Every once in a while there is something that draws our attention in such a precise way that we see — an object, person, or experience — with simple clarity. In such an instance we feel inseparable; or to say it another way, we feel fully connected and alive. That is what the late poet Mary Oliver did for me (and many others) upon reading her words about nature or her dogs or some mundane detail in an ordinary day. Her poems are like still life paintings. Or little reminders. She passed away last week. It was inevitable.
Pay attention is her great teaching. So this morning I asked her, What have you to teach me today, Mary? I randomly opened to a page in a slim volume, Swan (Beacon Press, 2010, p. 35). Here is her short poem, When:
When it’s over, it’s over, and we don’t know
any of us, what happens then.
So I try not to miss anything.
I think, my whole life, I have never missed
the full moon
or the slipper of it coming back.
Or, a kiss.
Well, yes, especially a kiss.
I smile. A kiss. A moon. Well, isn’t that apt? She leaves us the very week a glorious eclipse passed overhead, the last total lunar eclipse of the decade. A moon that Mary Oliver just missed. A blood moon, also called a wolf moon.
I turn to look at what may be her most famous line from The Summer’s Day, emblazoned on a piece of wood resting in an old fireplace in my home office, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I wonder if people who come visit me even notice it despite the dust. Maybe they will now.
In gratitude to Mary Oliver and the power of the present moment. May we find comfort in loving awareness and connection to each other and our planet.
More Matters In Kind
Find nourishment with Mary Oliver’s words: