Grateful for the life of Mary Oliver

The first time I read a Mary Oliver Poem, I was visiting my mom at her college, while I was also in college. Even if I missed our house, the one mom had sold and left for her new career adventure in middle age, we’d moved so many times when I was young, I’d done this before, I could do it again. Home probably could be wherever there were people I loved. But. It was my last semester at school and it had been a difficult few months—I was struggling to let go of a very unhealthy relationship, perfectionism and anxiety raged. I didn’t know how to give myself permission to do the things I knew were calling my name. I didn’t know where I belonged. Still, visiting mom felt like soup on a sick day. I could breathe again. I felt a little more well. And there in the “kitchen” of my mom’s cramped student-housing apartment, I think under a magnet on the waist-high mini-fridge, was a poem. Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.

As far as I was aware it was the first time in my then 23 years that I’d read anything by Mary Oliver. When mom wasn’t looking, I copied the poem to take with me. I love my mom to pieces but it’s hard to talk about hard things. I didn’t want to talk about how that poem made me feel—the same feeling of exhale I felt by visiting mom, actually. It was permission to not be perfect or have the answers and still love life anyway, all in a poem, and in a visit to my beloved mother.

My life is better because of the words Mary Oliver shared with the world and now has left behind—not just that one poem, but so many I’ve fallen in love with since.

Thanks for your words and life Mary. I’m so grateful you were here among us sharing them for so long.


Sometimes I go to the bookstore having already spent my book budget for the month. I do this because I cannot resist bookstores. Whenever this happens I find myself wondering, why oh why am I doing this to myself? I know I'm going to buy a book—probably more than one. And perhaps even one of those books will NOT even be a picture book. And then not only am I being bad with my budget I'm also going to want to read that long non-picture-book book RIGHT NOW! Only inevitably I will already have a stack as big as my leg (or possibly larger) of non-picture-book books I want to read RIGHT NOW. Also, didn't I just do this, like last week? Yes, I have a problem. I can't help it. I LOVE BOOKS!

So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with the title of this post—Storystorm? Storystorm is this thing in picture book land where picture book writers gather (virtually) over on Tara Lazar's blog and support one another as we each come up with a picture book idea for every day during an entire month. I have no idea how many years I've participated in Storystorm (used to be called PIBOIDMO). I will not go back and look because that will make me feel like I am getting old too fast. Let's just say it's many. And the practice has not only helped me come up with many fun ideas during the month it takes place, it also has taught me to cultivate ideas all year long. And it has to do with my enormously large pile of to-read books because just like books, I have WAY TOO MANY IDEAS!

But joking aside, I actually like having too many books and too many ideas. The abundance of these things matters. I've heard it said that you only need one good idea. Sure. And I suppose I'm supposed to feel satisfied with one book too?

I make my best work when I throw my perfectionism out the window and aim for quantity over quality. Yes, I want quality—but I find that it comes only from vigorous practice. And that vigorous practice only comes from a spirit of quantity. Quantity helps me achieve quality.

This is true especially with ideas. The more ideas I come up with, the more I find the ideas to be interesting. It never fails.

So here's my annual cheers to another month of brainstorming ideas with Storystorm! And while I'm at it I'll raise my glass to brainstorming of all kinds—where quantity cultivates quality. And also I'll raise my glass to the giant mountains of books that are waiting to be read, in my house, in my library, and in my local bookstore. Is there anything better?

Cheers to abundant possibility!