I spent several years working and exploring in remote corners of Alaska as a young woman. This required transportation in floatplanes and small boats to rocky shores, arctic lakes, meandering rivers
and remote airstrips. The weather played an important part in determining departure and pickup times. It seemed that the pickups were often the most delayed. Maybe that’s because it was the end of a trip when I was tired, cold, and desperately in need of a shower and my own bed.
Mary Oliver, the great poet is now no more in physical form on this earth as of January 17,2019. She leaves a huge void but in her wake is a monument of poetry and prose of her making. I never used to care for poetry. Poetry was presented to me in school like nematodes to be dissected in biology. I ran from them Then years later her poem, “Wild Geese” brought me to my knees. I was converted. Years later I am writing poetry. What power words can have!
Mary Oliver was a sage who connected the dots with spirituality and the natural world. The long walks she often took in the woods near her home provided much of the inspiration for her poetry. Those poems became the vessels of profound observations, questions, and ponderings and blessed the lives of many, including myself. She did far more than just visit this world. It is a better place because of her.
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
New Year’s Eve I brought some poetry to a gathering to share. The hostess, a dear friend said “this group won’t go for that” but I read them anyway after the game we played. One poem was one I wrote myself, a funny one about aging. The other two were by Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, and appropriate for the New Year. I hope they were enjoyed.
Poetry makes one sit and pause as the words are distilled down to the essence of experience. It slows us down and makes us notice and savor the nuances of language. I think it’s sad that pausing is going out of fashion these days. I think that if everyone paused and read some poetry daily, this world would be a saner place.
Until a few months back I was writing poetry if- even one line- before I got out of bed in the morning. Before I went to bed I read some poetry. My days began and ended with a sense of groundedness.
I miss my morning poetry write and my bedtime poetry ritual that I began a couple of years ago. Habits sneak away sometimes but I want this one back. The little pink leather journal embossed with an oak tree is now filled up. Maybe that’s why I stopped writing- but journals are easily purchased. That task is now on the list for next week.
If you are new to poetry, no worries. My poetry habit started a couple years back when I, a non-English major, noticed I was more likely to write in my journal in poetic form. Then I started seeking out poetry that I enjoyed. (It’s a wonderful antidote to the news) If you have trouble pausing, noticing, or pondering, pick up a poetry book by Mary Oliver. She will get you out wandering in nature in the comfort of your own home. Devotions her latest anthology is wonderful. Here is a video clip of her reading…
This curious little book caught my eye when searching for a book on spiritual practice in my local library. It was called “TheWander Society” by Keri Smith. Flipping through this book like a combination of discovering a little cache of buried treasure and opening a door into a world of mystery and intrigue.
The author stumbled upon the existence of The Wander Society quite by accident as she was perusing a used bookstore in her town. She picked up a worn copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass from the shelves. In it were hand notated references “WW will show you the way,” “Solvitur Ambulando,”“TheWanderSociety,” along with other underlinings and strange symbols in the margins.
This is a book about Keri’s subsequent research into the “Wander Society” – which actually exists, taking inspiration from the life of Walt Whitman. Then there is information on how to be a wanderer and her handwritten written underneath the type in how her practice of wandering was changing her life. Anyone can be a member- however, but there are certain requirements…….
I’m not going to spoil the fun. Go out and read the book.
I must say, this little volume sort of upended how I’ve been thinking about my life. Of course, I’ve been in one of those places where I was on the verge of being upended, like the big earthquake we have been expecting in Oregon. This was a catalyst. I have always been a doer. That’s what our culture demands of us- achievement! productivity! Branding! But maybe there is another way to look at things that is…..
At the dawn of 2019, I am going to strive to be more of being than a doer, a wanderer more than a seeker.
Wish me luck
Hope you will join me
Happy New Year to all of you. Here is a poem from my favorite poet, Mary Oliver to close out the year…..