Love Still As Once You Loved, Deeply And Without Patience

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.

–Mary Oliver, “The Gift” from Felicity

What’s Wrong With Maybe?

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,” from Felicity

How Was It?

maryoliver_ourworld

It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer. It was my pleasure to notice such things, it was a good first step. But later, watching M. when she was taking photographs, and watching her in the darkroom, and no less watching the intensity and openness with which she dealt with friends, and strangers too, taught me what real attention is about. Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter. Such openness and empathy M. had in abundance, and gave away freely… I was in my twenties and early thirties, and well-filled with a sense of my own thoughts, my one presence. I was eager to address the world of words — to address the world with words. Then M. instilled in me this deeper level of looking and working, of seeing through the heavenly visible to the heavenly invisibles…

Somewhere in my writings I have described how M., unfailing, whenever I came home from a walk in the woods or the fields, would say “How was it?” and how dear this questions was to me. Reading in her journals this last year and half I came upon the following entry:
Mary has just returned with yellow flowers
and a wet Luke who has been swimming in the 
ponds. I always ask her for news. What does
that mean, what news am I looking for? Good,
I imagine. What I means is news of humans.
Mary comes home with fox news, bird news,
and her loving friends the geese Merlin and 
Dreamer, who are going to become parents
under Mary’s eyes once again. How many years
has she been watching them? They come 
running to her. That’s Mary’s news.
I don’t think I was wrong to be in the world I was in, it was my salvation from my own darkness. Nor have I ever abandoned it — those earthly signs that so surely led towards epiphanies. And yet, and yet, she wanted me to enter more fully into the human world also, and to embrace it, as I believe I have. And what a gift to read about her wish for it, who never expressed impatience with my reports of the natural world, the blue and green happiness I found there. Our love was so tight.
— Mary Oliver, Our World (pp. 71-73)

This Gritty Earth Gift

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass 

1.

Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say – behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
of this gritty earth gift.

2.

Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

3.

The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life–just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
still another.

4.

Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

5.

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we
change.
Congratulations, if
you have changed.

6.

Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some
fabulous reason?

And, if you have not been enchanted by this adventure–
your life–
what would do for you?

7.

What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
though with difficulty.

I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself.  Then forget it.  Then, love the world.

–Mary Oliver from Evidence

I Am Never Done With Looking

Mary-Oliver-225x300

There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.

The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in; the goldfinches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking, I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.

— Mary Oliver, from “Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does it End?” in Why I Wake Early

Summer Morning

Heart,
I implore you,
it’s time to come back
from the dark,

it’s morning,
the hills are pink
and the roses
whatever they felt

in the valley of night
are opening now
their soft dresses,
their leaves

are shining.
Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this
a thousand times,

which isn’t half enough.
Let the world
have its way with you,
luminous as it is

with mystery
and pain—
graced as it is
with the ordinary.

–Mary Oliver

Swimming, One Day in August

It is time now, I said,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break,
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit

–Mary Oliver