A Dream of Trees by Mary Oliver
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubing town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?
When Oliver talks about a “dream of trees” I don’t think she is necessarily talking about a place physically so much as she is psychologically – the one where Barbara Bush wants to go so that she doesn’t have to mess up her “beautiful mind.” But, as the poem so powerfully says, “And then it came to me, that so was death, a little way away from everywhere.”
We would do well to remember that we who are “bending our hearts toward lamentation” are participating in a fierce kind of living. Its the kind of living that bears witness to what is happening in the world – even when what is happening is excruciatingly painful. And we engage where we can to do what we can. The times, indeed, do “implore our true involvement” and “the blades of every crisis point the way.”
I think about those awful interviews on TV when folks are trying to canonize a person who has died. They usually say something like “he/she loved life.” They usually mean the person was happy and bubbly. Well, I think those of us who are in this struggle are the ones who are demonstrating a real love of life – by not distancing from the difficult, but diving right in and getting our hands dirty while trying to make a difference.
I have frankly never understood the tendency we see in our culture today to avoid the tough issues in life – or to gloss them over with superficiality. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to know…ask questions…try to understand…and try to help. And when others think there’s something wrong with me because of that – I don’t get the point. Perhaps there is something wrong with me. But as Oliver implies, who’s making the music these days??