Poetry Friday is hosted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater @ The Poem Farm.
Jane Goodall celebrated her 80th. birthday on Thursday, April 3rd. For as long as I can remember, for as long as I truly understood what it meant to be a hero, Jane Goodall was my hero. I was (and am) in awe of her purposefulness, commitment, and courage. In my school days, I read and re-read “In the Shadow of Man”, her amazing first book detailing her study of chimpanzees in the wild. And I scoured Time and Life magazines for photographs of Jane – photographs like this iconic one, which took pride of place right next to photographs of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell on my dorm room walls:
She has led a remarkable life, often sacrificing her own safety and well being in the service of her calling. And, she is at it still – going back into the chimpanzee reserves of Tanzania to monitor the status of these endangered animals, and going out into the world to raise awareness and to inform. It took me many years to find my own calling, but the example of Jane Goodall always guided me, I think. I wanted to do meaningful work, work that mattered, and had some lasting impact…and so I found my way into teaching. And here again, Jane Goodall guided me. For she is a teacher, too, as is evident from this TED talk she gave some years ago:
It may seem strange to think of Goodall’s birthday and this death-configured poem of Mary Oliver’s, but I think it’s wholly fitting – especially in the last five lines:
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.