I am one of those who has no trouble imagining the sentient lives of trees, of their leaves in some fashion communicating or of the massy trunks and heavy branches knowing it is I who have come, as I always come, each morning, to walk beneath them, glad to be alive and glad to be there.
— Mary Oliver in Winter Hours
On a whim last week, I wanted to read some poetry. When I did a search of our online library, a few of Mary Oliver’s books popped up on the list. I like a lot of quotes I’ve read by her, I thought, so I checked out her book of essays and poetry, Winter Hours.
Oh my. Have I found a kindred spirit in Mary Oliver! Every other paragraph there is something I want to write down. She expresses in words what I feel about so many things, like the quote above. Did she reach into my head to extract that? No, no, of course not. It’s that she finds her inspiration in morning walks in the woods with her dog, creating beautiful and simple poetry and prose out of her experiences. She has followed her ritual long, long before I discovered a similar one for myself.
But the similarities mean that her words resonate deeply with me. She is someone I can learn from and look to for inspiration. Someone whose art speaks to mine. For aren’t poetry and photography similar? They are both made of fragments, a partial view of the whole, conveying an experience which must be expressed; can’t be suppressed.
Her creative philosophy resonates with me too. In an interview with her on NPR from a couple of years ago, she said, “I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.” And I thought, That’s exactly how I feel about photographs! In my imagery, I want to distill the greater world down to the essentials, keeping only what is necessary to convey something. Simpler is often better, I have found, for conveying emotion.