I picked Mary Oliver’s book American Primitive off the shelf. A random flip and I had a poem to start this off with, maybe a quote. Writers and readers love that, right?

Maybe you’re above quotes. I have a collection of magnets, mugs and notebooks that prove I’m not.

The poem fate chose was Blossom.

In April / the ponds / open / like black blossoms,

It made me think of this time of year, when they close, ice spreading across the water like a living filigree. It made me think of spring thawing, when lake ice breaks into small slivers, none supporting the other, each scratching and hissing when it passes the rest. When the sound of spring is also the sound of collapse, of winter’s reluctant capitulation.

That seemed too much for inspiration. Modernity distracted me. I Instagrammed a hat I’m knitting.

Isn’t it pretty?


I returned to the book. Flipped through at random, chose a passage with my eyes shut.

The poem fate chose was still Blossom. The passage:

What / we know: that time / chops at us all like an iron / hoe, that death / is a state of paralysis.

Honestly, fate? Are you kidding me?

I can’t offer you any wisdom that compares to this. All I can offer is that you find the entirety of this poem, by one of my favorites, by one of the greats. Find anything by Mary Oliver. Read it. It is a balm for your soul, a salve for any of your ailments.

Not measuring up when the scale tops out with someone like Mary Oliver is quite all right by me.