Mary Oliver’s poem is particularly meaningful to me since I visited Cebu, where Magellan died, while myself far from home, and way outside my comfort zone both personally and professionally.
I went to the Philippines for work almost exactly one year ago. During some free time in Cebu city before heading to the remote outer reaches of the island for a shoot, we hired a tour guide to show us the sights.
I learned that Magellan landed on Cebu in the 1500s, planted a huge cross, converted some important people to Christianity, and proceeded to be killed three weeks later while attempting to forcefully convert some others. (Which is why I wish Mary Oliver had chosen someone less objectionable to illustrate her message. But I digress.)
We visited the cross, which is considered the most important relic in the Philippines. Not being Catholic, I was interested in its historic rather than religious value, and I was disappointed that it is completely encased in a protective covering, so you can’t actually see the 500 year-old timber.
Anyway… point is, the tiny villages I spent time in while in the Philippines were the furthest I’ve ever wandered from home, geographically or experience-wise, and Mary Oliver’s metaphor is actually quite on-the-nose and literal in my case. Especially because there were several instances in which I believed (delusionally) that I was going to die in the Philippines.
Thankfully that did not come to pass, the trip was an amazing exercise in stretching myself, and I am now free to find another far-off island to die in.
[Top photo is from Iloilo, two islands west of Cebu.]