Mary Oliver. Photograph by Mariana Cook

It was the birthday of Mary Oliver two days ago. Oliver passed in 2019. I am just now discovering the wealth of poetry she left for us.

This meditation on beauty, the natural world, and the wonder of the human mind and body is a gift; a respite from our current ‘meme world.’

Evidence

1.


Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people
do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the
same town as the lilies of the field, and the still
waters.

Spring, and all through the neighborhood now there are
strong men tending flowers.

Beauty without purpose is beauty without virtue. But
all beautiful things, inherently, have this function –
to excite the viewers toward sublime thought. Glory
to the world, that good teacher.

Among the swans there is none called the least, or
the greatest.

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in
singing, especially when singing is not necessarily
prescribed.

As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

2.

There are many ways to perish, or to flourish.

How old pain, for example, can stall us at the threshold of function….

Still friends, consider stone, that is without the fret of gravity, and water that is without anxiety.
And the pine trees that never forget their recipe for renewal.

And the female wood duck who is looking this way and that way for her children. And the snapping turtle who is looking this way and that way also. This is the world.

And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.

3.

I ask you again: if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—what would do for you?

And, where are you, with your ears bagged down as if with packets of sand? Listen. We all have much more listening to do. Tear the sand away. And listen. The river is singing. …

For myself, I have walked in these woods for
More than forty years, and I am the only
thing, it seems, that is about to be used up.
Or, to be less extravagant, will, in the
Foreseeable future, be used up.

First, though, I want to step out into some
fresh morning and look around and hear myself
crying out:  “The house of money is falling! The house of money is falling! The weeds are rising! The weeds are rising!”

—Mary Oliver, from Evidence


1 Comment

  • Will says:

    Mary Oliver’s poems have grown and grown on (and in and around) me these last few years. Thanks for sharing it

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