Mary Oliver’s The Lamps

By , September 4, 2011

If you’re reading Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons as a lunar calendar with me this year, it’s time to read the poem for today’s first quarter moon, The Lamps.

This is one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, one that truly speaks to me. It could hardly have come at a better time in this lunar poetry calendar I’ve created for myself around Ms. Oliver’s book.

oil lamp

One of the cabin's oil lamps (Photo: Michelle Zeiger).

I love to read this poem at this time of year, sitting at the cabin’s dining table, the page softly illuminated by oil lamplight. Just as the poem describes, the daylight has not yet gone (so it must be earlier than 8:00 pm here) but I had lit the lamps. Perhaps it was one of those days when Michelle and Aly had gone to town on some errand. They would have come home just after darkfall to a cozy cabin full of lamp and candle light.

This year, while everything else will be just right, I will not read the poem by oil lamp light. I’ve discovered that Kleenheat™, the fuel we use for our oil lamps, evaporates slowly but significantly over time. Because of this, I will not clean and fill our oil lamps until we return from taking Aly to college. That doesn’t mean that the memory of our little cabin, warm in the lamp glow, won’t be strong within me, as it always is when I read The Lamps, at whatever time of year.

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