“The Leaf And The Cloud” (excerpt) by Mary Oliver
When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,
like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.
Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.
Let grief be your sister, she will wither or not.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.
A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.
Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.
In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.
Live with the beetle, and the wind.
This poem came to mind as I sit in my mother’s garden, considering the circumstances of the day. My son and I are here in London to celebrate her 95th. birthday, we were to have left today, the day after the celebrations. But…my son tested positive for Covid, and now we are in a holding pattern until he tests negative and is cleared for flying.
The garden itself is a mess, my mother being long past her gardening days and her carers not willing to tidy up her formerly immaculate flower beds. In my current state of mind, agitated and annoyed, I am hard pressed to follow Oliver’s advice to be “beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling”, to put aside my irritations and remember that “a lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world”.
But, when I do, I see that the hellebores have bloomed, and the fuchsia are about to. The pond at the garden’s center needs to be skimmed of its thick layer of algae and leaves, but many little insects hover and land on its surface, their little wings iridescent and delightful. None of the lovely urns she had filled with all manner of flowers and shrubs have been pruned in some years, but new leaves and buds can be seen among all the old detritus: primrose, hyacinth, Pulsatilla, foxglove, and allium. It’s April in London, but there is no sign of rain in the blue sky above.
And, in the moments I took to put my black mood aside, nature seems to have revived my spirits in so many small yet lovely ways.