everything I have ever learned

Yesterday morning, I posted the closing lines of this poem on my Facebook page, wishing the author, Mary Oliver, a happy birthday. One of the first comments came from my long-time friend Doris. What neither of us could know was that, before the day ended, her baby granddaughter would be gone.

One of the difficult pieces of living many miles  from those we love is learning to grieve long distance. I am still a novice, no matter how many times I am offered the practice.

My heart breaks for all of Wayne County. The Alley family has resided there for generations, and I am certain there is no soul in that southern Iowa community not grieving this morning.

My love to you all.


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.

Photo: Bobbie Jones Jones @ publicdomainpictures.com


6 Responses to “everything I have ever learned”

  1. When I talked to mom last night, she told me they had life flighted Doris’ granddaughter but did not know the outcome. So heart breaking.

  2. Powerful, Carla. And so sad….I cannot imagine.

  3. Simple words say so much! My heart breaks for that family.

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