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The world offers itself to your imagination ~ 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 a…

Source: The world offers itself to your imagination ~ Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of my many favorite poets. The poem Wild Geese, which is the poem these lines are from, comes from Poetry Showcase.

In the poem, Mary Oliver reminds us that we are part of a larger family and are being called home. When we are mindful, we can hear who and what calls us and we can imagine what that means to each of us. Even in the busyness of our living, there is something calling us to awaken and listen more closely.

 

 

Logos

Mary Oliver is a poet I turn to when I am searching. Since the American election I have searched and am trying to make meaning of the outcomes. I am not American so it is easy to think my vote and voice do not matter, but they do.

I have never voted for a conservative politician or message, but I am as conservative as I am a progressive, perhaps more so. John Dewey wrote we create sects around progressivism and conservativism as if they are cleaved off from each other.

The essential element is to preserve/converse what we value and what gives us life , discarding what is harmful to people and the world. Hans-Georg Gadamer suggested more tradition remains than is replaced and much it is taken-for-granted.

What is often taken-for-granted helps us navigate our personal worlds in the form of “legitimate prejudices.” When we encounter some one and some things that are different, Gadamer argued it opens us up to dialogue and eloquent questions that have no fixed answers.

What I am certain of is in the dialogue and eloquent questions there is no room for misogyny, racism, and xenophobia that further divide us. Logos is how we use words and reason as an ethical response to others who appear in our lives for some reason, which was the underlying message in Rumi’s The Guest House.

Mary Oliver offers a message about civil discourse that includes love we express through our words and the reasons we share those words with others. It is a message that comes to us from Jesus who gave his life as an act of unconditional love. When we say the right (in French it is proper which has to do with comportment) words, the wine expands.

Why worry about the loaves and fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

Praying

Mary Oliver writes wonderful, often short, poetry and this poem is no exception. The small and overlooked things in nature seem to call to her so she can share their words with the world.

When we just pay attention, we notice people and things that we might overlook in our haste to move through the world and our days. Praying is a doorway, not a contest. Prayer calls upon each of us to listen and give thanks for the world and its gifts. It is in those mindful and attentive moments that the world speaks to us and it is in silence that we hear its words.

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.

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. I find her poems call me to spend time, reflect quietly, and read them anew many times. I think what I consistently get out of her poetry is that we are not alone in the world.

We live together, but it is not just a human world. It is a world full of other beings, objects, and roles that shape our lives and we, in turn, shape the world. Most of the time, our relationships with the world, others, and things is unconscious. The world exists out there somewhere in taken-for-granted ways.

When we are mindfull and present, we notice the world. Mary Oliver uses the words harsh and exciting, but we are not accustomed to the novelty that continuously emerges and, when it calls, it seems harsh. As we live more fully, the world calls to us and we hear it. The harsh sounds help us remain attuned to the world.

The world excites us with its refreshing newness. We discover the extraordinary in the ordinary; what we have taken-for-granted.

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.

Patience: Darkness and light, conscious and unconscious

Night after night, darkness enters the face of the lily which, lightly, closes its five walls around itself, and its purse of honey, and its fragrance, and is content to stand there in the garden, …

Source: Patience: Darkness and light, conscious and unconscious

The link includes a lovely picture of lily accompanied by a Mary Oliver poem, The Lily. The poem reminds me of the passage from Luke describing the lilies and wild flower, just being and growing.

Nature is what it is. There is a mindfulness in its creation and how it dresses. The lilies wait in their splendor for us to notice them and realize how they are always present. Nature and lilies teach us. To paraphrase Confucius, they open the door and we enter when we are ready.

Lingering in Happiness

Mary Oliver writes mystical and magical poetry. The words, the silences, and the images invoke and evoke something deep within my spirit. The etymologies of invoke and evoke, along with vocation, is “to call” in a ministering sense.

For me, teaching was/is a calling. I am still becoming a teacher. I reflect on what I experienced and arrive at new understandings about what those experience means. Emmanuel Levinas described an event as something that transcends time and place.

In that sense, becoming a teacher is an event as it continues to happen in many ways. Not only am I making sense of what that means and who I am, others do, as well. Even who I am becoming is an intersubjective event that shared with others.

Similar to the rain drops that slowly fall and nourish the oak, becoming some one is something that takes time. The drops and memories may disappear, but not vanish. They leave traces in the tree that grows and the person who is always becoming.

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground
where it will disappear – but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;
and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

Angels In Your Head

“You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen.  I’ll just tell you this: only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.”  – Mary Oliver I consider eagles…

Source: Angels In Your Head

Mimi writes about eagles being a spirit animal and her good fortune in having 46 of them guide her on her walks. We live in Alberta where bald eagles fly over the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains as they migrate from their winter and summer nesting areas. When we visit the farm, we see the Rockies from the highway and a pair nested there each spring and fall. For us, it was a rare sighting.

Last weekend, we drove home from a birthday party west of Edmonton. As we drove, there was a bald eagle in the ditch. I think it is unusual to see them this far east of the Rockies and it might be that spring is arriving a bit early.

Mary Oliver’s quote at the top calls us to be mindful and attentive. Every now and then, we see the unexpected, as if we had angels in our heads. In those moments, we sense that something is different, and not just see, and turn in the right direction.

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