The Poet, Mary Oliver, died today.
I haven't been all that motivated to blog for awhile and some how her death motivated me today.
I have only really discovered poetry in the last 10 years or so. Before that, it seemed unnecessary and hard to understand. Now, I read it, write it weave it into courses, my writing and my sessions with clients. Now, it seems not only necessary, but vital. Poetry isn't just a way of expressing yourself, it's a way of connecting with the world around you, a way of offering back what you yourself have received from connecting with the world in this way. It's a way of saying what couldn't be said otherwise, a way of touching one's heart and soul. Mary Oliver wrote that way. She wrote,
"When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn:
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity,
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
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."
Neither do I, Mary, neither do I.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I want to have the biggest conversation with the world that I am capable of having. I want to be married to amazement and take the world in my arms. To quote another Mary Oliver Poem, I want to let the soft animal of my body, love what it loves. I want to fully inhabit myself. I want to show up fully in my relationships. I want to be seen, living the life that only I can live. I want to support others to live fully. I don't want to end up "simply having visited this world".
So, how do we do it?
What does it mean?
Why do so few people do it?
Well, I think she gives us a clue, right at the beginning. Stepping through the door with curiosity. Are you curious about your life? Whether you are fully living it or not. Is your life full of possibility? Do you think of your life as a flower, your body, a lion of courage, something precious to the earth. Are you full of amazement for how you have survived, how you have put yourself together? Have you made your life something particular and real? Have you made it yours and then stood in awe of it?
It's not enough to just get up everyday and go through the motions of living. That's just visiting the earth. If you want to truly inhabit it, you've got to do the work of healing, of truly looking at your life. Is your life too small for you? Are you living too small for it? Have you done the work of healing? Have you been curious about where you find yourself and why? Are you letting yourself ask hard questions?
Make no mistake, fully living your life takes courage. It's a hard journey that will ask a lot of you. But anything else isn't fully living. Only when we do the hard work of really looking at ourselves and our lives, can we also participate in the amazement. Even though I've learned hard and painful things about myself and my life, working through them has also left me with amazement. Amazement at myself and amazement at the world that is constantly offering itself to me. It's that amazement, combined with gratitude and the courage to let my heart keep opening that helps me be able to take the world in my arms.
I often say this to people and it feels important today....the older we get, the MORE we want to feel, not to feel less. We want to feel ourselves opening, not shutting down. Someone who is shut down cannot take the world into their arms, they are to busy protecting themselves. Think about the posture of holding your arms over your chest to protect yourself, how can you then open your arms and heart to embrace the world?
Mary was right, I do not want to simply visit this world either. I want to be in relationship with her, to feel her offering itself to me and to offer myself back to her. I want this relationship to inspire me to write poetry, to dance, to emote, to be curious, to dig, to love, to show up, to be seen, to inhabit, to create....
So, here I go....
Roses are red
Violets are blue......