Aug 31 2012

Mary Oliver – Mindful

Published by at 9:59 am under Poetry

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every day
      I see or hear
            something
                  that more or less

kills me
      with delight,
            that leaves me
                  like a needle

in the haystack
      of light.
            It was what I was born for —
                  to look, to listen,

to lose myself
      inside this soft world —
            to instruct myself
                  over and over

in joy,
      and acclamation.
            Nor am I talking
                  about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
      the very extravagant —
            but of the ordinary,
                  the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
      Oh, good scholar,
            I say to myself,
                  how can you help

but grow wise
      with such teachings
            as these —
                  the untrimmable light

of the world,
      the ocean’s shine,
            the prayers that are made
                  out of grass?

— from Why I Wake Early, by Mary Oliver


/ Photo by Loyal O.A.K. /

Every so often I come across a poem by Mary Oliver I haven’t read in a few years, and rereading it I get to say, “Wow!” once again.

Read this poem a few times. Each statement just rings in the air.

Sometimes I can appreciate a poem more fully when I read it as if the line breaks weren’t there, allowing me to really take in the meaning and imagery (then, when I reread with awareness of the line breaks once again, I can insert the sense of rhythm and stillness they imply)…

Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight…

that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.

Mm.

It was what I was born for — to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world –

That’s such a great line, isn’t it? “To lose myself inside this soft world.”

to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.

Think about what she is saying. There is a fundamental delight to the encounters and experiences of each day — but we must continuously “instruct” ourselves in it. Each time we recognize that joy, we are learning. The opposite is also true: each time we ignore it, we are forgetting.

Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant — but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations.

I think this is poems true epiphany. The delight she speaks of, the magic in the day, is not discovered through having some sort of extraordinary experience. It is, surprisingly, in “the ordinary, the common,” the eventless moments.

How do we see? The title tells us — through being Mindful. Through paying attention. Through stillness of mind, accompanied by relaxed, open awareness. It is then that the day’s delight reveals itself and we come to see even the most mundane moment for the immense landscape truly it is.

Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these –

The day is teaching us. Are we being a good scholar? Are we drinking in the joy given to us? It is there, when we are mindful:

the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?

Have a beautiful day, noticing the untrimmable light of the world! (Oh, and happy blue moon too!)






Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

Mary Oliver was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1935.

As a young writer, Mary Oliver was influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay and, in fact, as a teenager briefly lived in the home of the recently deceased Millay, helping to organize Millay’s papers.

Mary Oliver attended college at Ohio State University, and later at Vassar College.

Mary Oliver’s poetry is deeply aware of the natural world, particularly the birds and trees and ponds of her adopted state of Massachusetts.

Her collection of poetry “American Primitive” won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.

More poetry by Mary Oliver

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Mary Oliver – Mindful”

  1. Bob Corbinon 31 Aug 2012 at 11:23 am

    Wow! indeed.

  2. Christopheron 31 Aug 2012 at 11:44 am

    I love this poem by Mary Oliver, it resonates light! I always look for the joy and delight in each day! Thanks Ivan for a delightful poem by a delightful poet!

  3. Gerryon 31 Aug 2012 at 11:56 am

    Thank you, dear Ivan, for this profound wisdom from Mary Oliver AND for your wise comments. I’m a fan of yours and of Mary Oliver’s. I’m being inspired daily by reading your amazing and wise book of poems! Thank you for making my world a place of joyful, spiritual growth!

  4. Carol Burnson 31 Aug 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you, Ivan. Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. She can lift my mood,
    open my heart in the space of a page and I am very thankful. How lovely is the
    untrimmable light of the world and the prayers made of grass.

  5. Glenda Fieldson 31 Aug 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Lately everything beautiful makes me cry with delight. The joys start as a welling up in the stomach, then floods to the heart, then the throat and as it continues inching it’s way up, I’m a goner and I’m done for. This one is JOY personified!

  6. Jelenaon 31 Aug 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing these gems. Reading them, we become more awake. We are here to see the light that is present everywhere…the”untrimmable light”. And yes, Happy Blue Moon to you too!

  7. marrobon 31 Aug 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I was going to say ‘Wow’ but Bob Corbin beat me to it.

    Will just be silent in grateful delight for this end of week gift

  8. Lakshmion 31 Aug 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Yes, a beautiful poem.
    Thank you
    Lakshmi

  9. Peggyon 01 Sep 2012 at 4:45 am

    I wonder how many poets are “seeing” more than what we were taught in school. Since being awakened and experiencing other dimensions of light I can’t help but think that many other creatives are experiencing more of light’s truer ability.

    There is something more that is hidden from our two-dimensional eyes and one must seek in order to see the light living in the haystack–not simple metaphors anymore.

  10. lisaon 02 Sep 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Thank u for this poem! Congratulations on ur book!

  11. Lutgarton 03 Sep 2012 at 12:14 am

    YES, YES, Oh so beautiful poem! Thanks Ivan for sharing and for your words!

  12. […] don’t ask what others need. don’t worry about where you will ‘fit in the market.’ focus on what makes your mind race. what rises and flows so fast that your fingers can’t keep up. that you have to pull over on the side of the road and write out so you won’t forget. what meets you in your dreams. what makes your heart beat faster. what moves you to tears and kills you with delight. […]

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