Tag Archives: Mary Oliver

Friday Night Poetry Blogging

Handwriting letters

A Letter from Home

~ Mary Oliver

She sends me news of blue jays, frost,
Of stars and now the harvest moon
That rides above the stricken hills.
Lightly, she speaks of cold, of pain,
And lists what is already lost.
Here where my life seems hard and slow,
I read of glowing melons piled
Beside the door, and baskets filled
With fennel, rosemary and dill,
While all she could not gather in
Or hid in leaves, grow black and falls.
Here where my life seems hard and strange,
I read her wild excitement when
Stars climb, frost comes, and blue jays sing.
The broken year will make no change
Upon her wise and whirling heart; –
She knows how people always plan
To live their lives, and never do.
She will not tell me if she cries.

I touch the crosses by her name;
I fold the pages as I rise,
And tip the envelope, from which
Drift scraps of borage, woodbine, rue.

Picture found here.

You can buy Mary Oliver’s poems at Poetry and Prose.

Bonus Wednesday Night Poetry Blogging

mall1

Praying
~Mary Oliver
 
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Picture found here.

A Poem for the Salmon, for the River, for the Bear

Whatever Isn’t Necessary Should Not Be in the Poem

Here’s Mary Oliver, sounding quite a bit like Richard Louv:

I love her discussion of picking a flower for Shiva.

Monday Poetry Blogging

steel-cabin-woods-winter-2

Sleeping in the Forest

~ Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Picture found here.

Summer Day Poetry Blogging

Beauty, the Brave, the Exemplary

stunning-peonies-f915a30

We’ve had, against all expectations, a cool, wet Spring here in Columbia’s District.

The roses are going mad, imagining that they live in England (esp. the David Austen ones) rather than in a place that’s honestly too hot, too made of clay, and too buggy for roses. It’s maybe the best year for roses that I’ve ever seen (including those roses with my favorite name: Cuisse de Nymphe, or, in English, the Inner Thigh of an Excited Nymph) and I’m almost sorry that I don’t grown any roses.

It’s also an amazing May for peonies. If you live in a part of the world where they don’t grow peonies, then, I am, truly very, very sorry for you, because peonies are kind of the uber-flower, the archetypical flower, the apogee of flowers, even more than roses are, because peonies are more ruffled, and have no thorns and are, well, peonies. And, also because Mary Oliver wrote, I aver, a better poem about peonies than has ever been written about roses, although, feel free to prove me wrong in comments.

********************

Peonies

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open–
pools of lace,
white and pink–
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities–
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again–
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

*********

Go on, you. You go on and be wild and perfect for a moment before you are nothing, forever. Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, now.

Picture found here.

Flowers for Shiva: A Thousand Mornings


Mary Oliver’s latest book of poems, A Thousand Mornings, is out. NPR has an interesting interview with Ms. Oliver. Following the death of her long-time partner, Molly Malone Cook, Oliver flirted with Christianity, but in this interview:

“I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and … almost involuntary in my life,” she says. “And when I talk about prayer, I mean really … what Rumi says in that wonderful line, ‘there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.’ I’m not theological, specifically, I might pick a flower for Shiva as well as say the hundredth [psalm].”

That makes more sense to me, given what I know of Ms. Oliver’s aesthetics.

She also echoes some of the points that Richard Louv keeps making, noting that:

[S]he feels a great sorrow over humanity’s lack of care for that world. “The woods that I loved as a child are entirely gone. The woods that I loved as a young adult are gone. The woods that most recently I walked in are not gone, but they’re full of bicycle trails,” she says.

“And this is happening to the world,” Oliver continues, “and I think it is very very dangerous for our future generations, those of us who believe that the world is not only necessary to us in its pristine state, but it is in itself an act of some kind of spiritual thing. I said once, and I think this is true, the world did not have to be beautiful to work. But it is. What does that mean?”

Here’s a lovely poem for this time of year when the veils keep getting thinner and thinner.

