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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


Thanks to Tom Clausen for posting his morning photos and their accompanying text. The closing stanzas of Mary Oliver’s poem “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” remind me of the years I led a chapter of H.O.P.E., a spousal loss support group here in South Jersey.


When one is alone and lonely, the body

gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,

or splashes into the cold river, or

pushes through the ice-crusted snow.

Anything that touches.

Mary Oliver


Anything That Touches

One lesson in the grief support group tells us

that time, talk, tears, and touch are needed

for the healing journey.

We cry our tears, talk about our loneliness,

and share our need for loving touch as we

hug one another at the meeting’s end.

Another lesson talks about how we should

seek the natural world, get out of the closed

house of our grief, tilt our faces to the sky.

Some have pets, and that helps. Some hug

pillows at night, spend hours on the phone

for the distant touch of another voice.

In childhood I discovered that when I deeply

looked at something, I was somehow touching

it—as if my eyes could tangibly feel.

Shortly after my husband died, some years

ago now, I sat on an airplane and observed

my seat mate gently stroking his wife’s arm.

And I found myself folding my arms across

my lap, my left hand slowly stroking my right

forearm, unconsciously comforting myself.

In this pandemic grief-time, when so many

of us are alone in our rooms, we can go out to

touch the shining world, even in wind or rain.

Our bodies can join the family of trees, rejoice

in nearby rivers, straighten to greet the mountains,

and push through the icy crust of our isolation.

© 2020 Penny Harter

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