Friday, January 3, 2014
The snow has lasted for three days, light and fluffy. It’s still coming down, along with the temperature, now near zero. It's not a blizzard, more a persistent storm. The white, cold world keeps me inside, warm and cozy, sipping hot green tea. I stand at the large windows of my second-floor apartment. I see the tops of roofs and trees, whiteness in stillness, a photo untaken, a canvas unpainted. Heavenly peace.
Today I saw a neighbor’s dog walking merrily down the street, unbothered by the large snow plow that barreled ahead of him. Wait. Is that…could that be…Mary Oliver’s dog, the one she writes about in her poetry? The one she would like to take to Ukraine and Iraq, Jerusalem and Palestine, “so that the sorrowing thousands might see his laughing mouth”?
I immediately get up from my computer to find my Oliver books. What better way to sit out a snow storm than reading poetry? "All that's missing is the fireplace," my sister would say. I forget about that, forget about writing, just read. Such pleasure.
A few hours later, the day growing darker, blacker around the edges, I return to writing. I'm stuck. Words are not coming. Some veil rises up, holds me back, exposes self-doubt. I confess. Whenever I read a poet like Mary Oliver I feel inadequate to write about anything. She would say 'bah humbug, disown the sharps and flats of life, lay down in the welcoming green grass and be yourself, keep at it like the wild geese.' I'll try, but deep down a twinge of unease floats in my veins, the familiar anxiety that I can't measure up, that my narratives and my prose can’t compete with the poets or the storytellers. 'Oh, listen to the mockingbird in the fields, why compete at all?' the poet asks me. Simply “lose yourself inside this soft world.” I can’t say anything better than Mary Oliver.
The Storm, by Mary Oliver.
Now through the white orchard my little dog
romps, breaking the new snow
with wild feet.
Running here, running there, excited,
Hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
Until the white snow is written upon
In large, exuberant letters,
A long sentence, expressing
The pleasures of the body in this world.
Oh, I could not have said it better.