You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable
pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life
- Mary Oliver
I have had Mary Oliver's poem "Wild West #2" up on my dining room wall chalkboard for a several months now. I heard it when I attended a Storyline Conference in June. Yesterday, I learned I have actually had one line of the poem incorrect all this time. When I copied it onto the chalkboard, I added an extra word to the 7th line. Instead of saying "There is life without love", mine read "There is no life without love."
Mary Oliver has it right. Sadly, there is life without love. It is possible to exist, to keep breathing in and out, and hate or despise every moment of it. It's not a way to live. To me, the poem is a call to live intentionally. To 'lift the oars from the water' and listen.
Joanna (of the genius Cup of Jo) recently started a series on fall challenges. I missed week one (which was to skip TV for the week) but am jumping on board with week two: memorize a poem.
I choose Oliver's poem to memorize this week. The words are so beautiful and memorizing them means I get to carry them around with me wherever I go.
(The waterfall pictured is called 'million dollar falls' and is located in Yukon, Canada. I took this picture during my last visit back home.)