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Tag Archives: Mary Oliver

The Summer Day

I could have entitled this post calling, vocation, voice, etc. Mary Oliver shares what it means to be called and how we respond to this call through our particular life. Voice and vocation share etymology and come from the Latin verb to call: vocare.

Mary Oliver captures the essence of a calling with a metaphor of a grasshopper, which has its role to play and expresses herself in how she fulfills this role. This poem reminds me of Matthew‘s verse about the lily of the field and how God provides for each plant and animal. We each have a role and place in a complex way of being and we each respond according to how we interpret what that might mean.

The first three lines and the last two, as questions, speak to me. I am never certain of what life holds for me. Life emerges as eloquent questions that are open and not foreclosed by easy answers, yet emerge from the first three questions. I ask eloquent questions without predetermined answers. They inform my dialogue with the world and with others.

Since completing my dissertation, the last question has become part of my thinking about the themes. It was not in the dissertation, but is essential to experiencing and understanding teaching as a calling, which holds deep spiritual meaning.

I posted my dissertation on Academia and an executive summary on Medium.

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?

 

I took this picture in Yellowstone several years ago. I was about 25-30 feet (8-10 metres) away from this wonderful animal. He knew I was there, but seemed unconcerned. We were both living our lives.

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Leap of Faith

via Quote: Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. Even when she writes lines in declaratory ways, there is a profound question being asked.

In this wonderful quote shared on Rethinking Life the question is what happens next. Even under the best and most controlled of circumstances, we do not know what will happen in the next moment.

Living is a leap of faith filled with mystery we can embrace. When we believe we control the next moment, the next instance, we fall short. Mindfulness can help us embrace the mystery. Being grounded in each ensuing moment is the only place we can be.

Wildness

via Wildness

Michele‘s post reminded me of poems by two of my favourite poets.

Environmentalists refer to Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver‘s poems. An educated guess is that Henry David Thoreau, who Michele quotes, informed their writing.

Wendell Berry wrote in moments of despair he “comes into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought.”

Mary Oliver ends Summer Day with the following question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?” Paradoxically, the question is an answer to her eloquent questions about who created nature.

Nature has a way of being and providing us with lessons for life. It is in meditative moments, when we just are, we grow to understand what that can mean. We grow and value what is essential not to us, but to those who come after us.

“We do not inherit the world from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children.”

A Book Lover’s Tag

via A BOOK LOVER’S TAG 

Diana passed on a tag and posed 13 questions to her followers with this re-blog. The best part of the her post was the John O’Donohue blessing about how our words make the invisible visible through our personal artistry and creativity.

  1. Do you have a favourite place to read? No, I read everywhere but in vehicles.
  2. Do you use bookmarks or random pieces of paper? I use both and more. I turn corners, highlight, and use sticky notes with notes.
  3. Do you eat or drink while you read? I drink tea, but rarely ever eat while I read.
  4. Do you listen to music or watch TV? There always seems to be music playing, but I find the TV distracting. Music fades into the background.
  5. Do you read one book or several at a time? I do both. I find reading one book helps me focus, but I cannot help reading more books.
  6. Do you prefer reading at home or elsewhere? There is a small coffee shop a few minutes from the house. The baristas and owners welcome me almost each day.
  7. Do you read silently or out loud? I read silently most of the time, but, when I read something of particular interest, I read it to Kathy. I enjoy reading to our grandson when we visit with him.
  8. Do you read ahead or skip about? I skip about. I like to read the index in a book and see who references are if it is a book I use for my writing. I cheat and read ahead in non-fiction.
  9. Do you break the spine or treat it like new? I buy many of my books used, so they come well used. If I get a new book, I mark it up inside, but treat it like new.
  10. Do you write in books? I mark them up with a felt marker and make notes for future reference. The exception is when I read non-fiction and poetry.
  11. What books are you reading now? I am reading The Company of Strangers by Parker Palmer.
  12. What is your childhood favourite book? I don’t have one, but I remember reading Little Golden Books and having them read to me as a special part of my early reading.
  13. What is your favourite book of all time? That is like choosing who my favourite child is. I think it depends on mood and time. I enjoy great poetry i.e. Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry. I read books about spirituality i.e. Parker Palmer. I read about education i.e. William Pinar, John Dewey, and Madeline Grumet. I read about philosophy i.e. Aristotle, Hannah Arendt, and Paul Ricoeur. My favourite fiction writers are John D. MacDonald and Paulo Coehlo.

 

How Quotes Enoble Us

via How Quotations Ennoble Us

I love quotes. They make me reflect about meanings that are not clear. They raise eloquent questions that have no pat answers. They inspire me. Balroop provided three quotes that underscore these points.

Poetry is like quotes and I find many quotes from poems and poets. There are spaces between words, lines, and stanzas I can stand in and wonder.

I leave you with quotes that inspire me to think deeply and ask questions about the meaning of my life.

The first two are from Mary Oliver.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.”

The following is from Wendell Berry.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound…
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Mindful

Today’s post is short. I was hooded today and the poem that ran through my mind was Mindful by Mary Oliver. This is the ultimate poem for me on a day like today. There is always something that can more or less kill me with delight.

Several speakers today reminded us that it is not the extraordinary we are looking for, but the ordinary that propels us into the extraordinary. Being mindful and attentive in and to the world is an essential element in being propelled.

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Imperfection/Perfection

Jacques Derrida wrote about deconstruction, which is about thinking in paradoxes. Instead of thinking about binaries i.e. perfection or imperfection, we consider the opposites as being part of each other. We are unable to think of one without the other and continuously deconstruct the meaning.

This continuous making of meaning is a hermeneutic task of  interpreting. Paul Ricoeur wrote about deep or radical hermeneutics, which considered context as part of the meaning-making process. Radical means to go the roots of something, so it requires the person look below the surface and turn things over.

I took a stab at writing a poem. after reading Mary Oliver today. I am reading a book of her essays called Upstream. She writes prose in a poetic way. I love walking in the mountains. Beauty and perfection of mountains reveal themselves in their lack of symmetry and imperfection. As well, there is always something hidden from sight, on the back side of a mountain and in the crevasses we cannot get close enough to.

Inspired by other’s words

I seek my own.

To discover meaning

I sit quietly and receive.

Meanings hold no meaning,

There can be no certainty.

Always something hidden,

On the backside, underneath.

Imperfection exists,

Making perfection complete.

It awaits my mindfulness,

The extraordinary in the ordinary.

I took this picture unsure of why at the time. Later, I used it in a presentation about environmentalism. Today, it adds depth and meaning to what I am trying to say.

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