Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Graduation Special: The Kingfisher

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Pepper and I sat outside for a while after the rain passed.

I scattered safflower seeds close by and wondered how brave the finches and cardinals might get. (They kept their distance. Ahhh, but they looked!)

Pepper and I thought about how a cool green day soothes the spirit, and it came to me – if someone asked me to give a speech on graduation day, I might begin there. “A cool green day soothes the spirit…”

Then I read some poems by Mary Oliver in her beautiful collection “Owls and Other Fantasies” and felt, again, content.

It occurred to me that there might be something for graduates – as well as the rest of us – in this poem…

The Kingfisher
By Mary Oliver

The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world – so long as you don’t mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn’t born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water – hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.
I don’t say he’s right. Neither
do I say he’s wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn’t rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.

 

*     *     *

We were never meant to be kingfishers, of course.

We are creatures with wide and varied longings who yearn – so deeply – to feel that we are doing what we were born to do. And doing it perfectly.

*     *     *

“A cool green day soothes my spirit. What soothes yours? Don’t forget to seek it – and don’t neglect it once found.”

I think I might begin and end my graduation speech there, and then sit down.

They have to figure the rest of the shit out on their own.

Another important life lesson some might discern and all would sense: Know when your own voice is not the most important thing.

*      *      *

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