10 September 1935 ~ 17 January 2019
Award - winning American poet and naturalist
1. The first Mary Oliver poem I ever read,
during a phase of uncertainty:
from The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
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 . . .
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. [emphasis added]
On my blog: November 25, 2009, June 7, 2011,
and January 25, 2016
2. Next came this one, a gift from
my introspective friend Celine:
from The Roses
. . . there is no end,
believe me! to the inventions of summer,
to the happiness your body
is willing to bear.
On my blog: July 28, 2009 & July 12, 2010
3. Observing the Autumnal Equinox:
from Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness
Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
On my blog: September 23, 2011 & March 10, 2014
4. Celebrating the miraculous arrival
and inevitable departure of Spring:
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart . . .
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
On my blog: May 7, 2012 & May 23, 2015
5. Mary Oliver's "one wild and precious life":
from The Summer Day
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 have to die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? [emphasis added]
On my blog: July 8, 2012
6. Searching for the Quotidian:
from Whelks, Goldfinches, Poppies, Winter,
Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine,
All my life
I have been restless --
I have felt there is something
more wonderful than gloss --
than wholeness --
than staying at home.
I have not been sure what it is.
the hatchlings wake . . .
and love the world.
Is it necessary to say anymore?
Have you heard them singing in the wind,
above the final fields?
Have you ever been so happy in your life?
loss is the great lesson.
But also I say this: that light
is an invitation
and that happiness,
when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness.
in this world I am as rich
as I need to be.
Look! for most of the world
or remembering --
most of the world is time
when we're not here,
Look, I want to love this world
as though it's the last chance I'm ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.
On my blog: October 24, 2012
7. Acknowledging our humble place in the Animal Kingdom:
from Her Grave
A dog can never tell you what she knows from the
smells of the world, but you know, watching her,
that you know
On my blog: November 28, 2012 & November 29, 2012
8. Mary Oliver paid all species of fauna and flora their due:
from The Sunflowers
Don't be afraid
to ask them questions!
. . . the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy.
On my blog: August 21, 2013
9. From among so many treasures,
this brief poem remains my favorite.
Yes, this is the entire poem:
The Uses of Sorrow
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
On my blog: March 21, 2015 & March 29, 2015
10. Vocation and avocation:
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird . . .
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished. [emphasis added]
On my blog: April 28, 2016 & May 3, 2016
11. Not only did Mary Oliver the world,
but it also loved her back:
from The Fist
Instead: such patience!
to let us continue!
little by little,
the voices -
only, so far, in
pockets of the world -
suggesting the possibilities
On my blog: May 24, 2016
12. Writing of her little puppy,
but just as true for my little sons:
from "Percy (Seven)"
Ah, this is the thing that comes to each of us.
The child grows up.
And, according to our own ideas, is practically asunder.
I understand it.
I struggle to celebrate.
I say, with a stiff upper lip familiar to many:
Just look at that curlyhaired child now,
he’s his own man.
On my blog: June 2, 2016
13. And lastly, a poem for the winter, about snow, about saving
yourself and putting "your own life in proportion." In is entirety:
In the city called Wait,
also known as the airport,
you might think about your life --
there is not much else to do.
For one thing,
there is too much luggage,
and you're truly lugging it --
you and, it seems, everyone.
What is it, that you need so badly?
Think about this.
Earlier, in another city,
you're on the tarmac, a lost hour.
You're going to miss your connection, and you know it,
and you do.
You're headed for five hours of nothing.
And how long can you think about your own life?
What I did, to save myself,
was to look for children, the very young ones
who couldn't even know where they were going, or why.
Some of them were fussing, of course.
Many of them were beautifully Hispanic.
The storm was still busy outside, and snow falling
anywhere, any time, is a wonder.
But even more wonderful, and maybe the only thing
to put your own life in proportion,
were the babies, the little ones, hot and tired,
gurgling, chuckling, as they looked --
wherever they were going, or not yet going,
in their weary parents' arms (no!
their lucky parents' arms) --
upon this broken world. [emphasis added]
On my blog: May 28, 2016
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
from the poem "Sometimes"
in the collection Red Bird
Rest in Peace Mary Oliver,
Rest in Wonder, Rest in Astonishment!
14. Morning Glory
15. The Ordinary Daily Presentations & Mindful
16. The Peonies Have Their Day