Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Þe Olde Poetry Club

Last year a friend of mine was displaced from her home due to the pandemic. She had been living in China, where both she and her husband were teaching English, but they had gone on vacation over the Chinese New Year (I believe they were enjoying Portugal) when China shut down. At first they hung out, having an "extended vacation" of sorts, but soon it became clear that this was not something that they'd be able to "wait out" on vacation. Since China was closed to them, they decided to fly to the States while they could. 

So on a whim, with nothing but the belongings they'd packed for a week-long vacation, they (and their two children) moved in with her parents in Florida. And then they just...stuck around...not knowing what they were going to do or supposed to do or what.

She felt hopeless and lonely and a little bit shattered. 

So she hopped online and asked if any of her friends wanted to be in a poetry club. Specifically she just wanted to share Mary Oliver poems, bask in their beauty, and discuss. 

I had never heard of Mary Oliver (oops?) but I like my friend and was feeling like I could use a community as well, so I said that I was in...depending on the schedule was feeling topsy-turvy for us, too! We were still settling in here in Georgia, figuring out homeschooling, and...I was starting a master's degree.

My friend assured me that it would be 100% asynchronous. We'd just post things on a forum and respond to each other and get to know each other and enjoy some beautiful words. Her friends were just as scattered around the world as mine were, anyway, so planning any sort of virtual meet-up would likely be impossible. 

Sounded good to me.
So I joined this group of women and we started messaging about Mary Oliver. My friend would just post a poem every week or so and we'd share our insights and chat back and forth was perfect while it lasted.

By now my friend is settled into her new life and is busy with other things so the group lost its steam...and that's okay. I think it served its purpose when we all needed it, when pandemic protocols felt new and scary and so very isolating. We found a lot of beauty together and leaned on each other and lifted each other when we needed it most. 

And I found a new friend in Mary Oliver. 

Oh, I don't love everything she's written (and that's okay; I don't think she expected that), but I do love many of the poems she's written and, in a way, Mary Oliver has become a friend to me through this pandemic. 

I was missing our little poetry club the other day, so I ordered one of Mary Oliver's books for a that I could find some new treasures. It arrived today and after I read bedtime stories to the kids and had sent them upstairs to wrestle lie down, I lingered on the couch and flipped through it a bit, enjoying a few minutes of solitude. 

The spread I settled on had two poems: This Morning and The World I Live In.

This Morning

This morning the redbirds’ eggs
have hatched and already the chicks
are chirping for food. They don’t
know where it’s coming from, they
just keep shouting, “More! More!”
As to anything else, they haven’t
had a single thought. Their eyes
haven’t yet opened, they know nothing
about the sky that’s waiting. Or
the thousands, the millions of trees.
They don’t even know they have wings.

And just like that, like a simple
neighborhood event, a miracle is
taking place.

I thought of Ruth, who my brother said has joked about feeling like nothing more than a cow, a feeling I'm rather familiar with, myself (and with which I'm about to get reacquainted). And I thought of their baby, who is so fresh and unaware of the world around her (not even sure what to do with her arms, perhaps unaware that she has arms). And I thought of Rosie's sweet little Ireland, who is helping her parents see the world with new eyes because everything is exciting. And I thought of the miracles unfolding all around me in my own neighbourhood, in my own house, in my own womb, and about all the things in this world that are waiting to be discovered: all the thoughts, all the trees, every last sunset.

And that's one reason I'm so glad my friend invited me to her poetry group.

The World I Live In

I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
what’s wrong with

You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen. I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever, possibly, see one.

And I thought that choosing to believe something, even when it requires a suspension of disbelief, isn't such a terrible thing. And I thought that I love the maybes of life and all the little unknowns. And I wondered how to see angels and what it meant to see them in your head. Does it mean looking for the good in everybody (because if you look, you'll find it)? Does it mean searching for and acknowledging the miracles unfolding around you every day? And I thought that if I get to choose the world that I live in—which, perhaps, I do, if Mary Oliver is right and that the things that we have in our heads, in our minds, in our hearts, will be the things that we see in the world—that I would rather live in a world inhabited by angels than by demons. 

There's really no point to this post except that friends are nice to have. And books are nice to have. 

And perhaps books are friends.

Or even angels.

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