I was saddened to hear about the death of the poet Mary Oliver this week. Her poetry so beautifully explores the connection between the human and natural world, reminding us that there is no separation, that nature is our home in the deepest, most spiritual sense. I read a wonderful quote in the Independent that comes from her book of essays, Long Life. In it, she says of herself,
In my outward appearance and life habits I hardly change — there’s never been a day that my friends haven’t been able to say, and at a distance, ‘There’s Oliver, still standing around in the weeds. There she is, still scribbling in her notebook’.
But, at the center: I am shaking; I am flashing like tinsel.
This speaks so brilliantly of her skill to help us glimpse the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary, both within us and around us; to crack open our dull vision and shine a light upon the magic of this world, enabling us to feel more intimately and powerfully a part of life. The body of work she has left us, is a true gift.
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver