I was in Billings, Montana, for the High Plains Book Fest and several of you asked, “How did it go?”
As with most questions, there’s a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is, “It was great!” and the long answer involves me talking about gratitude, and the gifts we give each other even when we don’t realize we’re giving them, and still more, about the value in not being a leader or a follower, but a little bit of both.
I imagine the long answer is fairly incoherent (it is even to me, and I was there! It will take me a while to make better sense of it), so perhaps the best way I can reply is with a poem that was in my heart all weekend:
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
(from Dream Work by Mary Oliver, published by Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994)