Saturday, June 10, 2023

Auntie Mary's "Building the House"

Spending this Saturday afternoon with Auntie Mary Oliver. Her essay, Building the House, is a joy to read.

She writes: 
Once, in fact, I built a house. It was a miniscule house, a one-room, one-floored affair set in the ivies and vincas of the backyard, and made almost entirely of salvaged materials. Still, it had a door. And four windows. And, miraculously, a peaked roof, so I could stand easily inside, and walk around. 
She compares and contrasts the building of the house to writing poems. 
The labor of writing poems, of working with thought and emotion in the encasement (or is it the wings?) of language, is strange to nature, for we are first of all creatures of motion. Only secondly—only oddly, and not naturally, at moments of contemplation, joy, grief, prayer, or terror—are we found, while awake, in the posture of deliberate or hapless inaction. But such is the posture of the poet, poor laborer. The dancer dances, the painter dips and lifts and lays on the oils, the composer reaches at least across the octaves. The poet sits.
Then she writes about growing old and ends the piece with this image that evokes serenity and satisfaction.
… Near the path, one of the tall maples has fallen. It is early spring, so the crimped maroon flowers are just emerging. Here and there slabs of the bark have exploded away in the impact of its landing. But, mostly, it lies as it stood, though not such as a net for the wind as it was. What is it now? What does it signify? Not Indolence, surely, but something, all the same, that balances with Ambition.

Call it Rest. I sit on one of the branches. My idleness suits me. I am content. I have built my house. The blue butterflies, called azures, twinkle up from the secret place where they have been waiting. In their small blue dresses the float among the branches, they come close to me, one rests for a moment on my wrist. They do not recognize me as anything very different from this enfoldment of leaves, this wind-roarer, this wooden palace lying down, now, upon the earth, like anything heavy, and happy, and full of sunlight, and half asleep.

Meanwhile, here's Paul, who can't be bothered to do anything.  


Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home