Mary Oliver stole my poem! Reached right into my life and grabbed it before I had a chance to write it. She got a few details wrong, but mostly hit all the nails on the head. Like the way life is worthy of more “Halleluiah’s!” than “Aaaargh’s!”, that given half a chance, most people are kind, that happiness is born into this world with us, but we indeed have to work to claim and reclaim it. And most importantly, that a life lived in gratitude brings gifts in its later years unavailable in the earlier ones, that at my age (which she got almost precisely), I am in many ways happier that I’ve ever been. Okay, I’ll admit some nostalgia for the single chin, larger libido and a bigger buffer of years between me and Mr. Mortality, but all in all, I’m more in love—and thus, happier and more competent— with music, teaching and music teaching, that I’ve ever been before.
Here’s my poem in Ms. Oliver’s words. I hope you can find yourself in there as well. (And I will give her credit— p. 19 in a book you should purchase titled “Evidence.”)
Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!
And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say for the first sixty years.
Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and I even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.