by Bob Neale
Today I read the news that Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, died. I am left quiet with sadness, looking out to the welcome rains, thinking this is NOT the New Year’s blog I was going to post. I wanted something that was positive and inspiring and new years-ish. Instead, word has come that the amazing poet Mary Oliver has passed on. Her poems, her essays, her unique yet simple perspective spoke to me deeply, woke me up to our natural world. She understood the land. She understood my connection to the land. She understood me, or so it seemed. So, like a team captain for an after school baseball game, I chose her for my team — for the earth’s stewardship team.
The news of her passing moved through Sonoma Land Trust quickly. My colleague, Sheri Cardo, shared this quote: “I am not very hopeful about the Earth remaining as it was when I was a child. It’s already greatly changed. But I think when we lose the connection with the natural world, we tend to forget that we’re not animals, that we need the Earth.” Yes, I’ve thought so many times, "That’s it." And how is she able to provide so much hope in an otherwise sad observation? I’m going to miss her, though I don’t actually know her. She is gone, as all things pass. And too soon, as all the cherished parts of our lives do. And yet her work lives on to teach and inspire all of us. And because she cared for us, she left us guidance (of course) for how we all might approach our “one wild and precious life” so that we can approach its end with grace, as Mary undoubtedly has. Thank you Mary, for all you have given. Peace be with you.
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Bob Neale is stewardship director for Sonoma Land Trust.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.