— Mary Oliver
— Mary Oliver
With the wind whistling through our ears we rode on the trail,
I sat behind him, pulling tighter on faster turns,
And releasing my grip when the road had less rocks and more dirt.
I read my own body through my grip, much like our marriage so far,
Eleven months of hard, fierce grips and some months of letting go,
Letting the wind whistle through our ears without gripping or fear sometimes.
The landscape changes as we go steeper, the trees more dense,
Each pine distinct before but now lost in this forest of forests.
And when he begins to sing out loud,
The smell of exhaust and dirt and the beauty of nature fills my mouth.
Listening to his tones echo this mountain scape, the taste of it all overwhelms me.
The taste is so sweet.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves."
My first day in American school started out with The Pledge of Allegiance. As though I wasn’t already frightened enough, what with a huge round of immunizations the day before, boys in my classroom (I previously attended an all-girls private school) and being introduced by my teacher as the new girl from Japan (not Japanese, not even a little bit) - I had never heard of The Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone stood up and faced the flag with their hands on their hearts and I lost it. Every overwhelming aspect of that day so far was felt, and the fact that I didn’t know what we were doing with our hands over our hearts seemed to be the hardest of all. I felt my eyes well with tears, and ran to the bathroom to sob.
When I got home that night, I was determined to memorize that thing. My mom printed it out for me from the internet, and I studied it all night. I had always been good at memorizing poems, and when I recited it to my dad over the phone (he was finishing up business in Japan), I had never been so proud. I showed up nervous for class the next morning, and stood up proudly when the class did, placed the right hand over my heart, and almost yelled The Pledge with my class. I felt like everyone was watching me, ready to see me mess up and start crying again, which made me want to say it even louder.
Looking back on that experience, I feel so grateful for a country that believes that we are “One nation, under God.” Until you live without that, I don’t think you can fully appreciate it.
I hope your Fourth of July is wonderful.