I was only beginning to know the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver and settle in with her poetry, poems my friends have cherished for decades were becoming my new favorites, ones I snatched snippets from and quoted to others in ways of encouragement or words to inspire. She had written 30 volumes, and I was slowly turning the pages of the 3 gifted books which arrived this fall. Word was spread quickly on Facebook about her passing this last weekend, tributes were coming in between the tributes of local elders who would be buried at the same time in different places on the same day. There were lots of thoughts of loss, of people, but also the ages they had lived through, what they had all endured, the songs they knew together in their youth, the changes the world has made around the places they began and how each had seen their lives to the end.
So I waited all of 4 days to call my friend who had gifted the poetry books to me, to commiserate about the poet's death, thinking he would have had time to deal with the loss, but he had not known, I blurted it out, "she died." No, I did it, looking back even more bluntly, but as you and I have learned through our lives, there is no rewind no delete for words that leap out there and mess with someone's universe. Immediately spoken words can hang out there.
It can happen and you may have been the speaker, but also to hear a new truth, not wanted, not requested, as truth laid out there unattended.
Sorry would not begin to fix this. But look up her poetry and marvel at how easy she approaches the world around her. And somewhere in one of those volumes, this whole unfixable will be happening in nature, in the wind, found in the water. And therefore will be natural and as such forgivable. I am banking on it.
It fit so well with the book June Taylor had lent me months ago, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. The Wendell Berry who wrote much like Mary Oliver, about the nature that surrounds him and how change is coming and the must we have to pick up and carry to protect what is left of it. Jayber Crow is a novel and so far as I can tell his only one.
Reading through it, I was reminded of the world my mother grew up in along the river in Missouri, in the hills nestled with families getting by in the early 1900's hidden from the wider world. They made their lives full by doing what made their lives possible there. Growing and preserving what they grew to get them by through the winters, making enough to take to the store to trade or sell for what they couldn't produce themselves. Her family changed when the whole slew of girls were born, followed finally by the lone son. The girls would scatter as they will going to new families, creating their own. And the son, would stay and make it on the land as long as it permitted. But he too and his mother finally left the land when my grandfather died.
I grew up with the stories of that homeplace and the relations with the neighbors, the hills, the river and that setting was in my mind the whole time reading Jayber Crow who "liked the river best. It is wonderful to have the duty of being on the river the first and last thing every day." My mother always said she pitied a person who didn't have a cold, clear river to enjoy.
We had a fabulous Day of Service at LEAD Agency as we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A morning made full with the energy of the NEO Women's Basketball Team, fully engaged in activities we needed done to get us through the winter and into the spring garden season. We ended with quotes on banners, "I have a Dream" and another inspired by an experience one of the young women told.
That evening another man of service Harris Wofford passed away. You might not know who he was, but you have known his dream. He worked with Dr. King, was an advisor to President Kennedy and made the Peace Corps real. From 1995 to 2001 I coordinated Miami High School's Learn and Serve projects, while he was head of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Our school won a big award and Donna Webster and I went to Washington, D.C. to accept it. Mr. Wofford spoke before us so we met a man who knew the man with a dream as we went on stage. All of us are waking up and living the dream, doing the work that serves our neighbors, enriches our souls and improves this earth.
Our poets and writers have found words to inspire us to service, but Dr. King assured us that, "Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim