Today I received the final version of the cover for my upcoming poetry book, A Question of Mortality. The book goes to the printer tomorrow. I kept staring at it the way mothers stare at their newborns--a combination of awe and disbelief. This, my first published collection of poems, is really happening. In a week or so, I will hold the book in my hands. Will I be inclined to swaddle it in a flannel receiving blanket and cuddle it close to my heart? Probably not, but there is no other feeling besides new motherhood that comes as close to the one I have now.
I have been reading and writing poetry since childhood. I've published poems in small literary journals and anthologies for more than thirty years. And I can't remember a time when poetry wasn't a part of my life. The only book I owned as a little girl was, A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. At ten, I could recite every poem from memory.
Poetry has helped me find meaning in the world--helped me to make sense of what often felt senseless. It slows me down and makes me think. May Sarton believed that the only way we can grow up is by thinking. If that's the case, then poetry helped me to grow up. It carried me through the grief of a dead mother early in both our lives, and the devastating deaths of three brothers. It helped me find words to describe my love for my children and grandchildren. Words that gave me hope. In many ways, poetry saved me.
If I were trapped on a desert island with only one book, I would want that book to be an anthology of the world's best poems.
For now, trapped nowhere except in my writing room, I want to take a moment to rejoice, to welcome my little poet child into the world. May she find a home here. May she slow readers down and make them think. May she bring some insights, solace, redemption and joy to those who read her.
This is not a blog about writing—although I am writing it because I never want to forget the way I feel at this moment and writing is the best way to assure the memory is preserved. There are photographs to help me remember, of course, but I’m a writer and so I want the words, too. Someday, when I’m old (well older) I want to reread this blog and feel these feelings all over again.
Today, I had one of the most amazing and magical experiences of my life. And I, who call myself a writer, am stunned by it—almost at a loss for words. But not quite! Today, I swam with the dolphins in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Ten of us jumped into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and spent more than two hours romping and doing acrobats with two, adorable and well-trained dolphins. One by one, we floated on our stomachs. Each dolphin butted a velvet snout against the bottoms of our feet and pushed us across the water at amazing speeds—like body surfing with lots of motor power and virtually no waves.
We humans partnered up, linked ankles and held out our arms while the two dolphins spun us in circles. I felt like Ester Williams in one of her old, water-themed television specials—straight from Cypress Park, Florida. The dolphins swam on either side of me, allowing me to grab a fin and take a ride—water skiing without the skis. One of them even did a little dance—me holding onto his fins and both of us shaking our booties.
I was in awe of their beauty, their mischievous nature, their intelligence and their ability to show affection and humor. When one of us humans messed up our role in the production, the dolphin seemed to smile and then gladly provided us with another chance. At the end, I got a kiss on the cheek and another one smack on the lips. At my age, I’ve been kissed a few times by frogs, but never by one of these magnificent creatures.
So this is my advice to you. If life ever provides you with the opportunity to swim with the dolphins, grab onto it. You won’t regret it, I promise. The ten of us ranged in age from about forty to eighty years old—and everyone had the time of their lives. And if you do get the chance, take a moment to record your feelings about the adventure. It will help you remember it better than photos. It just doesn’t get any better than this.