Yes, Mary Oliver, yes. Thank you. Thousands upon thousands of us hear your singing, still. And thanks to @mypositiveoutlooks on Insta, too …
only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one
I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in is wider than that.
And anyway, what’s wrong with Maybe?
You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen.
I’ll just tell you this: only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.
Mary Oliver, The World I Live In. Felicity: Poems | Penguin Publishing Group, 2015
How many poems have given your imagination a much-needed workout? The world of the ‘ordinary’ is actually extraordinary. And life is an invitation to see extraordinary ordinary everywhere. In front of you, around and behind. ‘You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen.’ And in this afternoon alone I’m expecting to see more. Life is an open door …
Build it, and it will come
Empty out a drawer for someone
They will fill it
Share your work every day
People will find it
Walk and your legs will strengthen
Open your hours and your days will fill
Speak as though you’ve arrived
And reality will realign
Spring’s awakening in Edinburgh is wonderfully underway and I’ve been out and about early. Delicious coffee and cake @kates_edinburgh preceded one of my favourite sorts of morning: an amble – in no particular rush and in no particular direction. This is a city that ‘offers itself to your imagination’ (as Mary Oliver might have said of it) – no matter where one roams. Birdsong everywhere speaks today of their having ‘arrived’ (again) and of the energetic building of nests in empty spaces. A beautiful new coffee shop shares its work every day and ‘people will find it.’ My legs do grow stronger, and hours are containers for rich colours and conversations. I speak of my thankfulness and – awakening thereby – the realities of a new season do indeed ‘realign.’
Among the pleasures I’ve celebrated today – 2-2-22 – has been news from a new friend who wrote of hers in taking delivery of a copy of Devotions, and that … ‘yes, Mary Oliver definitely nailed the important things in Wild Geese.’
Mary Oliver will have known, in her time on earth, of just how widely her body of work was received and welcomed. I wonder, sometimes, if her great soul might in any sense be aware, still, of the huge hunger that exists now for her words – words which are at once balm, compassion, contemplation, counsel, ecology, forgiveness, graciousness, gratitude, generosity, love, mercy, prayer, profundity and innumerable rich seams of simplicity, all vital to thriving vivacity and global, universal wellbeing.
This great, greatly beloved wise poet and teacher laughed and loved and prayed and shed tears and wondered and wondered and wondered in her encounters with life’s every gift, grace and mystery. That my new friend should perhaps have taken this volume to her bedside table tonight pleases me no end …
From the poet’s Self-Portrait: (Devotions, page 117)
I wish I was twenty and in love with life
and still full of beans …
Upward, old legs! There are roses, and there is the sea
shining like a song, like a body
I want to touch
though I’m not twenty
and won’t be again but ah! seventy. And still
in love with life. And still
full of beans.
Mary Oliver’s lifetime of devotions always involved showing you and me what poetry – and what life – are for. May friends, writers and readers today be … full of beans.
Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing …
from Snowy Night
There’s been a hushed stillness here today. My morning walk gave way to a post-thaw amble after dark. I’ve been pondering the ‘power’ of a perfectly symmetrical snowflake * which, in company with millions of others like it, can quieten wide spaces and bring about a stillness that nothing else can. Ordinary human activity is disrupted and it’s not without reason, I think, that we’re sometimes awestruck by the sound of silence (and occasional hooting) that accompanies falling snow. Thoughts give way to quietened wonder … and – as Mary Oliver goes on to ask …
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
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.
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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.