Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, read her work last night at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, California.
Mary Oliver is Sweetheart Al’s favorite poet. I also love her work -- words full of grace and hope and wonder, words that stab with painful truth and stroke with beauty’s reassurance.
So we were there last night, along with about 1,600 other Mary Oliver fans, eager to hear in the poet’s own voice, the words that had pierced our hearts or sent our spirits soaring.
Can you imagine 1,600 people breathlessly waiting to hear a poet read her work? The atmosphere rippled with joy and anticipation. She did not disappoint.
She’s 76 now. Walking on stage, dressed in black, her white hair neatly parted and cupping her face, almost brushing her shoulders, she looked a little frail.
Having read her powerful words about trees and rivers, black ponds and white swans, life and death; I’d expected a tall willowy blonde or a tall bold brunette. A tall someone, punching out truths in the ticket of life.
But there she stood, almost hidden behind the podium, having to pull the microphone down and down some more.
Once she began, however, there was no hesitancy or frailty.
Her low, mellow voice and winsome heart frolicked with the audience, sharing stories and poems about her dog, her home, her journey through the years to eager applause.
She answered questions from the audience and when her presentation ended, and we were all standing and clapping with gusto. She paused in the spotlight and threw us kisses and she looked tall and willowy and bold and happy.
This morning Sweetheart rose early and made pumpkin bread for breakfast, its fragrance floating from the oven up the stairs to wake me and set my mouth watering before I’d even climbed out of bed.
As we sat at our breakfast table, butter melting on the warm fragrant slices of bread, the steam rising from our coffee, we read Mary Oliver poems to each other.
His shared poems came from the new Mary Oliver book he bought last night: “Evidence.” Mine came from my new Mary Oliver book, “Swan,” which I also bought last night.
Already we’ve rushed through our slim, rich volumes, exclaiming and sighing and wiping our eyes.
“Listen to this,” we say, and then read a few lines or a few pages.
As we take our time with the bread and coffee, we savor her words – repeating favorite lines or re-reading a poem that surprised and pleased us both. We share a morning feast for tongue and heart and mind.
This to me is wealth beyond compare.
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