I have the book of poetry that contains the poem you can read below, but I had forgotten about it until tonight when my friend Patricia (Improv Wisdom) sent me a copy. This is one of the joys of poetry and friends who love poetry. Even if it is a poem I know, love and have memorized, when I receive a copy by email or postal mail my heart gives a little leap of recognition, a bit like the leap of joy that happens when a good friend arrives at the door.
Today we spent the day at a friend's beautiful lakeside cottage, about 45 minutes from Ottawa. The seven hour outing felt like an entire holiday that included a ferry trip across the Ottawa River to Quebec, past fields of Queen Anne's Lace as in the photo, a tiny, twisty, gravel winding road through the woods, and the arrival at a sun-filled and soulful paradise for a few hours of enchantment, refreshment and friendly companionship.
It was a place where the magic of the following poem could have happened.
The Place I Want To Get Back To
by Mary Oliver
is where in the pinewoods in the moments between the darkness
and first light two deer came walking down the hill and when they saw me
they said to each other, okay, this one is okay, let's see who she is and why she is sitting
on the ground like that, so quiet, as if asleep, or in a dream, but, anyway, harmless;
and so they came on their slender legs and gazed upon me not unlike the way
I go out to the dunes and look and look and look into the faces of the flowers; and then one of them leaned forward
and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life bring to me that could exceed that brief moment? For twenty years
I have gone every day to the same woods, not waiting, exactly, just lingering. Such gifts, bestowed, can't be repeated.
If you want to talk about this come to visit. I live in the house near the corner, which I have named Gratitude.
"The Place I Want To Get Back To" by Mary Oliver, from Thirst
It is time to put cancer in its place, so I have made a slight change to my blog title and simply call it - Joyful Wrecks: Reflections On Living... We all shoulder heavy burdens from time to time and although we can feel "ship-wrecked" we can and do still experience so many joyful moments, even in rough waters.(and especially when the storm blows over :-) And yet in the midst of suffering and uncertainty, there is always something that emerges: a person, an encouraging word, a life-raft, an unexpected gift, a glance, another chance. Life begs to continue and we appear designed to keep on reviving and even thriving. And sometimes we don't. That is also true.
Cancer changes you forever but so does marriage, childbirth, divorce, death and betrayal (those who have betrayed us and even worse, those whom we have betrayed ) - so many things. In a moment, everything can change and then it can change again. We are frequently caught by surprise.
These past 18 months have truly contained the "full catastrophe" of sickness, death, fear, joy and uncertainty. And it has been full of the "everyday" miracles. The fact that I/we wake up at all is one example. The luscious berries and fruit that I could not eat this time last year but can relish once again, is another. The ripe peaches and blueberries galore have never tasted so good. And yet I fear I may go back to slumbering and take all this "goodness" for granted.
First steps: After the slight change of name, I also changed my photo. Every time I opened my blog and saw that picture, I was taken aback at how I looked last year in January. Curiously, I thought, "that's not me anymore." And yet, no other photo seemed like me either. But today I chose the closest representation I have.
Second steps: I will continue my blog in a slightly different direction. It will still be a place to gather poetry, quotations, reflections that I want to capture for my dear ones - an on-line commonplace book. One that Emmerson (or maybe it was Whitman) wouldn't have approved of but one that I enjoy nonetheless. It will continue to be what captures my eye and heart and nourishes my spirit in the beautiful and sometimes brutal everyday. Perspective.
Going forward I thank-you - dear, faithful readers. I have been nourished and encouraged by you. You shone the light through the cracks. May we joyful wrecks, all, continue to help each other, wherever we are and whatever our circumstances.
Today was one of those perfect days where the external weather was just as brilliant as the internal weather. I left work early and was propelled to the cycle shop to look at bikes. I have an irresistible impulse that is gathering strength everyday that I need a bike for my birthday.
I looked last week-end but I didn't like what I thought I wanted - one of the new "cruisers" or "town" bikes. I sat on a couple and they seemed unwieldy for me. Of course I haven't rode (is that the right word??) a bike in over ten years, but I live where I can safely ride a bike to work, to visit my little family, cruise for miles along the river and I have a growing desire to do just that. So today, I left work and went straight to another cycle shop and I may have found exactly the right bike, thanks to Bryce, the young man helping me out.
I was reminded, in this process, of my last day of school when I was ten years old, and all I wanted was a bike. My parents were of the mind that with the final day of school came a gift and I was expecting a blue CCM bicycle. I have a photo of me with severe disappointment written all over my face while my sister is grinning from ear to ear, as we pose holding our new giant panda bears. I could hardly bear it. I suspect that my parents were holding out for my birthday, three months later, but my disappointment was so palpable I think my father gave in before summer was over.
And now I am experiencing a similar longing. I want to get back on a bike and discover Calgary along the bike paths. So heaven only knows what I might do this week-end.
Every now and then maybe we need to "just do it." The bike, the trip, the dream...whatever it is. For a country known for 'instant gratification "we are also a people who postpone, or put off until it's too late. And I don't want to do that either. One thing for sure, if I go for it, you will see the evidence here.
I was just speaking with my friends Sheila and Jim and they had assumed from my last post that I was already riding my new bike. Wrong. I was just wanting a bike last week. Today, however, is a different story. I bought my bike late this afternoon. My friend Nancy Wright helped me to make my final selection. Nancy is the amazing rider who rode to Philadelphia in August 2008, on my behalf and to help raise funds for Wellspring.
As soon as I can get a photo taken, you will see me and my bike. It will probably be Wednesday or Thursday. I plan to ride (hmm-I need a name for my new transport) to work for the first time on Wednesday.
Maybe I will start paying more attention to my wishes. You never know what will happen next. As the ancient Roman poet Ovid, reminds us, "Let your hook always be cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be fish."