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Fresh Quotes: Mary Oliver

via Fresh Quotes: Mary Oliver

Nancy posted this over two years ago and reblogged it on her site Strawberry Indigo after Mary Oliver passed away.

I noted the other day what draws me to Mary Oliver’s poetry are the questions, direct and indirect she poses. Several years ago, I concluded a presentation on Mindful Servant-Leadership with the following question from her poem Summer Day with this quote: “Tell me what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”

Another quote Nancy shared which fits is “Instructions for a living a life/Pay attention/Be astonished/Tell about it.” This raises questions about how I pay attention, how we reveal being astonished, and how I give an account of myself and respond through stories. Rather than answers, as Rilke says, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms.” Without preconceived answers, there is eloquence and beauty in one’s questions, living themselves out in ever broadening circles.

Mary Oliver reminds me to “some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” At my age, I understand myself as a river meandering through the landscape rather than cutting through rocks. Perhaps, this appears predictable, but I ask “what is invisible and moves with currents below the surface? What has life taught me? How do I share with others, who often are disinclined to slow down, stop, and listen?”

What I recall is I did the same, filled with busyness and urgency of life, not in the moment, but in some future I chased. Instead of meandering, I was a rushing river carving out a path without concern for what might appear. The second river flows through a narrow channel, with high banks I cannot see over. The first river flows in ways I can look back and ahead, understanding there is mystery flowing below the surface. What is obvious is often superficial, rather than mystical.

Above Numa Falls

 

Sonnet XIV from The Sonnets To Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke

Reblogged on WordPress.com

Source: Sonnet XIV from The Sonnets To Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke

The last two stanzas challenge us to think about whether our roles are submissive and passive affairs or ones where we have some mastery and active choice. My mother used to tell us that we had free choice and had to accept responsibility for the consequences of those choices. She told us we are not empty vessels created by God, whatever that belief is, but responsible people with free choice.

The liberty of others and their choices constrains our personal liberty. Without differences, life would be a boring space without room for creativity and growth, a moving to the surface that is fraught with potential challenges.

Similar to the plants in Rilke‘s poem, we face obstacles and constraints. We exist and flourish within those constraints when we find the proper paths to live lives fully. It is no easy task, but one that can bring great fulfillment. When care for and tend to those paths, our lives become filled with vigour, often flourishing because of the lessons learned from finding those paths.

Part Two X: The Machine Endangers All We Have Made

Rilke suggested we live the questions now and someday we might live our way into the answers. This poem raises the question about what he meant by the Machine. He capitalized it suggesting it has been given a privileged place in the world.

Does the Machine eat away at our humanness and humanity? Mindfulness allows us to be present, living in the moment, and possibly living our way to answers. Perhaps, this gives us our humanness and humanity even when we do not have the words to express the mystery involved.

The Machine endangers all we have made.

We allow it to rule instead of obey.

To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver’s hand takes too long to feel its way.

The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it’s alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.

But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that — when you feel it — brings you to your knees.

There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.

Variation on a Theme by Rilke

Denise Levertov wrote mystical poetry which applied to daily her life. Her poetry contains qualities similar to Rilke who explored life through the spaces provided in poetry. In a sense, poetry acts as a form of Sabbath.

We read poetry’s words and the silence. In the latter, the former come to life asking questions of our whole self. There is no answer in the strictest sense. What emerges in the silence are new questions and as Rilke said, “We live into the questions.”

The silent spaces are important as they enrich the active moments of life. In those silent spaces, we become present in life which confronts us as a sword striking shoulder sending us honorably forward fulfilling life’s tasks and believing we can.

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

Cages

When I posted The Panther, these musings began to circulate and percolate. They were part of that post and they kept resonating in ways that were difficult to ignore. More often than not, humans are the designers of their cages. We struggle to set aside the desires and ego that form the bars. Setting these aside, is a liberating process.

Mindlessly,

I build these cages,

Bars more imagined, than real;

Yet, impenetrable.

I look deep,

I find an inner source;

Here, power and beauty

In restful communion.

Here, the ego steps aside,

I let go;

Bars melt,

The cage is no more.

No longer, a captive of my making,

I walk–

The meadow endless;

Yet, much revealed in this place.

The Panther

Rilke worked for the sculptor Rodin. Rumour has it Rilke could not write and grew frustrated. Rodin suggested he go to the zoo, observe and see one of the animals clearly, and write about those observations. The result was this poem which described the essence, from Rilke’s point of view, of this magnificent, trapped animal, a metaphor, in some ways for the sometimes trapped human essence and creative seat.

We, as humans, pace behind the bars that we construct for ourselves and have to look inside for power that allows escape. Our spirits reveal the power and beauty where ultimate personal and collective meaning are. In the quiet and stillness of being fully present to ourselves, much is revealed. Otherwise, the cages and bars of our own making capture us and refuse to let us go.

From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted

that it no longer holds anything anymore.

To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand

bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride

which circles down to the tiniest hub

is like a dance of energy around a point

in which a great will stands stunned and numb.

Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise

without a sound … then a shape enters,

slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,

reaches the heart, and dies.

I Believe in All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken

I am getting back into a groove after my first full week home. I let things flow a bit this week. Rilke suggested letting go or not contriving in this poem. When I don’t over plan, I find I am more open and accept the flow of things much like the beginner’s mind of a child. Watching children engrossed in play is a reminder that can happen for me as an adult and, as it does, the river widens and flows in every widening channels. Life becomes somehow larger, but not in an explainable way.

Posting images of our trip through Glacier National Park is believing in all that has never yet been spoken. Nature allows me to speak without using words. It is a palette of creation which speaks without speaking and shares without words. It just is and teaches through its presence.

The role of sabbath is to rest on the swelling and ebbing currents and rest in each moment. Perhaps, as I do, I take an expanded mind and soul into next week.

I believe in all that has never been spoken.

I want to free what waits within me

so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear

without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,

but this is what I need to say.

May what I do flow from me like a river,

no forcing and no holding back,

the way it is with children.

Then in those swelling and ebbing currents,

these deepening tides moving out, returning,

I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels

into the open sea.

 

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