Summer draws to a close, a new week begins, and I return to the deepening ground of Mary Oliver’s poetry. Hear the invitation to spend our lives “on some / unstinting happiness,” but not according to the world’s definition. Rather, the simple overlooked gifts that poets like Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry capture so beautifully. Help me, Lord, to live fully and cease asking the “foolish question[s].” (Pay special attention to that last stanza!)
Roses, Late Summer by Mary Oliver
What happens to the leaves after they turn red and golden and fall away? What happens to the singing birds when they can't sing any longer? What happens to their quick wings? Do you think there is any personal heaven for any of us? Do you think anyone, the other side of that darkness, will call to us, meaning us? Beyond the trees the foxes keep teaching their children to live in the valley. So they never seem to vanish, they are always there in the blossom of light that stands up every morning in the dark sky. And over one more set of hills, along the sea, the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness and are giving it back to the world. If I had another life I would want to spend it all on some unstinting happiness. I would be a fox, or a tree full of waving branches. I wouldn't mind being a rose in a field full of roses. Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition. Reason they have not yet thought of. Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what. Or any other foolish question.
From Mary Oliver: Devotions – The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, published by Penguin Press, New York, 2017: pgs. 322-323.