Traveling with Mary Oliver

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

I found all kinds of wonderful sentences, paragraphs and trains of thought in her collection of essays “Upstream”. Here are two of the sentences that keep coming back to me, “I am not a traveler. Not of that sort.” She writes this after listing overseas trips she has taken noting that she has, “never forgotten how it felt to think I was going to fall off the planet.” So she wasn’t an adventurer in the classic sense that often includes travel, but no one who has read her work could deny her adventurous spirit.

While traveling to far corners of the globe unnerved her, she held that nerve on so many travels that others would shrink from. She escaped from a difficult childhood home whenever possible into the the woods, into books. She chose a career as a poet at a young age. Maybe she couldn’t refuse that call, but it still seems daring.

I don’t claim to know her work in its entirety, but what I know of it tells me what kind of traveler she was. She was willing to expose herself to the unknown, to question the natural and spiritual worlds, to probe further, seeking. She had the intrepid spirit of an artist traveling into the darkness before us all, holding her lantern high. She could look unblinkingly into the abyss and then turn and send back poems to light our way.