I mourn the loss of
a soul-friend nevertheless
still here in my soul
Mary Oliver, RIP
SRM – MM Haiku 118 Day 148
Some joys that come to our doorsteps, inevitably, outshine others. Perhaps because some such joys carry a particular measure of comfort. Something along the lines of – no matter how awful things may appear at times, this life is full of so much richness and goodness that we cannot help but tumble into the kind of response that is the very name of this treasury of awe and wonder. Devotions.
This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness
What would the world feel like tomorrow morning if broadcast ‘world news’ tonight was comprised of just the one piece of Wisdom Mary Oliver notes here?
No advice, no opinions, no looking to leaders of any kind, nor any seeking to lead or be led. Just every single person in the world watching quietly, without reaction, and with benign interest, the stream of soul-destroying thoughts ticker-taping inside their own head. And letting them go.
What would the world feel like tomorrow morning if there was a complete absence of noise – noise replaced with no thing other than focused attentiveness, however brief?
Could we laugh at ourselves and our shifting certainties? Could we put to one side our politics and religions, our tribes and education, our perceptions of culture and dominions – even for a little space? Would we yearn to return soon to the stillness and silence of such a soul-building place?
In the morning and at afternoon and evening: let it begin, again, with me.
… I’ll just tell you the unexpected, joyful conclusion. The dog officer resigned! And the next officer was a different sort; he too remembered and missed the old days. So when he found Sammy he would simply call him into his truck and drive him home. In this way, he lived a long and happy life, with many friends.
This is Sammy’s story. But I also think there are one or two poems in it somewhere. Maybe it’s what life was like in this dear town years ago, and how a lot of us miss it.
Or maybe it’s about the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you.
I’ve loved a quiet day today. Perhaps too quick though to speak of its having been a reading day. Truth is that it’s been more of a being read day today – by what often and somewhere and sometime I’ve read before.
Mary Oliver features in my daily meditations like whole pages posted by some unimaginably marvellous means into the space just behind my closed eyes – the page having first risen up from somewhere very close to the heart, and from the gratitude-filled chambers in my soul. Not read today, but being read by.
Mary Oliver! Close friend I’ve never met. Did you ever know that such a reading would become recognised by another as a part of your long-held vocation, in innumerable times and places, all over the world? And deep within me? Whom you help, again and again, to see.
desktop: right click and ‘open image in new tab’ to enlarge
Riotous birdsong this morning and – though I’m almost certainly kidding myself – a sense that Spring is not far away. Snow along the Pennine ridge is a feature of Spring up here – and somehow looks lovelier than usual when viewed from a landscape strewn with daffodils. Not many of those around yet, though there are a few hardy yellow souls numbered among our garden snowdrops.
I’ve been wondering today how a heron I’ve been watching for a few days can stand for so long in a freezing cold river. (And rehearsing chunks of Mary Oliver’s Upstream in my head). This most watchful and patient of fishermen must have thermally protected legs and feet. I’m minded to look up how that could be. Plodding along, close to home, I was startled and delighted by a deer just feet away. Or perhaps I ought to say that the unsuspecting deer was startled by me! Too quick for a photo today, I shall keep a closer watch for them in future.
Wild geese over south-west Scotland | Nikon D3300 & 40mm f/2.8 | click x2 to enlarge
May I be forgiven for being a little immodestly proud of this photo? Captured today from the passenger seat of our moving car (70mph), heading north, in south-west Scotland. I think I’ve always loved geese and ‘big sky’ – even before encountering my poet-inspiration Mary Oliver – but undoubtedly more since. Mary’s Wild Geese is perhaps one of her best-known and best-loved poems, and whenever I encounter a flight like this one my heart is warmed. I think of her, and inwardly recite an array of her works. Actually, during the course of the visit, and on the homeward journey, we saw perhaps half a dozen more such flights, several of them much larger than this one. What it must be, to be able to take off like that, honking encouragement to one another en route. Oh, and that sky …
Every day, twelve little bins in which to order disorderly life, and even more disorderly thought
Upstream, page 25
Recycling in the UK has had a bad press this month. I read I’m not as good at it as I once was, and need to live in one of four counties to pass muster. Boxes and bags are out. Ubiquitous and ugly wheeled bins host the nation’s best-ordered recycling efforts.
Mary Oliver writes of the social self that might be cycling life through ‘twelve little bins’ – the hours of the clock – more concerned with keeping pace with the ‘regular’ governor of time than with whether or not it gathers ‘some branch of wisdom or delight’ along the way.
Containers play their part, like the hours. But both the regular and the irregular – coupled with an ability to reflect and to ask ‘what am I doing and why am I doing it?’ – are essential elements whatever we’re talking about, wherever we are, and whatever we do.
The now orange leaves of
the Japanese Acer
in our English cottage
garden skitter – a new
Sunday morning’s quiet
autumn dawn – and a light
turn of an Upstream page
like salmon’s sunlit flight
is early wandering
through riverside landscape
with Mary Oliver
while each alone – and in
their own parts – sings new and
silent sabbath-songs deep
in observing hearts
(* Upstream, is a new Penguin Press collection of Selected Essays by Mary Oliver)
Last evening I was thinking about ‘beneath the surface’. Tonight I’ve rested beside the road awhile with a volume of (that great seer-beneath-the-surface-of-things) Mary Oliver’s poems. There’s enough material for a month’s contemplation in her
Song of the Builders
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.
New and Selected Poems, Vol 2, page 92
In poetry many things are going on at the same time and these layers of time and density of language make the poem uniquely poetic
Unique – singular and personal. Poetic – to create, to make.
We’re all engaged in the business of creation, awake or asleep. Dr Lara Boyd assured her Ted X audience that the human brain never ceases to be creative. The brain learns something, and in simultaneous response is excited to learn more.
Layer builds upon layer. Many things are going on. Rich and fertile wonder lies in every living brain. It doesn’t need turning on, though it helps sometimes to turn external electronic voices off.
Time to meditate – but I procrastinate and it may be hours before the eventual sitting. Then, ‘small stones’ touched, I want to linger, and resist rising again. Why then do I hesitate so often? Why so much external noise? My most creative, loving aliveness is ever best renewed in contemplative, poetic, silence.
In silence each may discern the poetry of unique existence. Neck muscles click, click, click their way towards quiet observation and relaxation. Souls reach to mixed metaphor, listening for the touch of many-layered regeneration, up down, ground up. Herein lies the poetic. Here contemplative calm. In our world of joys and insoluble vicissitudes, the unique and the poetic offer necessary balm. Roots have their needed share of rain.
…. soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.
from Lingering in Happiness in the volume Why I Wake Early
and in New and Selected Poems, Vol 2, page 95