When I heard the news that Mary Oliver had passed away, I laid my head in my arms on the desk at work and tried very hard not to cry. I had found her works, on recommendation of a a fellow writer, in late 2017 and she had immediately become my favorite living poet.
Now, she was gone.
She ranks up in the top tier of writers I admire, writers whose works I tenderly underline in their books I own.
It hit me, sitting there morosely that cold day in January, that Mary Oliver had the distinction none of my other favorite poets had; she had just been alive.
If I wanted to, I could go right out to where she had lived her life, lived during my lifetime! And I could walk where she had walked and see what she had seen, very close to how she would have seen it.
In the past, I probably would’ve quelled the rising tide of impulsive thought in me, but I had just had a weeks-long discussion with a friend about taking life by the horns and living, and decided that by the gods, if I’m not going to do the living while I’m young, someday I’ll be too old to enjoy it.
So I pulled up a calendar and began to plot.
January seems like it was just yesterday, so I have no clue how I’m here, in late May, in the actual week of my departure date for what I have been referring to as my Mary Oliver pilgrimage.
My practical self has spent the last four months yelling about fiscal responsibility and how this definitely is NOT (I have been paying it off in chunks, and will be paying it off in chunks for a couple more months).
My soul self has been desperately trying to smother those war drums with the largest freaking pillow it can find.
This is so much more than a trip, and so much more than me paying my respects to Mary Oliver.
I found Emerson when I was 16 and have not looked back since. Oliver’s works are coming with me on my tablet, but the one book I am going to cram lovingly into my carry-on is my absolutely battered, annotated, well-read copy of my first Emerson anthology I got for a quarter at a used book sale. I am going to his house, sitting on his front porch, getting a selfie for posterity, and I am going to read. I can guarantee I’m going to cry.
Can one be in Concord and not go to Walden Pond? Guess where I’ll be.
Not the greatest Louisa May Alcott fan, but I cannot deny her movement in the Transcendentalist crowds and I have massive respect for her Civil War work, and so of course, I have to at least swing by Orchard House.
On a personal note, I’m swinging into Salem, not for any of the witchcraft museums, but to pay my respects in the graveyard and at the memorial for those women persecuted in anxious and suspicious times for supposedly practicing witchcraft… and to wave at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s house.
Once I make it into the Cape itself, my plans become very fluid (I have to take photos of Edward Gorey’s house, as it is three miles from my AirBnB and his work is a favorite of my best friend).
Otherwise, I will come and go and stop as I please.
As long as I make it into Provincetown to explore, to walk where Mary lived, to stand and yell very loudly into the ocean for stress relief and to sit in likely uncomfortable positions sticking my face into flowers and trees and plants I can’t identify but will want to as I write. As long as I make it up there to pay my respects to a place that influenced so much of her work, I will be content.
This whole trip is an homage and exploration of personally influential writers, who have shaped my world view.
I hope the taps of the muse flow. May the pints along the way satisfy, the seafood be eye-rolling delicious, and the stress of being me descend back into the Universal Being where it damn well belongs.
Because for five days, I fully intend to go everywhere with eyes wide and enthusiasm completely unchecked to the point of ridiculousness.
If you’re interested in following along with my adventures, my Twitter is the place to be! My handle is @emsabolcik and the trip will be under the hashtag #MApapertrail (Hey, I thought it was witty)