Cheers again for Mary Oliver, whose memory will always bless, and whose life was something to celebrate, and whose death is encouraging a whole bunch of new people in my Twitter timeline to read less frequently quoted examples of her poetry.
Something profoundly lovely is the intimate and personal connection that poet Mary Oliver made with the world. I was talking to a friend, who met the poet in person, and mentioned the respectful and gentle manner in which she listened as my friend related how a poem of Mary Oliver’s reminded her of a loved one who had died. Mary Oliver probably heard that sort of thing a great many times, but her active listening, which is reflected in her work, somehow helped to both share and diffuse the sting of grief.
Her poetry helps me listen – to myself, and to the world. Next to my journal and my Bible, beside The Chair Of Comfy Awesomeness is a thick collection of Oliver poems. And, on those frequent days when the heart is bowed or silent, and the exigencies of rigorous – or any – religious thought escape me, I read a handful of poems, and walk through wilds where the Divine is less inexplicable, and the simplicity gathers a focus which is clear-eyed and joyful, and I can once again draw breath, and consider the lilies – and then, the hummingbirds. This, too, is a gift.
Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look
up into that blue space?
Take your choice, prayer fly from all directions.
And don’t worry about what language you use,
God no doubt understands them all.
Even when the swans are flying north and making
such a ruckus of noise, God is surely listening,
Rumi said, There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?
Yes, I know God’s silence never breaks, but is
that really a problem?
there are thousands of voices, after all.
And furthermore, don’t you imagine (I just suggest it)
that the swans know about as much as we do about
the whole business?
So listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly.
Take from it what you can.
Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.
So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.
~ both poems from FELICITY, by Mary Oliver ©2017, Penguin Books
Poetry Friday is hosted at Miss Rumphius’ house today, where there are doubtless numerous other people celebrating the gift that is the life and work of Mary Oliver. Whether you are snowed in, or leapfrogging puddles in this boundless wintry weather, may your weekend be touched by a breath of the Divine, and a touch of the untamed world which reminds you that you do, in fact, have only this one wild and precious life.