To live in this world


A year ago today, I shared a long, personal reflection on the first anniversary of my mother’s death. After I posted it, a friend suggested I reread it from time to time, and especially on this anniversary day. I did, and will continue to do so, not as a measure of any kind of “progress” but as a remembrance. Another year has passed and still – again – things are different. Words like “easier” or “harder” have no place in grieving, at least for me. There is just different, other.

This year I don’t have anything profound or even anything particularly personal to say for myself, so I’m relying on someone else. One thing that has brought me comfort during these past 2 years has been reading poetry again, where I find expressions of the same solace, anger, resignation, peace, or confusion I feel, but cannot give voice to.

So I offer this up to you, and to the memory of my mom, and all the love and light she brought into the world.

“In Blackwater Woods”, by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes
to let it go,
to let it go.


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