As conditions around the world have changed and phrases such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ have become more common than any of us would like, I’ve found myself thinking again of a well-loved poet.
For Mary Oliver, social distance wasn’t imposed. It was freely chosen, and the solitude it offered became a cherished part of her life. Perhaps my favorite of her poems, “How I Go to the Woods” always makes me smile. It stands as an affirmation of one of life’s deepest truths: when in nature — whether that nature be woods, prairies, or a backyard garden — we’re never truly alone.
Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers
and therefore unsuitable.
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have
my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become
invisible, I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an
uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can
hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me,
I must love
you very much.