Filling an Empty Heart
I've tried really hard not to share every episode of this podcast that strikes a personal chord because I sometimes feel a little sappy when I write about them, and I don't like feeling that way about the words I use.
In a way, that is the precise majesty of Mary Oliver—a woman who takes the smallest, most mundane things, and renders them spectacular and shimmery. Not forced, no no. Authentically bright. Textured. Magnificent. As in, a poem of hers on this very topic, one I've now pinned to my wall:
I don't know why I feel perpetually on the brink when I read poems like that.
Or when I hear stories like the one in this podcast.
I don't know what it is about walking into Joe's room in South Brooklyn—his dying body on its side, his face in the direction of a painting of his wife, his instincts always guiding our conversations to how special it was, the time they shared, the cat they had. No way can I begin to suggest what comes over him when he talks about how beautiful she was.
I don't know why I read this line, by an artist I had never even heard of (Paula Modersohn-Becker), in a book that I've found quite affecting (Being Here is Everything), and felt the compulsion to grab a pen and mark it up and read it again and again in place of all the lovely sentences that surely lie ahead:
And if only now love would blossom for me, before I depart; and if I can paint three good pictures, then I shall go gladly, with flowers in my hair.
How pleading. How simple and hopeful. How lovely to go out in a blaze of love and paint and flower.
And then this: I don't know why I found it to be the encapsulation of all I believe, of all that matters. Of everything that the most centrally located and most deeply rooted compass I have points to.
And I know that my last thought will be of the time I first held you with both arms wrapped around you and your head on my shoulder and I said I loved you, and I felt you soft and fragile and warm, and you held me.
That ended a beautiful piece of writing I read on Sunday morning about what we know and what we don't, and when I finished it—much like when I finished this podcast—I felt happy to be reminded that those moments, the ones that I truly feel are the most significant ones of my entire existence—the ones I keep describing as celebrations and privileges—really do matter. And perhaps I ascribe them too much weight, but also, perhaps I don't ascribe them enough.
It snowed in New York last Thursday night. And a whole whole wonderful lot. I was in my bed and it was somewhere in the middle of the night when I rolled over and woke myself up like I do sometimes when I roll over and I felt EVER so excited to go and peel back my curtain on that swirling, windy mess of white. One of those quiet happenings that has you smiling smiling smiling oh so loudly on your way back to a bed that is now assuredly that much cozier because of what you know is happening outside. And somewhere buried within that, within all moments of anonymous beauty—...of the time I first held you with both arms wrapped around you and your head on my shoulder and I said I loved you, and I felt you soft and fragile and warm, and you held me.—is every single reason I want to be alive.