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Tag Archives: Mary Oliver

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?

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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.

also

Source: also.

The link is to a Mary Oliver quote. We often say one thing and qualify it with something that is an “also.”  In this case, it is a being kind and being mischievous.

Who we each are is a rich amalgam of paradox and contradiction that points out the essential nature of differences between each of us. Differences make a difference. It is in them we discover and explore the rich tapestry of our lives and those of people we come in contact with, near and far.

By being attentive and mindful to the differences between us and paradoxes, we can experience richness in life that is unending. We discover and explore questions that have no fixed answers and invite us into vibrant conversations with each other.

Mindful

This poem is my favourite by Mary Oliver. It took on more significance in the last week, as I defended my dissertation and completed my PhD requirements.

Every day 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?

I find the idea that the daily life I live, which I often take-for-granted, is essential to my growing wise. The dissertation and research took on that form, as I gathered the lived-experiences of several teachers, including myself and explored how we are becoming teachers.

It is in the daily lives we live, our autobiographies, that we find the richest date, even though it sometimes slips through our fingers in the midst of the busyness we experience. Our stories call us to stop, be mindful of them, and seek meaning in the thoughtful questions we ask.

I find wise teachings in the untrimmable light of the world.

When Death Comes

Although the title sounds eerie, Mary Oliver‘s poem is about how we can live life. To live a life as fully as she describes, we can seek to be mindful and attentive to each moment as we live through it.d

Several years ago, Kathy and I drove out to pick up her mother who had a form of non-verbal dementia. It was about 5:30 AM and the sun was just peeking up over the horizon as we drove into it on the way home. As I drove, I felt a movement beside me and turned to see my mother-in-law smiling and pointing at the fields with freshly cut hay laying on the fields. Even thought she did not speak, the moment somehow spoke to her as it reminded her of days on the farm during haying season.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. That experienced reminded me of what I might otherwise take-for-granted: a beautiful morning in the company of others.

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 measles-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 is 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.

Solitude. A Photographic Journey.

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least, and it is commonly more than that, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolu…

Source: Solitude. A Photographic Journey.

The photographs are wonderful and a quote accompanies each speaking to the essential nature of spending time with our self. It is in reflective moments that we spend in solitude that we rediscover who we are in trying to make our self whole.

The Hasidic scholar, educator, political activist, and philosopher Martin Buber said “solitude is the place of purification.” Through dialogue with our self, others, and the world, we grow to understand who we are and our place in the world in relationship to others.

The Shadow

Last night, as I posted, the words of a paragraph began to take shape as a poem and Mary Oliver’s words echoed for me.

Today, I took those words and echoes and finished the poem. It has been some time since I wrote a poem. Perhaps, without the urgency of writing a dissertation, this just happened. As well, the break without a need to read and write may have helped and freshened my desire to write differently.

There is no sense of urgency.

Here, I am in the shadow of nature

It uplifts, holding me close.

Nature reminds of less mechanical ways and times;

Of just being and living in the moment.

Pelicans dive bomb the surf in an instinctive search,

Oblivious to me, they bob on the waves.

At night, stars fill darkness and stillness,

They wait to be touched.

Oxen pull a plow across the hardpan soil,

They follow a deep-rooted instinct lost on me

The horse trotts a path, familiar to it

I sway, recalling greater comfort the last time I rode.

I recall days past.

I unsmother moments, days and experiences

My dreams call out to me;

They breathe life into my being.

Here, I sense what it might mean to live and just be.

Without urgency, there is a lightness in my gait.

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