the journey


 

manypathstree

“The Journey”
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Kept shouting
Their bad advice –
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations,
Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could so –
Determined to save
The only life that you could save.

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seizures of happiness


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Mary Oliver, a favourite poet of mine, captures the fleeting moments of Happiness; seizures as such, perfectly, in her usual elusive yet expressive style.
Today, I too, was described to be both elusive and expressive by a friend and that really resonated with me. So, here I share with you (and a reminder to me) Oliver’s words:

On the windless days, when the maples have put forth their deep canopies, and the sky is wearing its new blue immensities, and the wind has dusted itself not an hour ago in some spicy field and hardly touches us as it passes by, what is it we do? We lie down and rest upon the generous earth. Very likely we fall asleep.

Once, years ago, I emerged from the woods in the early morning at the end of a walk and — it was the most casual of moments — as I stepped from under the trees into the mild, pouring-down sunlight I experienced a sudden impact, a seizure of happiness. It was not the drowning sort of happiness, rather the floating sort. I made no struggle toward it; it was given.

Time seemed to vanish. Urgency vanished. Any important difference between myself and all other things vanished. I knew that I belonged to the world, and felt comfortably my own containment in the totality. I did not feel that I understood any mystery, not at all; rather that I could be happy and feel blessed within the perplexity — the summer morning, its gentleness, the sense of the great work being done though the grass where I stood scarcely trembled. As I say, it was the most casual of moments, not mystical as the word is usually meant, for there was no vision, or anything extraordinary at all, but only a sudden awareness of the citizenry of all things within one world: leaves, dust, thrushes and finches, men and women. And yet it was a moment I have never forgotten, and upon which I have based many decisions in the years since.

fourth sign of the zodiac


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While “Wild Geese” remains a favorite, I was especially taken with a four-part poem titled “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac,” found in Oliver’s sublime 2014 collection Blue Horses: Poems (public library). It is partly a bow to her recent triumph over cancer, and partly a score to the larger tango of life and death which we all, wittingly or not, are summoned to dance daily.

Like so much of her work, it is an uncommonly direct yet beguiling love letter to vitality itself, poured from the soul of someone utterly besotted with this world which we too are invited to embrace.

THE FOURTH SIGN OF THE ZODIAC (PART 3)

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

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How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?

People are more apt to remember a poem and therefore feel they own it. And can speak it to themselves, as you might a prayer.

Mary Oliver

wild geese


mary oliverWhat is the state of your heart today?

Mine feels tired.

It aches. It is a little sad today. And weary; yes, definitely weary.

Often, when I am tired I find that I am even more drawn to poetry than I usually am. I am unsure why but I guess, I seek words to comfort me.

Today Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese found me. Mary once said:

“People are more apt to remember a poem and therefore feel they own it. And can speak it to themselves, as you might a prayer.”

I would agree with her.

Poetry is like prayer.

It comforts us in our time of need.  It comforts me.  Does it comfort you?

You will find these words in her poem, the Wild Geese….

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Isn’t that just wonderfully profound?  The “soft animal of your body love what it loves”.

That’s it.

Just let it love what it loves, just let it.

If you like to read Mary’s poem in all its full glory, I share it here with you:

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.

wild geese

I hope it soothes your soul, as it did mine.