any other name…

I love the beach wind in my face

I’ve published this excerpt from Mary Oliver before, but I came across is again today as I remembered lessons learned in Cape Cod not too long ago. It brought back such potent memories of this journey that I’ve been on the past few years…

An excerpt from Mary Oliver’s “What is There Beyond Knowing”

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass and the weeds.

When I’m in the proximity of wind and water, things just make sense in a way that they don’t in other places. I need the beach, I need to feel the pull and tug of waves. I need to walk in the rain and see pink petals falling on the sidewalk. I need to watch the clouds covering the moon. I need to remember that life doesn’t have “any other name but breath and light, wind and rain.”

Some moments from this week:

Meeting with students as we move into the final push for our big Oral History project. Realizing that this thing that we’ve been working on all year long is actually happening now. Seeing the fatigue and fear in their eyes, knowing that they will be so proud when this is done.

Paddling in the pouring rain. So cold I could hardly lift my paddle. But feeling so happy and alive to be on the ocean again.

Meeting with colleagues at the Huntington Library. Feeling satisfaction that the craziness of my life these past few months hasn’t quelled my academic ambitions.

Greeting the camellias at the Huntington once again. And the Japanese and Chinese gardens. Seeing that what was yellow just a few months ago is now green.

Hosting an evening for feminists. Strengthening old friendships and making new ones.

Being hailed as “Yawna” (the Czech pronunciation of Jana) and remembering how much I loved being called that so many years ago, and how right it sounds now.


And, as always, I am so excited for the upcoming weekend! There will be sand and sea. And more photography(!). And the dissertation chair (again). And pie. Doesn’t that all sound wonderful?

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