July 6, 2010

Another Summer

Another summer is in full swing. Last weekend was fireworks and lots of 90 degree days and people heading to the beaches.

A friend suggested that I do myself a favor and read Mary Oliver's Evidence.

I know what he likes in her poems - God, creation, the birds and rivers and otters and grass and wolves who are all singing songs of wonder. And she is wondering about those big questions of death, life, love, and purpose.

She gets it. If not the answers, at least the right questions. In her poem "I Want to Write Something So Simply," she says:

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.
June was a month where I attended too many wakes and funerals. I guess I am at an age when a lot of people I know and have worked with are old enough that it's not so shocking to get that news - and yet, it still is a shock.

My mother will be 92 this year and she talks about her last Mother's Day, last visits and such. She wants me to write up the papers for her funeral now, so she knows it's done right.

I'd like her to listen to Oliver's "Another Summer Begins," but I don't think it will console her.

Summer begins again.
How many do I still have?
Not a worthy question,
I imagine.
Hope is one thing,
gratitude another
and sufficient
unto itself.
The white blossoms of the shad
have opened
because it is their time
to open,
the mockingbird
is raving
in the thornbush. How did it come to be
that I am no longer young
and the world
that keeps time
in its own way
has just been born? I don't have the answers
and anyway I have become suspicious
of such questions,
and as for hope,
that tender advisement,
even that I'm going to leave behind.
I'm just going to put on
my jacket, my boots,
I'm just going to go out
to sleep
all this night in some unnamed, flowered corner
of the pasture.

My mother would say that she doesn't want to sleep in any pasture. And I might flip a few pages and say that the poet is just saying to follow that "holiest of laws: be alive until you are not."

How many summers do I still have? Not a worthy question, I imagine.

More Mary Oliver poetry books

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