Saturday, June 23, 2018

First Day of Summer, 2018

This morning I read lots of Mary Oliver poems, and I was struck again by just how utterly united with nature she is, how her poems reveal her absolute devotion to the natural world. “I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t admire,” she writes in “Hum.” “If there is, I don’t know what it is. I haven’t met it yet. Or expect to. “

 I carried lots of Mary Oliver with me today, making a promise to myself to spend more time watching the raindrops gather on the bee balm and less time liking posts on Facebook.

This afternoon, during my usual visit to my parents, my mother told me this week’s stories, ones I have heard several times lately. About picking the green beans, about how her shoe fell apart, about how she did a load of laundry, and back to the green beans. At 91, her stories loop, and I nod and smile each time I hear them.

And then my mother started talking about the rain. “I didn’t get a good nap today,” she said. “I heard the rain and had to get up and listen to it.”

 Something in my heart wrenched and sang with joy at the same time. My mother heard the call of rain, after two weeks without, and rose to greet it. Oh, my mother, my poet, my kindred soul, who taught me the names of flowers and put jelly jars of the sweetest smelling Lily of the Valley by my bed at night.

 “I loved the solitude,” she continued. “I sat on the bench and listened to the rain. I watched the little cardinal flicking raindrops off his wings.” She flapped her elbows a little and gave herself a little shake. “Then the little finch came to the feeder and took a little nibble, flipped his wings and flew up to the big tree.”

 Here is my mother, the embodiment of a stanza from one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, “Sometimes”:

            Instructions for living a life.
            Pay attention.
            Be astonished.
            Tell about it.”

To listen to the rain fall, to watch the cardinal flicker, to follow the finch’s flight, to breathe in wet earth, to abandon sleep to soak it all in: that is how to live a life.

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