Wednesday

Feb. 11, 2009

Coming Home

by Mary Oliver

When we're driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we're weary,
when the buildings
and the scrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place — the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea —
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything — the headlights
like lanterns
sweeping the blackness —
believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.

"Coming Home" by Mary Oliver, from Dream Work. © The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the week of Valentine's Day, a week to celebrate love in literature.

Two years ago, the New York Public Library and The Guardian in the United Kingdom published lists of The Greatest Love Stories of All Time. They compiled the lists separately, but they each had the same book in the number one spot: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. She published Wuthering Heights, her only novel, in 1847, and the next year she died of tuberculosis at age 30.

It's the story of the doomed love affair between Heathcliff and Cathy. Heathcliff was a wild boy who had been abandoned and was living on the streets of Liverpool when he was adopted by a kind, rich man who took him to his country estate, Wuthering Heights. He raised young Heathcliff there along with his own children, Catherine and Hindley.

Heathcliff and Catherine become good friends, but Hindley hates Heathcliff, and when his father dies, he makes Heathcliff work as a hired hand. Heathcliff and Cathy are in love, but Cathy agrees to marry her neighbor Edgar. Heathcliff leaves in a fury. Cathy is happy for a while, but a few years later, Heathcliff returns and makes everyone miserable, including her. He marries Edgar's sister just so that he can take Edgar's property away from him if he dies.

Heathcliff and Catherine finally reunite, and a few hours later, she dies in childbirth, giving birth to her and Edgar's daughter, also named Cathy.

The saga continues into the next generation. Catherine's brother Hindley, who had been so cruel to Heathcliff, dies, and Heathcliff takes over Wuthering Heights and raises Hindley's son, Hareton, as cruelly as possible to make up for what Hindley had done to him. But of course Hareton and young Cathy fall in love, and Hareton wants to rescue young Cathy from Heathcliff's tyranny. Heathcliff starts to go crazy. He sees his lover Catherine's ghost continually, and he finally dies happy because he will see her in the afterlife.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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