The week was not an easy one for me. In an email to a friend, I said that “my head is spinning a bit and my heart is aching some, to tell you the truth.” Nothing radical happened. Nothing devastating. Rather, it was multiple things on multiple fronts- things that raise questions upon questions, things that are muddy, messy, and challenging. Much of it was atmospheric, not having to do directly with me, yet impacting nonetheless. As I wrote one evening, “I may not be the ultimate target of the mud, but that doesn’t mean the one holding it has good aim.”
Regardless, routine happens. and each day, when I woke in the morning, I put a different companion in my school satchel. That bag is intentionally small enough to only carry one book, a notebook or two, some pens, and the bits and trifles one needs for life in the City. I love that grab, sling, and go feeling of it… a feeling of freedom, actually.
But as to the companions– I went to the library last weekend and found a literary bonanza. Everything I was looking for was in. Consequently, I have a lovely stack of volumes by my bed. Over the week, I have lightly wondered whether these books, Like Marcela’s dolls in the Raggedy Ann stories of my early childhood, move around at night, shuffle their order, and decide among themselves which one should be on top for a given day.
Mary Oliver was in for two different days– two different collections of essays/poems that are achingly, equisitely observant, interior, ruminating, celebratory, and grounded in the warm, wet, embrace of earth.
Wordworth came with me one morning, too. His “Tintern Abbey” is like walking into a painting. I find it a portal to solitude and interior realignment. On the bus, I can be walking amidst such passionate beauty, listening to the rhythms of language that he synched with his own foot stride in a radical break from the fixed measure of much of the other poetry of his time.
And then there’s Whitman. I’d not read Leaves of Grass until a few years ago. I gave it to myself as a sort of assignment to read over the summer. It is such an important poem in the history of world literature that I thought I needed to know it. And oh, how I fell for it. The exuberance, the celebration, the freedom, the passion, the casting of a wide net and proclaiming all of it good, the celebration and acknowledgement of the whole self, the sweeping vistas…
So, here’s to good companions. Be they present live in person or live on the page.
Who ever you are, now I place my hand upon you that you may be my poem. –Walt Whitman
Anoint me with life-
the honeyed distillation
of all I give and receive!
Let it drench and seep
into the veins of the Earth
to be mined again
by other poets,
who accept your
to breathe the natural verse
of ebb and eternity.