On January 17, famed American poetess and
Pulitzer Prize winner,
Mary Oliver, passed away at age 83. Mary truly paid attention to - and had an intimate relationship with - the world around her. Her sublime poetry serves to wake all of us up to the intelligence of creation, of which each one of us is an intrinsic part. She describes the world I strive to live in.
That's what spiritual practice can do, too....help us see our connection to the rhythms of life and the beauty and wonder of nature.
Mary wrote often of mortality, but with a spirit of gratitude and completion. She hoped that at the end of life she could look back and see herself as a “bride married to amazement.” Wow.
I read her poem
at my father's funeral when he died ten years ago.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I love her invitation to listen deeply, and how she contrasts and compares us with wild geese who fly alone, yet in an inclusive form, honking to keep in contact with each other in flight. She wants to wake us up so we recognize our place in the “family of things,” as she has.
“If I have any lasting worth, it will be because I have tried to make people remember what the Earth is meant to look like,” she wrote. That's what she has done for me and so many.
As I write this, it's late in the evening and there's a chorus of coyotes in the hills behind my house. Perhaps they are happy the rain stopped, perhaps they are sharing stories. They howl one by one, and sometimes in unison, and I know they are home, and I am with them.
Let's all be fully present to what is here, let it fill us with wonder, with amazement, and be grateful and content as we travel in this beautiful flow of creation, together.