One of the things I love about reading is that it gives voice to feelings that I struggle to explain succinctly. Lines from poems jump out at me in my daily life.
Mary Oliver’s poems speak to me when I am outside, whether it is “Look the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars of light” or “Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.” Her poem about a turtle captures perfectly the sentiment I feel when animals are following their instincts “She doesn’t consider what she was born to do. She’s only filled with an old blind wish.”
Tuesday I was on a run with Copper, reminding myself that the trees and the prairie and the river and the deer would all be there whatever the outcome of the election. On the way home, I dropped Copper’s leash when a dog was approaching us off-lead to greet him. He sniffed the air and bolted into the woods, very unusual for him. When I caught up with him, he was pulling meat from a deer carcass. I was grossed out and annoyed, as the detour was costing me the time I’d set aside for showering before my Zoom call. As we emerged from the woods, I reminded myself that he was following an old blind wish.
All last week, I managed to get through my days by getting outside in the morning, limiting news and social media, and getting through the tasks that had to be done that day. Once we had eaten dinner, finished household chores, and walked Copper, I’d collapse and take off my shoes and socks to read or watch Dark until bedtime. A four-foot stack of packages sat by the front door unopened. My socks sat where I’d left them from the previous days (a bad habit of mine to begin with). Baskets of laundry sat folded but not put away. The volunteer things that sounded like a good idea a couple weeks ago sat on the table undone. I read emails about setting up college visits for my high schooler and closed them again, thinking “I can’t even.” I read emails about the schedule for parent-teacher conferences six days from now. I closed them and made a note about it. I got text alerts about Ohio’s COVID rate going from 1500 to 3000 to 4000. I thought about an upcoming family event and dismissed the notification. I did not do any strength training all week for the first time since I quit going to the gym at the beginning of March.
A poem I read at the beginning of COVID called “Mary Oliver for Corona Times” put this in context for me.
“Remember, you are allowed to be still as the white birch,
Stunned by what you see,
Uselessly shedding your coils of paper skins
Because it gives you something to do.”
As I looked around at the end of the week at the packages piled up, the socks strewn around, the laundry, the reminder to schedule conferences, I told myself that I am shedding bark, and I am allowed to sit here stunned. Even before the election results when I breathed a deep sigh of relief, we opened the packages. I picked up six pairs of socks. The laundry is put away (some by me, some by others). I scheduled six conferences and did four more loads of laundry. I did my strength training today. But I am reminding myself that I am still allowed to sit idly, shedding bark.