Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Old Woman

A Mary Oliver poem…


Aunt Leaf 

Needing one, I invented her—

the great-great-aunt dark as hickory

called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud

or The-Beauty-of-the-Night,


Dear aunt, I’d call in the leaves,

and she’d rise up, like an old log in a pool,

and whisper in a language only the two of us knew

the word that meant follow,


and we’d travel

cheerful as birds

out of the dusty town and into the trees

where she would change us both into something quicker—

two foxes with black feet,

two snakes green as ribbons,

two shimmering fish—

and all day we’d travel.


At day’s end she’d leave me back at my own door

with the rest of my family,

who were kind, but solid as wood

and rarely wandered. While she,

old twist of feathers and birch bark,

would walk in circles wide as rain and then

float back


scattering rags of twilight

on fluttering moth wings;


or she’d slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;

or she’d hang in the milky moonlight

burning like a medallion,


this bone dream,

this friend I had to have,

this old woman made out of leaves.


There is something truly glorious about a wizened old woman. I have often found the role of a grandmother to be much more appealing than that of a mother. Can’t I just skip the part where my children can’t stand me and go straight to being the adored and wise being that little ones go to for stories and wholesome cooking? I guess grandmotherdom is the reward for all the years of mothering toil.

At any rate, I’m not a grandmother, or a mother for that matter. I do have a hankering for contact with some grandmother wisdom. I am sending out a request to the universe for a grandmotherish mentor, or an aunt leaf. I would love to learn the stories of a weathered woman.

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