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A Birthday Present

October 7, 2008

About 10 days ago, just before he left for a really tough work trip to Jamaica (!) I met my dear friend Padraig for coffee and conversation in a Belfast city centre coffee house. Very early in our conversation he handed me a book, as an early birthday present, since he was going to be away on the day. It was Thirst, by Mary Oliver, that wonderful American poet.

And Padraig gave me this poem from the collection

The Place I Want to Get Back To

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay
this one is okay,
let’s see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground, like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can’t be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

We wondered what it would be like to go together to Mary Oliver’s house, approaching it like those two tentative animals. Would our visit bring her more cause for gratitude?

In this year of all years, I am thankful to mark my anniversary and the frequently bestowed gifts of presence. I am grateful today, for friends and family, and the countless hours they have afforded me in coffee house conversations. Each encounter unique. Often memorable. Always valued.

‘Such gifts bestowed, cannot be repeated.’

From → Poetry

  1. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful gift. My heart is lifted by the wonder of those moments when nature sees us as friend, not foe. And I long, how I long, for more of this peace.
    Happy Birthday!

  2. astonishing, I had forgotten this one, thank you for the gift on your birthday.

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