You’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve fallen off the map. I haven’t been blogging much lately because my life is about to change in a whopping big way. After two-and-a-half years in the fascinating city of Richmond, Virginia, my husband and I are preparing for our return to Northeast Ohio. Or, as I like to call it, the Land Where I Met the Love of my Life.
You’d be right in thinking: “My goodness! Didn’t she just uproot herself to move from Ohio to Virginia? I remember reading all about it on her blog.”
Well yes. Welcome to life in the 21st-century, where job changes occur with greater frequency than they did in our parents’ generation. My husband’s new job—a really terrific one—is the magnet pulling us back, and it’s a good move for many reasons, although we’ll discuss the frigid climate another time. My son is getting married this fall, John’s oldest son is receiving his doctoral degree in May, and we will be much closer to his younger boy. Our boys, I should say. Our sons. None of this “his” or “mine.” John and I believe that our blended family feels very much like an “ours,” although, sometimes, old speech habits are slow to catch up with the heart.
As for myself and this move? Well, I can write and blog anywhere—from the top of Mount Rainier, if I have to—as long as there’s Internet access and I don’t have to climb to get there.
But for now, I’m here, chipping away at the slow deconstruction of my tiny office in our Richmond townhouse. I’ve just removed the artifacts and “familiars” that adorn my bulletin board, and at present I have on my desk a great treasure. It is a poem, yellowed with age and riddled with pinholes. I will carefully tuck it away in a file for the move to Ohio, where it will resume its rightful place—I want to say like a talisman, but that’s not quite right and you’ll see why in a moment—in my new office. I also want to say I hope it will bring me luck, but again—habits of speech tend not to catch up with the heart. The poem is about anti-luck, or, as the late American poet William Stafford called it,
The Little Ways that Encourage Good Fortune
Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.
If you do not have things right in your life,
you will simply be overwhelmed.
You may be heroic, but you will not be wise.
If you have things right in your life, and you
do not know why, you are just lucky,
And you will not move in the little ways that
encourage good fortune.
The saddest of all are those who are not right
in their own lives who are acting to make
things right for others.
They act only from the self, and that
self will never be right;
No luck, no help, no wisdom.
© 1960, 1998 The Estate of William Stafford
Used with Permission of the Executor, Kim Stafford
When I emailed the poet’s son, Kim Stafford, asking for permission to reproduce this gem of a poem, I wrote that this is likely to be one of the poems I’d like read at my funeral. His reply?
“Perhaps the poem is more useful in the midst of life, when one can act so as to encourage the little ways …?”
And of course it is, which is why I’m sharing it with you here, thanks to Kim Stafford’s good offices, and why I’ve always kept it close to my heart, where old speech habits—even reflexively wishing someone good luck—sometimes lag behind.
Kim also shared something his father once said: “I must be willingly fallible to deserve a place in the realm where miracles happen.”
So I won’t wish good luck for myself, or for my husband or our boys. I shall will myself—and them—to be fallible in order to reside in the realm where miracles happen.
I wish that for you, too.
Note: Kim Stafford is an associate professor at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling in Portland, Oregon, where he directs the Northwest Writing Institute. He tells me that he and his colleagues are at work planning “The William Stafford Centennial, 2014: 100 Years of Poetry and Peace.”