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.
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!