THE FIRST TIME PERCY CAME BACK

~Mary Oliver

The first time Percy came back
he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though
he had come a great way.
“Percy,” I cried out, and reached to him—
those white curls—
but he was unreachable. As music
is present yet you can’t touch it.
“Yes, it’s all different,” he said.
“You’re going to be very surprised.”
But I wasn’t thinking of that. I only
wanted to hold him. “Listen,” he said,
“I miss that too.
And now you’ll be telling stories
of my coming back
and they won’t be false, and they won’t be true,
but they’ll be real.”
And then, as he used to, he said, “Let’s go!”
And we walked down the beach together.

What if you were to pay attention to the world for one thousand mornings? What if you were to record what you found?

Picture found here.

For Mary Oliver


Mary Oliver, one of my very favorite poets, is reported to be gravely ill. I’m lighting a candle and some incense for her tonight. I hope that you will, too.

When I Am Among the Trees

~ Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

from the book, Thirst.

Picture found here.

Thin Veil Pot-Pourri


*Is it breezy in here, or is it just me? My, the veils seem to be thinning at an amazing rate this near-to-Samhein season. And the energy from the Occupy movement seems to be calling to a number of interesting Ancestors. In my personal practice, the thinning veils call for careful attention to grounding. With my Sun in permeable Pisces, it would be too, too easy (and too, too tempting) to let myself drift too far through those open veils, too far down that misty road, too deep into that fairy hall in the hill. And, so, I get enough sleep. I try to eat right. I get on the treadmill. I balance time alone with time out in the world. I dig in the dirt and leave myself little reminders — an acorn on my desk at work, a flower in a vase by my bed, a tiny polished stone in my purse — to remind me to do what Ram Dass said: Be Here Now.

*”Our labors are witnesses for the living mystery.” Carl Jung, quoted in Ego and Archetype by Edward F. Edinger. Had a great conversation recently w/ a dear friend about how we can’t live our lives entirely focused on our inner processes, nor can we live our lives entirely directed towards the outer world. And, at some point, the feedback loop of doing both inner and outer work is far more effective than either process in isolation. It’s outer work — running for office, and deciding what compromises are worth making (some are, although I know it’s fashionable these days to decry all of them) and which aren’t, or working with the incredibly slow and sometimes frustrating process of consensus decision-making in the Occupy Movement, or rocking cranky babies — that gives us a chance to practice the inner work we’ve been doing of breathing, centering, learning to apply our True Will. And it’s inner work — setting aside time for a daily practice, doing shadow work, stopping throughout the day to reconnect to our Higher Selves — that allows us to be more effective when we confront Fox News, stop logging of old growth forests, let a homeless person know that they’re valued. Before enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood & carry water. Where do you find the balance? Are you at a phase when it’s time to shift your emphasis from one mode to the other?

*Had lunch several days ago with the brilliant and deep Judith Laura. I’m reading her new book, Goddess Matters: the Mystical, Practical, & Controversial, about which a formal review in a few days. She takes on the lie that Goddess religions, because they do not have a set of rules, such as the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments, lack ethics. Judith provides a list of her own Goddess guidelines:

Seek knowledge.
Revere wisdom.
Be joyful.
Know pleasure.
Love one another.
Protect life.
And live in peace.

+

Sounds about right to me. I’m also down with:

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

Charge of the Goddess.

Some ethical practices are better conveyed through poetry. In Evidence, Mary Oliver writes:

Mysteries, Yes
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

*Literata has been doing some amazing blogging on the whole New Apostolic Reformation (NAR/DC40) attack on Pagans. If you aren’t reading her regularly, you should be. Here’s an example:

In [Dominionist] worldview, democracy is sort of a surface phenomenon. It can be used as a kludge when not everyone accepts their god-given place in the power dynamics (especially unbelievers). It can be used as a compromise, or a temporary expedient. But it’s not a long-lasting solution. It’s not a fundamental idea, it’s not something to work for, and ultimately, it’s un-biblical.

With that in mind, read what Wagner has to say about the roles of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets in the NAR:

WAGNER: “The Bible teaches that apostles – related to prophets and also teachers – should form the basis of the government of the church. Now, up till now, recently, most churches in America functioned on a democratic system, so that the authority in the churches and the authority in the denominations resided in groups of people.

