May the Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way to the Summerlands. May Her Friends & Family Know Peace.

When Death Comes

~ Mary Oliver

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.

Margot Adler slipped into the Summerlands today and I find that I’m breaking into tears at odd moments, gasping, stopping to try and get my balance. I took Mary Daley‘s death hard, and cried for a few days when Madeline L’Engle died, but I don’t usually take the deaths of my favorite authors quite so badly.

Margot Adler’s book, Drawing Down the Moon, was the second book I ever read about Paganism. The first was The Politics of Women’s Spirituality by Charlene Spretnak. I think that Ms. Spretnak’s bibliography sent me to Drawing Down the Moon — I’m so old that this was pre-internet and pre-Amazon. When I finally got my hands on a copy of Drawing Down the Moon, I read it cover to cover, closed, it, opened it back up, and read it another six or nine times.

The Politics of Women’s Spirituality gave words to what I believed, but Drawing Down the Moon let me see what it could look like to actually live that life somewhere besides in my head. There were real people, with names and geographies, who were actually living Pagan lives and conducting Pagan worship. With. Other. Pagans.

This wasn’t something I was going to have to either construct all on my own or just spend my life imagining. “And that,” as Mr. Frost wrote, “has made all the difference.” I will always be more than grateful to Ms. Adler for that gift.

It may not seem so straight a path to others, but my interior life has been a pretty unbroken line from The Wind in the Willows, to The Secret Garden, to A Wrinkle in Time, to the Crosswicks Journals, to The Word for World is Forest, to Howard’s End, to The Essential Rumi, to The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, to Drawing Down the Moon, to The Fifth Sacred Thing, to The Bramble Bush, to the Baker’s Creek Seed Catalogue. And if you just say “Wind in the Willows to Baker’s Creek Seed Catalogue,” it doesn’t sound so far a trip at all.

Ms. Adler was only ten years older than I am and so, not surprisingly, I guess, it seems to me that she died very young. Which is what sent me looking this evening for one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. I think that Ms. Adler did more than simply visit this world. She goes forth shining and I will remember her. And what is remembered, lives.

/update: Thanks to Judith Laura for the careful proofing!

9 responses to “May the Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way to the Summerlands. May Her Friends & Family Know Peace.

  1. A wonderful and fitting tribute. This pulled my heartstrings, too. Thank you.

  2. Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns.
    The book I cherish most on my faith is Drawing Down the Moon
    I am heart broken at her passing/ I will light the fires tonight in her honor and memory

  3. May she dance with the ancestors, and may she know peace. )O(

  4. Thanks for this. I’m doing the same–the odd little breakdown. I haven’t even been able to write about it yet. I made a memorial candle and took it to the Beloved Crone’s house tonight and we sang some songs we’d sung with Margot. I feel…lost.

  5. Byron, Odd, but I feel lost, too. Wouldn’t have expected this one to hit me quite so hard. Just read her autobiography last year. Her son was so young. Guess we;re next.

  6. I had the privilege of attending her workshops at Pantheacon on two occasions, and I was amazed at what a gently commanding presence that small woman had. She filled the room. She was, and I believe still is, a very powerful being.

    I am sad that I won’t feel that presence again in this lifetime. I am grateful for the gifts she gave to so many. May she be wrapped in the loving arms of those she loved who crossed over before her.

  7. Drawing Down the Moon was the first book I read once I began my journey along this crooked path. I will never forget the impact those words had on my life. Even though I have never met her, she touched my soul and I will miss her. Thank you for your words …

  8. Oh! We have lost another illuminated soul — she will be remembered by her words and by her deeds. Lighting a candle and some incense today …

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