Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?” – from Mary Oliver’s poem titled The Summer Day

Mary died last week. It was too soon.

Mary’s poetry spoke to me. And to countless other people. In ways I can’t begin to describe. Such is the way with good poetry. With words arranged in ways that touch the soul.

One poem in particular, which I came upon at a time in my life when the words were most needed, connected. Deeply. The poem was titled The Journey.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
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
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary ended The Summer Day with this question:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

A question each of us answers. Over and over again.

Thank you, Mary, for allowing us to share your wild and precious life.

P.S. After I wrote this post early last Friday morning, I received an email from a dear friend in Pennsylvania that included, among other things, Oliver’s poem Wild Geese. I should have recalled it because it’s one of my favorites. It reads:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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