Mary Oliver

“When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.”
~ Mary Oliver

(photo by Michelle Fairchild)

I learned of Mary Oliver’s death yesterday while at my desk at work. NPR had shared the news. Tears streamed down my face. I had shared one of her poem’s on Monday, a poem that had so moved me that when I tried to ready it aloud, that by line five I had to wipe my eyes to see the page, and choke out the words. I knew Mary was in her 80’s, but I didn’t know she was taking her last breaths here on earth. She was a beautiful soul and poet who loved the natural world. She has written poems about trees, the sea, a pond, stones, the wind, ravens and crows, loons, sparrows, herons and even the clam. She lives on in her poetry. It feels like we get to keep a little bit of her soul.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
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?
—Mary Oliver

The article that NPR shared can be found here. You might also enjoy reading this article also by NPR about her book called Upstream. This article about Mary’s elegy for her soulmate Molly Malone Cook was also very moving. Much has been written about Mary Oliver, which you can seek out and find easily enough, so I’ll keep it simple and share a few more poems.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

~Mary Oliver

A Settlement

Look, it’s spring. And last year’s loose dust has turned
into this soft willingness. The wind-flowers have come
up trembling, slowly the brackens are up-lifting their
curvaceous and pale bodies. The thrushes have come
home, none less than filled with mystery, sorrow,
happiness, music, ambition.

And I am walking out into all of this with nowhere to
go and no task undertaken but to turn the pages of
this beautiful world over and over, in the world of my
mind.

* * *
Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you

for everything.

~ Mary Oliver

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in they sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours

~ Mary Oliver

Listen

Excerpt from poem Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches by Mary Olver
Photo by Michelle Fairchild
Suggestion is to read this poem aloud. Feel the words as they come forth with your breath. Personally I was crying by the time I reached this phrase ~
Well, there is time left — fields everywhere invite you into them.

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?
by Mary Oliver

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
continually?
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one’s foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!

To set one’s foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,
to the song falling out of the mockingbird’s pink mouth,
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened

in the night

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,

and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
      but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe

I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what’s coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn’t ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.

Notice the Little Things: Color, Circles, Sky, Orange

I joined an online group called “First 37” which started on January 1st. What drew me is the intention behind the purpose of the 37 day program. The description said it was for those who want to live more meaningful lives, one day at a time, who want to start the New Year with intention. First 37 is designed to help me explore what I want to create in 2019, and set me on the path to creating it. I get a daily prompt that includes 3 different steps, and there is the opportunity for dialogue in a community of people on the same journey. Some of the prompts include noticing things and I love to capture those images in photographs, instead of just writing them down on an index card. I love to include visuals. I am using an app on my phone called LiveCollage to put together the quick collages you’ll see featured below.

Notice the Little Things: Colors
Our world is vibrant and filled with so many colors. I am always moved by those videos of people who are color blind and receive the glasses that allow them to see color.
Their reactions are almost always emotional. I find myself crying to every time.
Notice the Little Things: Circles
Notice the Little Things: Sky
The forecast was for a cloudy and rainy day. I attempted to catch a sunrise before the rain arrived. There was a teasing moment when pink began to form in the east, but it was short lived. I still took note of interesting sky images that morning.
Notice the Little Things: Orange