I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable, what shall–
what should I do: And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
Yeah, I love this little poem, titled I Go Down to the Shore in the Morning. It’s not unlike William Carlos Williams classic, The Red Wheelbarrow:
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Both of these poems are easy to travel in–you can put yourself in that place, anywhere,anytime. You can instantly imagine the sea, the sea’s voice, the white chickens, the rain. You remember them always.
Mary Oliver read her poem last month in an ark-shaped church on Sanibel Island. Dressed in black, she appeared unassuming, a friend you might like to talk to as your dogs play. Her new book of poetry is titled A Thousand Mornings. I recommend it. She read several poems from it and her other books and confided, with humor, about the trials of traveling, organizing papers and books to take to readings, and forgetting the order she wanted to read them in. She answered questions at the end honestly and carefully. At one point she congratulated the huge crowd, some outside watching on a big screen, on not coughing. (Everyone was coughing where she came from, she disclosed.) She also took the time to sign “Mary Oliver” on our books. I would think it would be difficult for anyone to keep signing and signing, all for strangers, but she did, and graciously.
Mary Oliver doesn’t give many readings, and I could almost feel her unspoken pain, her unwillingness to break her routine, which is getting up at dawn and walking, observing and reveling in the natural world, writing and taking joy in her close friends, her dog and the wonder of what’s outside and inside us all.
She reminded the assembly that the world doesn’t have to be beautiful to work, but it is.
And the sea has work to do.