And, of course, that’s what we’re used to politically in America, so that fits in very well with our culture. But in terms of the role of the apostle, one of the biggest changes from traditional churches to the New Apostolic Reformation is the amount of spiritual authority delegated by the Holy Spirit to individuals. And the two key words are authority and individuals, and individuals as contrasted to groups. So now, apostles have been raised up by God who have a tremendous authority in the churches of the New Apostolic Reformation. And I think this is the most radical difference between the old and the new.”

When he says, “that’s what we’re used to politically in America,” I hear the unspoken statement, “but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” When he talks about how the NAR’s authority structure is a “radical difference,” I connect that to the kind of “transformation” that he wants to see in American culture and American politics.

Wagner also made a point of saying that the NAR is “working with whatever political system there is” in each country it’s engaging. But he strictly disavows any mention that they want a “theocracy,” which he specifically links to states like Iran or like Constantine’s Rome. He is telling the truth there, but it’s a specific kind of truth based on his ideas about authority.

I believe him that he doesn’t want a “theocracy” where there’s an institutionalized church that runs the institutionalized state. He wants to meld the two, indistinguishably, because his religious ideas about authority and power are so all-encompassing that they would make a separate institutionalized government redundant.

She’s spot on, is a student of history, and always does her homework.

Anne Johnson has been interviewing a different “Bored God” every day, with a focus on the state under attack that day by NAR. If you haven’t yet read her interview with the Spirit of Ayahuasca, used by, primarily, Native Americans in their religious ceremonies, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Anne: Welcome, Ayahuasca! I’d offer you a cup of tea … but that’s what you are.

Ayahuasca: I’m not your cup of tea, though. You haven’t been initiated into the Mysteries.

Anne: So true. About the most adventurous I get is a vodka gimlet. But this isn’t about my religious experiences, it’s about America’s religious experiences. And You, o Sacred Ayahuasca, have been foully and cruelly treated! Everyone has heard the tale of the DEA agents bursting in on a ceremony of the Unaio do Vegetal praise and worship team in New Mexico. The agents pulled You right out of the priest’s kitchen and carted You off to the slammer. (Or in this case, the refrigerator.)

Ayahuasca: We took them to court. To the Supreme Court. And we won.

Anne: Damn right, you won! It’s called the First Amendment, and there’s a long and well-documented use of Ayahuasca tea in numerous religious paths originating in the Western Hemisphere. I was rooting for Unaio do Vegetal every step of the way.

Ayahuasca: Thank you. Here is how I look at it. You never see DEA agents bursting into a First Communion, confiscating the wine, and arresting the priests for serving alcoholic beverages to minors.

*The Occupy Movement has been training lots of people in the use of consensus decision making. That’s difficult work, both to teach and to learn. In honor of all of those teachers, learners, and users, I offer the following picture by Robert Bissell, entitled, The Decision:


(found here.)

*I had a delightful houseful (I have a tiny cottage, so it doesn’t take too many to make a houseful) of people over for brunch yesterday. Some were long-time friends, in town for OccupyDC, some were family, some were Witches and their spouses, some ( 😉 ) were Landscape Guy. Gemini Rising, there’s not much that I enjoy more than bringing interesting people together, feeding them, and listening to them talk. Consequently, I’d saved a long list of chores to be done today, but, in the end, I slept late, spent extra time on the treadmill, and drove up to Benkhe’s nursery, which I really did not need to do. But, as I said a few months ago: OPG. I bought some begonias for inside the kitchen windowsill, a tiny pot of succulents to keep on my desk all Winter when the sunlight comes as strong as can be through my Northern window, and a big blue pot for my office jade tree, which has needed repotting for some time.

*If I am related (by blood or experience) to you and you are beyond the Veils, this is a gentle reminder that you do NOT have a standing invitation to visit me every night in my dreams. Some of you, I didn’t even really like very much while you were alive, and I’m certain that I never wanted to sleep (in the prosaic (or other) sense) with all ya’ll. It’s going to be a long month. Go bother someone else. And, if you do show up, please remember to tell me where the money is buried, how much you really did love me even though you couldn’t say it, and to give me the recipes for stuffing and sweet pickles. The “you were not a very nice little girl” stuff you can save for L.L. She may care. And she really wasn’t.

+First published in Judith’s book: She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother.

Picture found here.