The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver
Poetry | Nature
Published by Beacon Press
Goodreads | Amazon
As a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, Mary Oliver was a prominent figure in the poetry world until her death in January 2019. It wasn’t until her death, however, that I heard of her. Through the many articles I casually read through in the weeks following her passing, I learned that she was well-known for her poetry regarding nature.
This intrigued me and I added a few of her collections to my TBR. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I started to discover an interest in poetry. I went to my library last week in order to grab several poetry collections, primarily because I’m still learning which poets speak to me the most and which topics I gravitate toward. They had several of Mary Oliver’s collections, and from amongst them, I chose The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays.
Published in 2008, The Truro Bear is a collection made up of forty-five poems, both new and classic, as well as two essays. Nature, and more specifically the life found in nature, is the theme throughout this collection.
Some of my fondest memories involve being deep in the woods, surrounded by nature and wildlife, whether it was while hiking, backpacking, camping, or just relaxing somewhere beautiful. Mary Oliver clearly shows the reader how much she appreciates and loves the world around her, and it resonated with me. Anyone that loves spending time outside will find something to love in this collection.
Taken as a whole, The Truro Bear underwhelmed me, despite my strong feelings about nature. Many of the poems were well-crafted but for whatever reason didn’t move me or inspire me in any way. I want to make clear that I enjoyed the collection, it just didn’t change my life in any way.
There are a lot of poems about Mary’s dog Percy, whom she very clearly adored. The poems are adorable and relatable to dog owners all over the world. She weaves memories of the smallest moments with Percy to create a love letter to his companionship and the joy he brought her.
The part of this collection that I loved the most was not one of her poems, but an essay called “Swoon” about the life of a spider over the course of a week or so. In it, Oliver details the smallest parts of this spider’s doings, from spinning a cricket into her web and draining it of its life, to bursting egg sacks full of spiders. I’m not going to act tough and say that spiders don’t freak me the heck out, because they do, but even with my pre-existing squeamishness toward arachnids, I loved every word of this essay. It’s so easy to overlook tiny details like the type of web made by the spider forgotten in a corner, but learning to appreciate moments like this allows us to really notice the world around us and see it in the way it was intended.
There were also two quotes that spoke to me:
“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
from “The Summer Day”
“We must laugh a little at this rich and unequal world, so they say, so they say.
And let them keep saying it.
from “News of Percy (Five)”
Reading Oliver’s collection makes me realize that I often fail to notice the tiny elements of life that surround me and constitute the wider world. I need to make more of an effort to notice the birds in the trees or to watch the squirrel hiding away nuts for the winter. It’s not difficult, it just takes noticing.
Although The Truro Bear turned out a little less incredible than I was expecting, I still loved it and can easily see myself going back to this collection repeatedly. A few of the poems will stay with me, and I hope others can find some more appreciation for nature, and the lives of the animals within, through Mary Oliver’s words and legacy.