My family thinks I read too much into things. They may be right, but that’s what poets do, isn’t it? They look for synchronicities, metaphors and connections. They find meaning in the ordinary.
Take this for instance: The week after Christmas last year, within the same 24-hour period, my daughter and a friend of mine presented me with belated gifts. They both gave me books.
It’s not the “books” themselves that were the surprise. Books are a perfect fit for me and they know it. What was unusual was the ones they chose.
“You weren’t supposed to get me anything,” I told my daughter.
“But I saw this and thought you would really like it,” she said as I carefully unwrapped and read the title.
She was right. I liked it so much I was dumbfounded by her selection. It was one of two (and only two) titles I had stumbled upon just the day before and put into my Amazon shopping cart. Until then, I’d never heard of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wolleben. Something about it had attracted me to it (apart from it being on some “best of 2016” lists). Obviously, my daughter, who’d ordered it weeks earlier, thought so, too.
“[This book is a] powerful reminder to slow down and tune into the language of nature,” wrote author Rachel Sussman in a recommendation on the back cover.
That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. Paying attention to nature is helping my poetry, informing my writing, and changing the way I walk through our local woods with my dog. My teenage daughter has noticed and that’s really cool.
My friend, Linda, gave me the second book, Mary Oliver’s new collection of essays, Upstream. She, too, had bought it weeks earlier when she spotted it in a small bookstore and thought of me.
Weird, right? Alone in my office one day I put two books in an online shopping cart, but don’t purchase them. The next day, I get both as gifts.
“Yeah, yeah, OK. I admit that’s a strange coincidence,” I can hear you thinking. “But it’s just a coincidence.”
You’re right, it is a coincidence, but it’s a fun one, is it not? And I can read all kinds of things into it.
For one, for as much as I feel misunderstood sometimes (and don’t we all?), these two people definitely know something about me and I appreciate that.
Secondly, getting these books as gifts at the dawn of a new year could be a harbinger of the months to come. Or, it could be a message about what to focus on this year.
Finally, these gifts are sparking poetry. Just look at the poems I’ve found within the pages of the tree book my daughter gave me.
I don’t feel right dipping into Oliver’s work to “find” my own poetry in another poet’s work, but it is a book of essays after all. I may give it a try. If I do, I’ll update this post with links.