#Devotions: Another Sampling from Mary Oliver

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Spring is in the air! Here in Western Pennsylvania today, the temperature reached 71 degrees. We opened the windows and savored the fresh air and song of the birds. It reminded me of a welcomed distraction from earlier this week when I sat down to breakfast: a finch singing from my neighbor’s porch. And though I know that the forecast still holds freezing days ahead, the joy of Spring always rejuvenates my soul.

Each night I try to read before falling asleep, but I still struggle to make it beyond a few pages of Home by Marilynne Robinson or a few verses from the Bible or Apocrypha. And so I have returned to Mary Oliver’s book Devotions. My wife had just recently shared her poem “Bone” with me, and I knew it was time to return to one of my favorite deepening grounds. Rather than give you the whole poem, I am only sharing the first part here (partially because I keep falling asleep when I try to read each night). May the deadening rituals of our lives be interrupted, and may we learn that “just looking and listening / is the real work” and the real joy of life! As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,”

(Aurora Leigh, lines 61-3)

Accept the invitation to take off your shoes, open the door, and step down onto the grass.

From The Book of Time (Part 1) by Mary Oliver

I rose this morning early as usual, and went to my desk.
But it's spring,

and the thrush is in the woods,
somewhere in the twirled branches, and he is singing.

And so, now, I am standing by the open door.
And now I am stepping down onto the grass.

I am touching a few leaves.
I am noticing the way the yellow butterflies
move together, in a twinkling cloud, over the field.

And I am thinking: maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.

Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.

From Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver. New York: Penguin Press, 2017. Page 234.


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