In Blackwater Woods

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November is, for me, a month associated with death and dying. On November 1, we celebrate the feast of the all the Saints. In addition to celebration, I remember the due date of the baby we lost. He would have turned three on November 1, 2012. How fitting that the 2nd is a day of remembrance for all our departed loved ones, those holy souls.

Aside from Michael John, whose face we never got to see, no other loss lives as deep within as that of my mother. She died in June, when the flowers were blooming. When the springtime work of blossoms, seeds, and rains had culminated in the vast array of colors and scents known as summer. Though she died in the blossom-time of the year, I mourn and miss her most in fall and winter. It’s just as well, for this is the dying time of year. The leaves shiver and gasp their last breaths before the long descent from branch to ground. So it was with her.

On my blog, Fumbling Toward Grace, I am doing a daily series this month blogging about my blessings. They surround me, these abundant gifts of a God who is love. It’s easy to overlook them.

One of the real sources of consolation and joy in my life, during the long, mostly sad years of my childhood and adolescence, was poetry. I poured over volumes and collected works. I recited, remembered, and found peace in the words of those who had grieved before me. I still do.

A blessing I share with you today, you who have lost and for whom that loss lives deep, you who wonder how to love (or live) again. I am grateful for these words, which have comforted me. May they comfort you as well.

In Blackwater Woods
Mary Oliver

Look, the trees are turning
their own bodies into pillars of light,
are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away
over the blue shoulders of the ponds, and every pond,
no matter what its name is, is nameless now.
Every year
everything I have ever learned in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side is salvation,
whose meaning none of us will ever know.
To live in this world, you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life
depends on it;
and when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Sarah Babbs

Sarah Babbs

Sarah Babbs is a married mother of a toddler girl, writing from Indiana where she moved for love after growing up on the east coast. Sarah and her husband, a lawyer, lead marriage prep classes for their parish in addition to daydreaming about becoming lunatic farmers. During stolen moments when the toddler sleeps and the laundry multiplies itself, Sarah writes about motherhood, Catholic social thought, and ponders the meaning of being a woman "made in the image of God". Her website is Fumbling Toward Grace.

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2 thoughts on “In Blackwater Woods”

  1. Pingback: Day 12 and 13: To Be Alive « Fumbling Toward Grace

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    What a felling filled article. Again, you give voice to the feelings of your readers– the mission of the writer who enriches us all. Thank you for writing. Thank you for sharing the poem. I need to slow down and enjoy poetry.

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