie, a tree, who by all accounts is one of the most thoughtful beings and who has a particular penchant for believing in the rights of all living things. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it brings me.
“Alfie: The Christmas Tree”
Did you ever hear the story of the Christmas Tree
who just didn’t want to change the show?
He liked living in the woods and playing with squirrels, he liked icicles and snow.
He liked wolves and eagles and grizzly bears
and critters and creatures that crawled.
Why bugs were some of his very best friends, spiders and ants and all.
Now that’s not to say that he ever looked down on the vision of twinkling lights,
or on mirrored bubbles and peppermint canes and a thousand other delights.
And he often had dreams of tiny reindeer
and a jolly old man and a sleigh full of toys and presents and wonderful things,
and the story of Christmas Day.
Oh, Alfie believed in Christmas all right, he was full of Christmas cheer.
All of each and every day and all throughout the year.
To him it was more than a special time much more than a special day,
It was more than a beautiful story. It was a special kind of way.
You see, some folks have never heard a jingle bell ring,
And they’ve never heard of Santa Claus.
They’ve never heard the story of the Son of God. And that made Alfie pause.
Did that mean that they’d never know of peace on earth
or the brotherhood of man?
Or know how to love, or know how to give? If they can’t, no one can.
You see, life is a very special kind of thing, not just for a chosen few.
But for each and every living breathing thing. Not just me and you.
So in your Christmas prayers this year, Alfie asked me if I’d ask you
to say a prayer for the wind, and the water, and the wood,
and those who live there, too.