I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple. – Mary Oliver, “Upstream”
I am here another week in the Green Mountains. I came to restore my body. I have stayed to restore my spirit. In the valley surrounded by the mountains, I feel safe and secure. I can explore here. I can look up in wonder and find birds and butterflies, pink clouds at sunset, and fields of wildflowers in the morning light.
Vermont gives space for thinking and dreaming. I am not confined here. There is nothing needing my attention. I can truly breathe deeply and feel my body finally relax. And as my body relaxes, my mind sets off wandering. My pain has lessened some, and I can concentrate on reading and writing.
In addition to mountains, rivers, streams, and stones, Vermont has a wide variety of independent bookstores. Many of the Indy bookstores in my home state of New Jersey have gone out of business but in Vermont small bookstores thrive. This week, I walked into Bear Pond Books and found three treasures: The Summer of June by Jamie Sumner, Upstream by Mary Oliver, and The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett. The Summer of June is an uplifting middle-grade novel about a girl with an anxiety disorder. When I learned that poetry, petite fours, and gardening were the keys to her cure, I knew that I had to get busy reading.
Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. I did not know that she wrote essays and was ecstatic when I found Upstream. I am reading, rereading, and underlining with abandon. Every word, every idea is precious. As I read Oliver, I wish I was younger. I have so much to learn from her. Her thoughts are so much akin to mine. I read, and I am gleeful. I have found a friend.
The House Without Windows will be my last book in this Bear Pond Books trilogy. I found it in the children’s section. When I read the front cover blurb: “A lost classic, a free-spirit adventure, a long song to the wilderness,” I thought it would make a perfect companion to Oliver’s essays. I can’t wait to see if I’m correct. It was written by a twelve-year-old girl, Barbara Newhall Follett, who was born in 1914. She wrote another book, The Voyage of the Norman D., when she was thirteen. In 1939, at the age of twenty-five, Barbara disappeared from her home one evening. She was never seen or heard from again. Her disappearance remains a mystery. I cannot wait to read her first book, which is about a young girl who seeks adventure in the wild. This book jumped out at me from the shelf, and I know there is a good reason. I know I will find treasure and meaning in it.
And what better place to read about nature than in Vermont. Looking up and seeing the solemn silhouette of dark mountains, I cannot help but think of things divine. In these painful weeks, I have reminded myself of the power of faith. I am grateful to be able to spend time in this beautiful place. I have faith that I am being set on the right course. I am certain in the middle of my sixth decade that I have more to learn. And I am ready.