Trust Mary Oliver to get the words so right. This is from “White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field.”
These last few weeks before the time change, when the mornings are so dark until almost 8:00, are tough. (The weeks after the time change are also tough because suddenly 7:00 pm feels like midnight because it’s been dark for hours. I think we have a theme here.)
Here’s a poem to fit that theme.
Lines Written In The Days of Growing Darkness
by Mary Oliver
Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
who would cry out
to the petals on the ground
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,
though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.
Mary Oliver sums up the “make it count” feelings. I love the “each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth” line.
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, media-shy and often quoted around here, gave an interview and short reading to the radio show On Being recently, which you can find right here. She talks a little more about her early life (“I got saved by the beauty of the world”) and her recent move to Florida, but the most exciting things for me were her talking about her new work. She quotes from the beginning of a new poem:
“Things take the time they take. don’t worry. How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?”
My second favorite part? Her reading of “Wild Geese.”
Some advice via prose poem from Mary Oliver:
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Here’s a poem about making jam (which will happen tonight) and about grandmothers. My own grandmother is not doing well; if you have a good thought to send to her or the universe, she and I and my family would be grateful.
This is by Mary Oliver.
If I envy anyone it must be
My grandmother in a long ago
Green summer, who hurried
Between kitchen and orchard on small
Uneducated feet, and took easily
All shining fruits into her eager hands.
That summer I hurried too, wakened
To books and music and circling philosophies.
I sat in the kitchen sorting through volumes of answers
That could not solve the mystery of the trees.
My grandmother stood among her kettles and ladles.
Smiling, in faulty grammar,
She praised my fortune and urged my lofty career:
So to please her I studied – but I will remember always
How she poured confusion out, how she cooled and labeled
All the wild sauces of the brimming year.
Here’s a poem about dogs (or cats!) and about being steadfast, a good word.
How It Is with Us, and How It Is with Them
by Mary Oliver
We become religious,
then we turn from it,
then we are in need and maybe we turn back.
We turn to making money,
then we turn to the moral life,
then we think about money again.
We meet wonderful people, but lose them
in our busyness.
We’re, as the saying goes, all over the place.
Steadfastness, it seems,
is more about dogs than about us.
One of the reasons we love them so much.
“Best preacher that ever was”–my thoughts exactly on sunshine. (Not so much the waking early for me, though.)
Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety—
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light—
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.