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Black Elk

Be More Than A Visitor

January 19th, 2019

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

7 Responses to “Be More Than A Visitor”

  1. I was thinking of this poem, too — I guess the title calls for it. 🙂 Dear Mary, if you’re listening — goal met! You did so much more than just visit this world. Thank you for putting the joy of deep engagement with nature into such beautiful words.

  2. Good Morning, Dear Friends, Death, my favourite subject and not just because I am teetering on the edge of my seventies either. If we accept reincarnation, then we will have gathered that we exit through one side of the door, the other side is the entrance to — well the space where we have planned out our experiences, all of us players and the audience as well. The body gives up the Light it carried to be renewed, another plan, further growth. Much love, Margaret.

  3. She has been an inspiration of mine, and many of us, for many years.
    Her ways of touching our deepest inner beauty, inner fears, both light and dark. Revealing them and connecting them with beyond and opening up a doorway to connecting us to something bigger than ourselves.

    May she go well on her next great adventure.

  4. I love her poetry and presence too. I have been watching You Tubes of her, she is so humanly accessible and easy. ‘Death’ is one of my favorite poems. She truly inspires me. Interesting she left so soon after Jay…… they are probably laughing together in the place where laughing and loving is so easy.

  5. I was introduced to Mary Oliver a few years ago when an acquaintance lent me one of Mary’s books. That night in bed I was almost immediately awe-struck by the beauty and pure simplicity of her words. When the tears flowed while I read ‘Lead’, I asked my husband if I could read it aloud. He declined, saying he didn’t feel like hearing anything sad. The next night, I cried again but also smiled and laughed. My husband still declined. It took a bit of time before he opened up to the gift of Mary’s poetry.

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