Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

Achaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage andtrading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is aplace of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of theroad, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...


by Mary Oliver


a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her --
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

-- from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver

/ Image by Marie Hale /

View All Poems by Mary Oliver

We have snow on the ground here in Colorado, but spring is coming. You can see it in the brilliant morning sunlight, in the first tentative buds on branches. We are, all of us, beginning to shake off the long hibernation of winter to encounter the world once again, like Mary Oliver's bear.

The poem evokes for us the image of this black bear, this huge being, "like a black and leafy ledge," waking from its slumbers and rather roughly encountering the world once again. But that renewed interaction between bear and gravel, grass, and tree is a form a sacrament. It is the embodiment of a questions: how to love this world.

The poem circles back to the poet, her human life filled with creativity and cities...

Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities...

But we sense that the list is incomplete. Something fundamental has been left out of the first part of that list. A connection with nature. No... deeper even than that. Something archetypal. The great primal being within as it awakens and encounters the world.

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

Despite its massive presence, it is silent. Without words. Beyond words.

(The phrase "dazzling darkness" is of particular significance within Western esoteric traditions, tracing back to a poem by the important early Christian mystic Dionysius the Areopagite. I suspect Ms. Oliver used it intentionally to suggest the same mysterious, vast, silent presence.)

all day I think of her -—
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

I have always felt a special connection with the animal world. As a child, for a time I planned to become a veterinarian. I remember often meditating as a boy on the wordlessness of animals. What sort of world do they inhabit without words, without names for things or places or people... or even for themselves? I tried to imagine that world, to enter it with my own wordlessness. Like Mary Oliver's bear. In our wordlessness, when we stop naming things, we find that we encounter everything more immediately, more fully. When we name a thing or person or experience, we have labeled it, categorized it and, as a result, moved it outside of the realm of direct experience and shunted it safely into a mental idea of the moment, rather than the living moment itself. When we name things through incessant thought, we then encounter our thoughts about the experience and not the actual experience. We end up seeing only reflections of the mind and forget how to see the world as it is.

Mary Oliver's bear reminds us to let that great black bear rise from its sleep and encounter the world in its wordlessness. This is how we can begin to answer the "only one question: how to love this world." We embody perfect love when we are truly present in our dazzling silence and not elsewhere in our words and thoughts. Love is connection, contact, encountering a person or place as it is, as we are. Love is being right here.

Have a beautiful day, one of wordless spring awakening!

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/ Photo by Daisuke Matsumura /

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