A Love Letter to Mary Oliver, on her Birthday

Dear Mary

Forgive the formality, but I feel as though we are old friends, because I know your words so well.

Today is your birthday, and it seems to me to be a fine time to write you a love letter. And, I promise I will take your advice: consider this my few words patched together, written as I step into the doorway of thanks.

Because, Mary, mostly what I want to say is thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for inviting me into your world; not just any old world, but your world, which is filled to overflowing at every turn with wonder and amazement. Your world takes my breath away every day.

Thank you for showing me the delicate beauty of every grasshopper, and the remarkable intensity of every owl.  Thank you for teaching me that a pond is as extraordinary as an ocean, and a goose is as singular as an eagle. Thank you for teaching me how to start the day–in happiness, in kindness.

Without you, I might have overlooked the small body of the dead snake, still beautiful, lying by the side of the road. Without you, I might not have looked twice at the little toad tucked under the bush next to the front step.

Without you, I’m not sure I would have such a fondness for the herons that I see every morning on the banks of the creek as I run past quietly. I try not to disturb them, but inevitably they take wing before I get too close. Thanks to you, I stop as those large grey wings expand and fly out of sight.  Without you, I doubt my heart would leap at the sheep in the pasture on the hill, so happy to be grazing, and so obviously content in each other’s company.  Thanks to you, I stop and say hello.

Without you, I might have missed God lurking in the soft animal of the body of the swan, the turtle, the sun, and the honey locust; the soft animal of my own body, and yours. Without you, I might have missed God ambling about everywhere, astonishing me at every turn.

Mary, you didn’t have to teach me about the inexhaustible, irrepressible enthusiasm, curiosity and loyalty of dogs—most of  that I knew already–but I am so grateful to you to have been shown the rhapsody of my own little dog in his expressions of love for me, and mine for him.

You didn’t have to teach me about death, either, but without you, I would not have been able to put into words why I don’t fear it, nor how the inevitable prospect of stepping over that threshold makes me love this world all the more: the unique beauty of each life, the unique music of each name, the unmitigated joy of taking the world into my arms.

I hope you have found that cottage of darkness to be a place where you have been pleasantly surprised, a place where your curiosity has been rewarded, a place where you are content.

Thank you, Mary, from the depths of my heart, for leaving us a priceless, precious window on a world that most of us would never be able see without you. This world is inspired, it is spectacular, and so are you.  Thank you for being such a lover of the world and inviting us into that love—and showing us how it loves us back, in the most unusual, unexpected and delightful ways.  I love you, too.  Kristin

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