January 17th marked two years since Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver's death. There are days that stick with you, when a moment of note happens that is not your personal tragedy but takes your breath for a moment and then glues its memory it your insides. "Where were you when...?" Perhaps a poet's death doesn't feel like a moment of historical import to all in such a way, but I so distinctly remember standing in the library where I then worked and thinking, "I'll never read another new Mary Oliver poem again."
On a happier note, Oliver has left hundreds upon hundreds of poems for us to relish. The well-loved poet published numerous books, won numerous awards, and continues to affect numerous lives with her urge to find solace, beauty, and restoration in nature (with plenty of love for dogs thrown in). While her oft-shared "Wild Geese" feels like a perfect offering of hope during these difficult times, today I wanted to bring to you one of her poems that combines her love of nature with a little bit of her characteristic humor and sass. And lest we forget, we may have blueberries on our market shelves in winter, but we also need the fields. Oliver is always there for us with gentle nudges, lyrical reminders.
I’m living in a warm place now, where you can purchase fresh blueberries all year long. Labor free. From various countries in South America. They’re as sweet as any, and compared with the berries I used to pick in the fields outside Provincetown, they’re enormous. But berries are berries. They don’t speak any language I can’t understand. Neither do I find ticks or small spiders crawling among them. So, generally speaking, I’m very satisfied.
There are limits, however. What they don’t have is the field. The field they belonged to and through the years I began to feel I belonged to. Well, there’s life, and then there’s later. Maybe it’s myself that I miss. The field, and the sparrow singing at the edge of the woods. And the doe that one morning came upon me unaware, all tense and gorgeous. She stamped her hoof as you would to any intruder. Then gave me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you stay in your patch, I’ll stay in mine. Which is what we did. Try packing that up, South America.
- Mary Oliver
From Blue Horses