The Journey


I can't count how many times it has crossed my mind that I haven't yet written about the night I saw Mary Oliver speak, which was just a few days before I went to Jordan.  And I'm amazed I haven't written about it, because I took her words, her voice and her presence across an ocean and a couple of continents, back home and everywhere else I've been since then.  After hearing her read The Journey aloud, followed by the barely audible gasp that traveled through the audience when she was finished, those words entered my bloodstream, and have been traveling with me ever since.  I think about that particular moment of the evening quite often, and every single time I get goose bumps.  In that instant, when she finished with the words "...the only life you could save" I think everyone in the audience felt we were in the presence of God, who was standing before us in the form of a tiny old woman in black who also liked to talk about her dog Percy*.

Mary Oliver explained that she wrote that poem more than thirty years ago.  When she said that, I marveled that those words somehow managed to float through the world and across time into my awareness.  How did I find her?  I don't even know.  But that night, hearing those words in her voice, I had a moment of perfection, and there was nothing more in the world I wanted, needed or wished for.

* Percy is also the name of the gardener/handyman who worked on May Sarton's property.  Coincidence?


I arrived in Copenhagen last night, and spent this afternoon wandering around, picking up some goodies and taking pictures.  On my way back to our hotel around 3:00pm, I suddenly felt the exhaustive effects of jet lag, three plane rides and five days packed with many miles on foot.  So I decided that at this particular point of my journey here in Denmark, it was time to be still.  I am now in our hotel room, feet up on the table, and a live band just started playing outside (kind of marching band-ish.  OK - I just looked out our window, and it is a marching band.  They are walking all over Tivoli Gardens, which is a kooky little amusement park of sorts just behind our hotel.  But I digress.)

As I was walking back to our hotel - before I made the decision to lay low for the rest of the day - I was thinking about how it has felt being on my own these last three days, for they have been the days my husband has been most occupied with work.  And I thought about an idea I've had for a long time, which is the notion that someday I might wander all over the world indefinitely, and might very well do that alone.  This is not something I am necessarily wishing for - it isn't a longing to fulfill something in me that I think is missing.  In other words, it isn't an idea I am attached to.  It is more like something that just feels like it might happen - that someday, somehow, and perhaps for reasons that won't be pleasant or easy - this is what I will do.

Or perhaps I am only embellishing a truth that feeds me and gives me strength - that the responsibility for this journey I am on is mine to care for and manage, and no one else.  Maybe in these thought experiments I'm just adding a lot of exotic, challenging and fascinating backdrops.  Either way, these thoughts led me to Mary Oliver, and the night I heard her speak just about two months ago, when she read the words that are now with me everywhere - words that remind me that no one else can show me the way to my own truth, and that as long as I remember this, I'll never really be lost.

"...there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper, into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do -- determined to save the only life you could save."

[Cue "Super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious" by the marching band outside.]

Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide