Archive for the ‘Mary Oliver’ Category

On May 23, my sweet friend Marja departed from this life. She was courageous, graceful, thoughtful and humble. A deeply spiritual woman–mother, sister, daughter, wife, friend. She let go gradually and, in the process, she brought together a community. She planned her own memorial service which included a farewell letter to all who were assembled to celebrate her life. Her message was embodied in her son’s performance of “Let it Be.”

I have entered the time of life when good-byes are increasing. When the reality of impermanence is inescapable. When I am learning more and more how to love what is mortal and when the time comes, to let it go.


Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.



Read Full Post »

In this sacred time…Passover, Easter Week, Spring at hand…I am fasting and spending more time on my mat and more time on my cushion in meditation. It is Retreat Week at Yoga School. We gather on Sunday for three hours and then attend two Hatha classes and two meditations daily during the rest of the week. We journal and look deeply into our lives.

Outside Moodna Creek is turbulent–white capped muddy water. Fields are flooded. The first hint of blue sky appears at sunset after what seems like interminable rain. Inside, my mind is alternately turbulent and subdued. My dreams are vivid. All of my senses are heightened. The smell of my husband’s Nespresso coffee in the morning, the symphony of bird songs, the taste of toothpaste, the sound of the clock ticking in my office…all amplified.

We are asked to explore where we are suffering…to name our pain and to see it’s source clearly. I see that bliss and suffering are not two…they are not separate. The more expansive my bliss, the more aware and sensitized I become to suffering. I see and sense the interdependent co-arising of all causes and conditions. My body electric and vibrating.


All night
under the pines
the fox
moves through the darkness
with a mouthful of teeth
and a reputation for death
which it deserves.
In the spicy
villages of the mice
he is famous,
his nose
in the grass
is like an earthquake,
his feet
on the path
is a message so absolute
that the mouse, hearing it,
makes himself
as small as he can
as he sits silent
or, trembling, goes on
hunting among the grasses
for the ripe seeds.

Maker of All Things,
including appetite,
including stealth,
including the fear that makes
all of us, sometime or other,
flee for the sake
of our small and precious lives,
let me abide in your shadow–
let me hold on
to the edge of your robe
as you determine
what you must let be lost
and what will be saved.


Read Full Post »

“Now winter, the winter I am writing about begins to ease. And what if anything has been determined, selected, nailed down? This is the lesson of age–events pass, things change, trauma fades, good fortune rises, fades, rises again but different. Whereas what happens when one is twenty, as I remember it, happens forever. I have not been twenty for a long time! The sun rolls toward the north and I feel, gratefully, its brightness flaming up once more. Somewhere in the world the misery we can do nothing about yet goes on…”


There is blue sky this morning. Not the frigid blue of winter but a warmer tone–almost a pueblo turquoise. Things are still difficult, and yet, I remember the lesson of age. Yes, that one. It’s what I tell my daughter when her baby seems endlessly cranky: teething, nursing non-stop, feverish, not sleeping, wanting to master the potty, pitching a fit when told not to use crayons on the wall…I say to her what I am saying to myself. “This, too, will pass. I know it seems endless. Everything changes. Impermanence is always at our backs. What is wonderful becomes difficult. What is difficult becomes wonderful.”

Something about now…this now…here…is so impossibly beautiful and horrific at the same time. I can sit in deep stillness and silence. I can walk as I did yesterday, bathed in sunlight, breathing the air–so fresh, almost sharp, smelling like sun-dried laundry. I can sit with my husband and his mother, watching fault lines and fissures widen in their family–loud cracking noises, whole mountains crumbling filling the air with particulate rage…the rage of grief, the raging aftermath of the death of mental illness and how it remains embedded in the lineage, the rage of divisive endless suffering. Still, the morning is lovely. The ice is melting. Somehow, all of this will change and change and change again.

Read Full Post »


At daybreak, the Pileated Woodpecker gores the locust tree behind the shed. It’s barely above zero and snowing tiny cold crystals. I watch and count the male cardinals. Nine, I think. Towhees, rosy finches, goldfinches, chicadees, titmice…all ravenous, patiently waiting. The driveway is a sheet of ice under fresh snow.

Yesterday, I watched the Sharp-Shinned Hawk sunning himself in the late afternoon. Biting wind ruffled his feathers while he carefully and methodically tucked one talon at a time up under his body for warmth. I waited, wanting to see him fly; concerned that his presence was keeping the small birds from gathering on the feeders. As the light faded, I opened the window and watched him swoop to the west, circle twice and head north.


In the winter I am writing about, there was much darkness. Darkness of nature, darkness of event, darkness of the spirit. The sprawling darkness of not knowing. We speak of the light of reason. I would speak here of the darkness of the world, and the light of ________. But I don’t know what to call it. Maybe hope. Maybe faith, but not a shaped faith–only, say, a gesture, or a continuum of gestures. But probably it is closer to hope, that is more active, and far messier than faith must be. Faith, as I imagine it, is tensile, and cool, and has no need of words. Hope, I know, is a fighter and a screamer…


Read Full Post »

These autumn mornings…a precious gift. Golden light; pale frost; clear sky; moisture rising. Filled with gratitude for all of my blessings, I think of Mary Oliver…


What is so utterly invisible
as tomorrow?
Not love,
not the wind,
not the inside of stone.
Not anything.
And yet, how often I’m fooled-
I’m wading along
in the sunlight-
and I’m sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining
days ahead-
I can see the light spilling
like a shower of meteors
into next week’s trees,
and I plan to be there soon-
and, so far, I am
just that lucky,
my legs splashing
over the edge of darkness,
my heart on fire.
I don’t know where
such certainty comes from-
the brave flesh
or the theater of the mind-
but if I had to guess
I would say that only
what the soul is supposed to be
could send us forth
with such cheer
as even the leaf must wear
as it unfurls
its fragrant body, and shines
against the hard possibility of stoppage-
which, day after day,
before such brisk, corpuscular belief,
shudders, and gives way.


Read Full Post »

You, too can be carved anew by the details of your devotions.


Read Full Post »


I don’t know
if the sunflowers
are angels always,
but surely sometimes.

Who, even in heaven,
wouldn’t want to wear,
for awhile,
such a seed-face

and brave spine,
a coat of leaves
with so many pockets—
and who wouldn’t want

to stand, for a summer day,
in the hot fields,
in the lonely country
of the wild-haired corn?

This much I know,
when I see the bright
stars of their faces,
when I’m strolling nearby,

I grow soft in my speech,
and soft in my thoughts,
and I remember how everything will be everything else,
by and by.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: