Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Mixed Bag Of November

Autumn at Great Falls, Maryland

One day, I walk the neighborhood, looking up at the beautifully rich palette of the leaves of fall. The next, I am looking down at a soggy mess or a row of ugly, black plastic bags. This has been the theme of my November---a mixed bag of sadness and joy.  It was painted initially in somber colors by the death of a dear friend. I was stopped by a loss that seemed impossible to put into words. Grief is so difficult to express verbally in our culture. Oh, to be in Ireland now that gloom is here.

The somber hues continued when the tree that creates a pink haze outside my window every spring was cut down, rotten to it its core. The days darkened early and cold days chilled.

But then there would appear an astoundingly beautiful autumn day---warm and colorful.  And soon we are about to gather and give thanks for the harvest of the good times, the abundance of our lives, the lasting ties of family and friends. We will laugh and cry, pet our animals, breathe in the fresh air and imagine a better world. It seems to me that joy is often undercoated with a darker color…but “the world goes on and the geese head home.”

Here is the poem by Mary Oliver called “Wild Geese”
You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


  1. Hello, Claire, (this is Grace B., Kathy's friend)what a beautiful post. As you know, I ma also balancing profound grief with love of life. I just posted this Mary Oliver poem I received from a friend last week. I hadn't known of her! How could this be??

    Mysteries, Yes

    Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
    to be understood.

    ... How grass can be nourishing in the
    mouths of lambs...
    How two hands touch and the bonds will
    never be broken.
    How people come, from delight or the
    scars of damage,
    to the comfort of a poem.
    Let me keep my distance, always, from those
    who think they have the answers.

    Let me keep company always with those who say
    "Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
    and bow their heads.

    Mary Oliver

  2. Thanks Grace---Mary Oliver does speak to loss and grief as well as anyone I've read. Thanks for responding and posting this---my thoughts are with you through the holidays...which can be difficult for many, albeit in different ways.
    Ah the comfort of a poem---great line.
    Here's to the mysteries.

  3. Love to you dear sad you lost a friend earlier this month.

    Lovely posting...Mary Oliver does speak to me as well.


  4. Thank you Cynthia...the sharing of your empathy and friendship diminishes my grief and doubles my joy.
    See you soon.