Reflections on Mary Oliver

Today is a sad day, Mary Oliver has died. I only recently discovered her poetry in the past couple of years, I admired the way she could evoke a feeling in the way she used words. For her poetry was in everything, even in the smallest of creatures she could see a poem. I am not even a blip on the screen of poetry writing compared to Mary Oliver, my poems struggle to break free from the confines of my heart and to see the light of day. I try, I really try, to write something, anything that tells the truth of what I see and feel. Mary’s poetry, did just that, when I read one of her poems I cannot help but get a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. Maybe because whatever I write cannot hold a candle up to what she has said and done. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to her, after all, she was a poet long before I even knew what poetry was all about, but when you’ve sat at the feet of greatness and tried with everything you had to learn and absorb, you soon discover that isn’t enough. To write a poem is to enter into the world at a slant, to see in even the smallest grain of sand on a wide beach, a poem. That single blade of grass, that defies the concrete and darkness imposed upon it, breaks forth through even the tiniest crack to stretch itself out to the sun. No matter what happens, no matter how often it is cut back, poisoned, or pulled, it still somehow, defies all of those efforts and breaks through the layers of earth and concrete, as if to say to the world, “Here I am, here I will show the world that life is the final answer, not death”. That is the poets world, their vocation, to show the world that whatever darkness there is that seeks to bury the poetry, it still springs anew in the hearts of those who are broken. Our world, our society, our families, we need the poets, all of the poets, even those of us who struggle with our own poetry. Mary Oliver gave me hope, even in my darkest of days when I couldn’t even find that crack in the pavement, her words were my light and my life. Like her, I don’t simply want to end up just having visited this world, I want to end up having lived and experienced this world. I want to have seen the great oak as it bends in the summer breeze, and watch the flight of geese in perfect order, fly to the horizon, to know that even I, a small grain of sand on a long stretch of beach, am able to find the words to write and the poem to sing

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As Fall Ends

Fall leans into winter

a reminder that we

need to lie fallow

to rest and prepare

our hearts and souls

for the coming of a child

who brings peace

into our conflicted world

time of sabbath

embracing the silence

as nature renews

frost coating empty fields

denuded trees stretch limbs

into cold gray skies

a scent of snow

on the breeze

mixes with wood fire

from darkened homes

as people give thanks

resting in that peace

of knowing God’s presence

in the deep silence

that calls us to be still.

The Wait

Now we wait

in the midst of the noise

we wait

the anticipation grows

the need for light intensifies

our hearts are not filled

with the goods being hawked

so we get more

thinking to fill the emptiness

that will never be filled

so the soul waits

knowing what we do not

knowing that the true light

is so near, yet, so far

it knows our needs

even as we run

from the love reaching out

touching us deeply

and in the silent watches

we stand still

hearing the whispers of life

of peace on earth for all

The Wait

I come to this place

to find myself imagining

where is my God

in the wildness of the wind,

where do I go to listen

for that voice so dear,

to once again hear that call

and feel the spirit within,

the wilderness is cold

the heart is broken

and now I stand here

in supplication and prayer

seeking the divine Logos

to speak to my darkened self

calling me from my tomb

into the light of the living One.

The Blue Hour

The early morning begins to dawn

I sit on the edge of this blue hour

between two worlds of the passing night

and the beginning of a new day

not rushing forward but lingering here

watching the sun slowly rise in the east

as wood elves dance in the meadow

harvesting the dew laden moss

while a young deer grazes on cornstalks

that has grown tall and thick in the fields

and the earliest of birds begin to gather

to feed the hungry mouths in their nests

in this blue hour I am at peace

in the gentle glow of the dawns light

listening to the silence as loud as life

that shows the way to the one who loves

reaching out through the early haze

to embrace my heart with gentle hands

Words

Words drip

one by one

filtered

through gauze

a hazy weave

that strains

each word

that drips through

removing impurities

of my own thoughts

breaking down

into small pieces

each another word

born from more

creating

a new word

joining in

the long conversation

between self

and the soul.

My Journey in Words

In the past few weeks my life has changed. First, I retired, second, I’ve moved. Now I’m trying to figure out what shape my life will take, so I offer this small piece of reflection. It’s not perfect, nor is it finished but it is where I am at the moment.

July 11, 2018

Thanks, once again to Parker Palmer I have another mystery to unravel in my attempt at the writers life. Here he quotes Henry David Thoreau:

My life has been the poem I would have writ

But I could not both live and utter it

Now what do I do with that? What is the poem I would have writ had I the time to writ what it is that needed to be writ? For me this is the struggle, to find something that grabs at me instead of these various, meteoric thoughts that fly by quickly only too burn up in the atmosphere of my thoughts. I write, to put it mildly, trash even as I long to make sense of where I am in this world. Being deeply troubled by what I read and see, how does my small voice fit in the the greater narrative? Palmer seems to have found his voice, a voice that has been honed and worked on and re-honed to what it is today. Richard Rohr, (another spiritual author I need to read) writing about Palmer and his new book writes that “Our entire culture is in need of true elders, and you can’t be one until you have arrived there — chronologically, spiritually, and intellectually. Here’s a man who has arrived, with another book that’s a generous gift to all of us.” I am far from being anywhere near from being a true elder. I might be there chronologically, but the other two criteria are woefully deficient and need a good boost, a shot of spiritual and intellectual energy. I’m not too old to not have the desire to continue in my quest and even as the days grow shorter, I don’t feel desperate or anxious to get to that mythical somewhere. Maybe, for me, the struggle is the vocation, the purpose of my writing. The honest struggle of not paying enough attention when I was younger and now finding myself in the slow lane trying to catch-up. Now I’m back to the question, what is the poem I would have writ? What are the paradoxes that surround my life and where do they fit in with what I am trying to be as a writer, as a priest, now retired from the dailyness of being out there, yet still craving that need for contact? Now that’s a paradox, a both/and that will keep any shrink in business if one ever dares to try an unravel my inner workings. Today was a day of thoughts, not really journal material, or is it? After all what is a journal other than a place to vomit the crap that is floating on the interior and exposing it all to the light of day. It ain’t pretty and sometimes it smells, but that is the only way to come to understand who I am at this time in my life. I think that the only person that really gets me is Jane, the poor girl has had to deal with my ups and downs for the past 45 years and now she’s stuck with me on a daily basis as we negotiate being retired together.