Friday, January 20, 2023

January 20: "Blueberries," Nostalgia, COVID-Positive

Mary Oliver picks blueberries . . . 


by:  Mary Oliver

I'm living in a warm place now, where
you can purchase fresh blueberries all
year long.  Labor free.  From various
countries in South America.  They're
as sweet as any, and compared with the
berries I used to pick in the fields
outside of Provincetown, they're
enormous.  But berries are berries.  They
don't speak any language I can't
understand.  Neither do I find ticks or
small spiders crawling among them.  So,
generally speaking, I'm very satisfied.

There are limits, however.  What they
don't have is the field.  The field they
belonged to and through the years I
began to feel I belonged to.  Well,
there's life and then there's later.
Maybe it's myself that I miss.  The
field, and the sparrow singing at the 
edge of the woods.  And the doe that one
morning came upon me unaware, all
tense and gorgeous.  She stamped her hoof
as you would to any intruder:  Then gave
me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you
stay in your patch, I'll stay in mine.
Which is what we did.  Try packing that
up, South America.

Mary Oliver is dealing with nostalgia here.  The blueberries she buys remind her of the blueberries she used to pick in a field near her home in Provincetown.  But Oliver doesn't stop there.  Because the poem isn't really just about blueberries.  It's about the whole blueberry-picking experience:  the sun on her back, the sparrow in a nearby woods, and a beautifully skittish, diffident doe.  Mary Oliver can't buy any of that at the market where she's shopping.

Nostalgia is a strange thing.  (I know I've written about this subject before, but humor me.)  Nostalgia is the human mind's way of taking any experience and whitewashing away all of the pain and grief and annoyances, leaving only a sepia-tinged daguerreotype of what actually happened.  That's how we can page through our old high school yearbooks and get all moony over pictures of ourselves in calculus class or with the cross country team.  Because our minds have erased all of the struggles--the late night study sessions and bruised bones, heartbreaking crushes and bullies.  Nostalgia is the reason women have more than one baby, because who in their right would reenlist for the pain of childbirth again?  They do it because they remember the first time the held their newborns instead of the effort of pushing a watermelon out of their bodies.

This morning, I tested positive for COVID.  My faithful disciples may remember that, at the beginning of January 2022, I got COVID.  What I recall of that time now is being at home and just watching movie after movie.  Going on walks with my wife, who was also COVID-positive.  And ordering pizza.  In short, I remember it as a pretty good winter vacation.

Of course, what I don't recall clearly from my first bout of COVID is what I'm experiencing right now--headache, runny nose, incessant cough, fever, nausea, and exhaustion.  Real exhaustion.  After I'm done typing this blog post, I'm going to take another nap.  That will be the fourth one today, I believe.  I'm sure I had all those symptoms last time, but it's just a blank wall in my mind.  

So, I'm like Mary Oliver right now, eating blueberries and not remembering the ticks and spiders of the field.

It's time for Saint Marty take a nap.

1 comment:

  1. So sorry to hear that you have COVID-19! Praying for a speedy recovery!