When I am near a great body of water
an Ocean, the Sea, a Great Lake
especially in the quiet of early morning
gazing toward an infinite horizon,
that fine line where dome of sky meets
meets deep fathomless water –
I remember who I am, and who I am not.
Remember again, her words
spoken almost sternly, You are not
responsible for the whole world.
The last words I would hear her speak
before she died. The last gift she offered me.
Walking along their beaches
the ones with soft sand, pliant
beneath my feet, with the dazzle of sun
on rippling water. Watching gulls and geese
or pelicans and cormorants – skimming low and fast
above the water, before lifting, soaring. Listening
when the winds are calm
to a gentle repetition of never ending
waves – their comforting shushing
as they slide to shore, then draw back
to begin again. Feeling the invitation
this vastness offers me –
another chance to put down
my pack, stay awhile
and, bow often.
– with gratitude to Mary Haab for her final words that remind me,
again and again.
I am also deeply grateful to Mary Oliver whose poem, When I Am Among the Trees, inspired this poem. I too feel, as she does, when among trees – nourished and “saved.” But her title invited me to consider other natural wonders that nourish and save me – like the earth’s great bodies of water. And those two words, “bow often” were hers as well. I loved them – the sound of them, the image. I wanted to hold on to them always, use them often like a sacred mantra. And so – I hold them here, in this poem, having the final say.