That my father and Mary Oliver died within days of each other is coincidence. I doubt my father knew who Mary Oliver was, though he often surprised me. I do not know how to write about my father yet, as it has only been a week since he died a thousand miles away from me and I am still likely in shock. But still, I had to come here, into the frigid Midwest, to ferry Jonah to his father as not to risk another court summons, another pointless fight. But Mary Oliver is always who I think of when I return to the eastern woods, when I slip almost sideways into my old life in the beech-maple forests of the Great Lakes. When both lives--the old one here where I learned to pay attention, started learning the names of things, started learning how to unlearn my own named self and look the wild one--if not in the eye, at least a sideways glance. A flash of matted fur, white teeth, wild blackberries and marram grass and white throated sparrows, milkweed and wild garlic, a woman's body soft and round and small.
To hold these two traumas in one palm: my father's death, being drawn back to my ex's fury and anger, felt like too much this week. I am afraid, actually, to feel any of it, because at the moment, I must just get through it. Sometimes I'm afraid I don't know how to feel anything, that I am only half alive, that I am not paying attention. To feel is to be vulnerable and I am afraid. Mary Oliver's poems are embodied, they look closely at the world and it's impossible beauty. I want to do this, but I am afraid of feeling, afraid I will fall apart.
I know. We will die either way. Refusing to feel will not hold back the wildness in any of us, and part of that wildness is death. We are bodies, animals.
Last night, I stepped into the frigid dark and watched the moon go red. The neighbor stepped out too, Lake Macatawa behind us grinding and chucking its ice against the pier. Today I walked and slept on the couch and read and cried and walked again and poured a glass of red wine and am here, in front of the gas fire.
Pay attention. Be here, wild.
I'll take my boy home tomorrow, for a long stretch of weeks of not traveling.
|10,000 feet or so over Michigan|
|Lake Michigan, my heart|
|This little shack is in the dune shadow beneath the DeVos home. May a witch live there and may she lay a curse upon the house of DeVos|
|The view from my living room.|