‘I was a bride married to amazement’

From Mary Oliver’s poem ‘When Death Comes,’ I pick up beautiful images. Like this one on wonderment:

I want [when death comes] to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And this one on amazement:

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.

Wonderment arises for the speaker only because she has begun imagining in what way death could come for her. In view of the fact that death will come for her, she relates how she ‘looks upon everything’ now and this day and everywhere with delicate, wild, honest love. How she beholds. How the natural beauty is there for the beholder.

A life spent imagining, beholding, drafting gentle beauty is close cousins with wondering about what death will be like. I like this question, its tone: ‘what is it going to be like?’ I don’t know, she implies, since one cannot wonder about what one knows. I don’t know, but don’t tell me either. Don’t spoil it, this, for me.

I wonder about some actuality. The actuality is foregrounded as actuality while the wonder surrounds something unknown about it with a thirsty question. I see that something is the case. Now why is that so? Or how is that so? Or what is it all about? Or how is it going to look? Give me time to consider or imagine.

I can only wonder, as I wander along in my imagining, my thinking, until I reach the end. I am amazed. Wonderment is the road leading to amazement: wonderment the beginning, amazement the finale. What is amazement like? It’s like being the kind of bride who is always loved. Loved every instant and entirely. The amazed person declares, ‘I had no idea that it could happen this way!’ ‘I can’t believe what I’m seeing!’ The amazed person, as Aleksandra pointed out to me, feels as if this were a miracle.

Being amazed means being in the presence of that which presently overflows my powers of comprehension. There is more to it, more fullness to it, more greatness within it than meets the eye or ear or mind. Beholding what is more than I can drink in, I exclaim for there is ‘music in the mouth’ and quiet jubilation filling up my spirit.

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