Praying by Mary Oliver

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

This month, I’m sharing my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. I discovered today’s poem in Devotions, a collection spanning more than five decades of Mary Oliver’s literary career.

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.


The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

This month, I’m sharing my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. I was first introduced to her poetry when a friend shared the last two lines of the following poem.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


The Swan by Mary Oliver

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

This month, I’m sharing my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. Her creativity is stirred by nature, and her poems are filled with imagery from her daily walks near her home. In an interview, she commented. “I go off to my woods, my ponds, my sun-filled harbor, no more than a blue comma on the map of the world but, to me, the emblem of everything.”

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?


Celebrating National Poetry Month

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

April is National Poetry Month, a month set aside to celebrate poetry and its vital place in our society. Today, and for the next three Wednesdays, I will be sharing my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. The winner of numerous awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize, she has been described as “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.”(New York Times).

The Journey

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 do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.


Sharing Favorite Quotations

butterflies

Collecting quotations has been one of my lifelong hobbies. In the pre-computer days, I would jot down quotations on slips of paper and toss them in a desk drawer. Once a month, I would type them up and place them in a special file folder. I’ve kept the folder, but now use Pinterest and Goodreads to store my favorite quotations.

Some of my all-time favorites from four extraordinary women…

MARY OLIVER

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Listen—are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth, the world doesn’t need any more of that sound.

MAYA ANGELOU

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.

When you know better, you do better.

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.

ANNA QUINDLEN

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are the home.

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.

The life you have led doesn’t need to be the life you have.

NORA EPHRON

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.

The Swan by Mary Oliver

swan1

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?

Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air

An armful of white blossoms,

A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned

into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,

Biting the air with its black beak?

Did you hear it, fluting and whistling

A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall

Knifing down the black ledges?

And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –

A white cross streaming across the sky, its feet

Like black leaves, its wings like the stretching light of the river?

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?

And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?

And have you changed your life?

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

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 your 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 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.