So many poets and novelists have led me to where I am at today. Especially those who remember nature and write words that you wish you could write. They write words that you can grab and wrap around you. They write words that bring you into the love of forests, rivers, mountains, lakes, oceans, deserts, and all else. They write words that you can fold in to and laugh about and cry about. They write words that make you consider and reconsider your life, over and over.
My favorite poem by Mary Oliver is “The Journey,” and I doubt I can copy all of it here due to copyright, but it was me as a young adult, heading out into the world on my own for the first time. It was the first time I drove further than the tri-state highway snaking from Chicago to Louisville. In three days I made it to the west coast of California from Indianapolis. From Peaceful Rivers site, a portion of this poem:
But little by little
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
I remember particularly on that day in May, the first day that came past winter and showed green and sunshine, where everything was beautiful and I felt free. In those three days, I passed the plains of the midwest, the Ozarks, the red hills of Arkansas, the old lost roads of Texas, the snowy mountains of New Mexico, and descent into the deserts beyond where for miles clouds shadowed the bare hills and rocks–and finally to the fresh breath of the coast and all its millions of passengers. I suddenly was there and hiked among mountain lions and coyote families, made it a point to always go to the beach and never take that ocean for granted, climbed mountains and marveled at canyons, felt ash fall from the sky with increasing wildfires, watched stars at night by myself, played jazz loudly in my airy apartment, and even learned to surf.
Thank you to Mary (who passed away two days ago) for guiding my journeys like this one!
The featured photo is by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
“Swans” is my favorite (Can there be a favorite Mary Oliver poem?), because it captures that perfect moment of clarity when all is perfectly aligned within me – spiritually, emotionally, intellectually – and I am one with nature.