Wild and Precious

B and I are at Navarre Beach in Florida with his family for a week, taking the closest thing we’ve had to an actual, full-fledged vacation in nearly four years. I did work, but it’s been more relaxing than anything else, more listening to the soothing sound of the waves crashing on the shore and the kids running around laughing and eating seafood than looking at my phone. We also went to an alligator farm and we all got to hold a very, very small alligator, which felt surprisingly pleasant. His squirmy and resigned sort of demeanor reminded me, oddly, of our dog.

One of the books I brought with me is Mary Oliver’s “Felicity,” her apparently long-held, secret stash of something nearly like love poems. She’s maybe most famous presently for the line regarding the grasshopper, asking, “What are you going to do / with your one wild and precious life?” but I found another one last summer that I got stuck on, that reminded me of the beach, and those few months when B and I were hurtling towards each other with all the inevitability of gravity, and that echoes now with this summer barely past, that seemed so weirdly endless:

What This Is Not

This is not just surprise and pleasure.
This is not just beauty sometimes
too hot to touch.
This is not a blessing with a beginning
and an end.
This is not just a wild summer.
This is not conditional.

Re-reading it sitting by the water the other day, I flipped to the back cover for the first time; I’d only recently found out anything about Oliver personally and wanted to know more. The author’s bio wasn’t much, but it mentioned that she was from Ohio and – upon the writing of “Felicity” – resides in Florida. That would be an awesome coincidence, if I still believed in those.

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