A brunch; good friends, a poem; Invitation, by Mary Oliver

I’ve been working on a longer piece for this blog.  A piece that has been challenging to write and again I find I have been silent here for a little while as I work.

Two women, a couple, friends of mine– are leaving for 10 months California where one will spend the year teaching as a visiting professor at UCLA.  My daughter was a sleepover party Saturday night and my partner was away.  I spent a wonderful evening on Saturday night with my 17-year-old niece who is staying with us.

There was a farewell brunch this morning (Sunday) for my departing friends and I enjoyed it a lot, especially because my daughter who I had really missed, chose to come with me rather than go somewhere with her older cousin .  At the brunch I hung out a lot with her and two 15-year-old daughters of friends who hung out with my daughter as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I like and love and care deeply about my adult friends and loved seeing many of them there.  I feel more tenderly as we all get older, about some of the women who felt hard on me at other times.  As time passes certain divisions that were there have faded– political divisions, old grievances between people.  And we are divided in different ways– one of which is who does and who does not dye her hair.  There are also very serious issues (though I actually consider the issue of hair dying fairly serious– for real).  In this group there were two women who are currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer and I loved seeing them and noticing how much I care about them.  But it is the young people who make me the happiest.

But also there was my former teacher and old friend, E– about whom I’ve written before.  She also had a serious health problem recently and underwent a very major surgery, from which she has made a truly remarkable (not only by my standards but by her doctors’ standards too) recovery.  I hear that her doctors are quite amazed.  She is (as is my daughter in a very different, and more everyday way) not only someone I like and love, but someone who is generally so deeply reassuring to me– I usually just feel better after I’ve seen her and I did today.

We all had a chance to share parting words with our friends and E read a Mary Oliver poem that I had never read– suitable for the occasion.  I loved it and loved having her read it aloud.  I reprint it here.


by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

— from Red Bird: Poems by Mary Oliver
published by Beacon Press

One response to “A brunch; good friends, a poem; Invitation, by Mary Oliver

  1. Mary Oliver, like friends over time, so so magical & necessary.

    I am probably in your camp on the hair dying. I see not dying my hair as a way more radical act than it should be. But there you have it.

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