The modest but loyal Provincetown Bookshop carries a ready supply of signed works by hometown poet Mary Oliver.
One of my treats to myself this birthday month was a trip to the Cape to purchase Swan, Mary Oliver’s latest volume of poems. I knew last May to expect the book in September; Amazon had offered to let me pre-order it. I determined that I would wait.
I got to the Provincetown bookstore Saturday afternoon within a half hour of its four o’clock closing. If I had splurged on an overnight stay at one of the local inns, I might have taken my new purchase there and begun my reading by a window in the common room. Instead of an armchair, I found a nearby restaurant overlooking the bay and perched on a stool at their bar, ordered a half dozen Wellfleet oysters with a martini, and began reading.
It was not a crowded place in late afternoon on a Saturday. It was not noisy. It was not likely that anyone would elbow too close to a man with a book of poetry open on the bar. And I refused to hurry the pleasures before me.
An hour later, however, I felt reluctant to order a second martini with the evening’s drive back to my niece’s house in Eastham before me. I paid my bill, returned my new book to its bag, and headed down Commercial Street.
It was darker than when I had first arrived, and only a few shop windows were lit. I walked almost alone down the street, in a direction no one else appeared headed, and that seemed just fine.
The next morning I took the Mary Oliver volume with me on my morning drive to get coffee. Within an hour of waking, I was sitting in my car overlooking the Cape Cod National Seashore with coffee and poems in hand. The wind coming off the water shook the car from time to time, but I cracked my window open. The cry of gulls was loud, and the moment was perfect.
I did not need to be anywhere or anyone else. There was nowhere to hurry to, nothing to hurry from.
Experience tells me that the only thing that can deepen a satisfaction like that is to hear someone ask at that very moment, “What are you thinking now, John?”
Experience tells me it can happen.