Today’s Mary Oliver poem, sent by my dear friend Debby, is one I’ve long loved. Not the kind of title you think you’d be happy to wake up to—When Death Comes. But we could all use a little reminder about mortality, that deadline that reminds us to do our homework so we’re prepared for the final exam. Some lines near the end are such a beautiful and loving reminder:
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement,
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
Well-timed, as last night’s Jazz History class was my own particular form of being wedded to amazement, bringing together two of the finest human beings I know in conversation. Kofi Gbolonyo from Dzodze, Ghana, who carries in his body, mind and heart the extraordinary depth and breadth of his Ewe culture and jazz drummer extraordinaire, Herlin Riley, who represents the American reincarnation of the African soul and spirit. For 90 minutes, the sparks were flying as each spoke from their own experience and discovered what they already knew— that the fire that centuries-old practices of horrific systemic racism kept trying to douse could not be put out and was still burning brightly, warming all who had the good sense to gather around the campfire. And that we did, even feeling the heat coming through the Zoom filter.
Or to switch from campfire to wedding, I was the officiate at a beautiful marriage with moments of profound silence, joyous laughter, soul-nourishing food and of course, dancing—to a great African Diaspora Jazz Band! Made all the more meaningful by the wedding guests (minus the embarrassing drunk uncles) who gathered to witness the love and partake of the amazement.
And shouldn’t every day be like that? Well, perhaps not every day. You have to leave time for the honeymoon! And there are bills to pay. But it certainly would be good to keep perpetually renewing our vows, in company with a community of beautiful souls, each with their own particular way of taking the world in their arms and kissing the bride.
PS And don’t forget the kids that need raising!