Thursday, February 11, 2021

On This Fresh Morning, A Little Mary Oliver

"it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world."

I woke in the wee hours last night to a pall of pandemic gloom in the air around me. I wasn't fretting or even thinking about it when I fell asleep, maybe I'd been dreaming about it, for the strictures loomed from the shadows when I woke. Struggling to get back to sleep, I finally gave up and came to my study where, sitting in the lamp's pool of cozy soft light, I felt an immediate lift in spirits. I wrote out a birthday card to a dear friend, selecting one of those gorgeous Papyrus cards I love, all floral pink and glittery—you'll see it further down.

Then I read lines from Mary Oliver's book of poetry Devotions and felt their lovely imagery soothe my mind. On these frightfully frigid days that dip near the -40°C/F mark with the wind chill, I've chosen not to go on my daily walks in the neighbourhood. Exposed skin freezes in minutes, so these past few days I've been madly pedaling indoors, not as much fun, but oh well! Thankfully, when I can't get out to embrace a bit of earthy nature, delving into Mary's poetry certainly helps. Her words almost make me feel like I'm right there with her, for her love and wonder of the physical world shimmers in every line. The book is my current go-to respite when I need a few minutes to escape from the craziness of our weirdly tilting world.

"Hello, sun in my face,
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety—"
MARY OLIVER, Why I Wake Early

These lines from Mary's poem offers a glad hint of the season to come, although my world looks a lot more like the wintry photo above. I giggled at the idea of the sun shining generously even on the miserable and the crotchety. Grace even for them, er, us (wink).

"I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time
when something wonderful has touched us..."
MARY OLIVER, New and Selected Poems, Vol 2

"Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."
MARY OLIVER,  Wild Geese

"Love yourself. Then forget it.
Then, love the world."
MARY OLIVER, Evidence: Poems

"Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us."
MARY OLIVER, Devotions

* * *
"I learned from Mary Oliver how attention is a kind of love, how shining your mind’s light on a thing — a grasshopper, a bird, a tree — is a way of showing gratitude. I learned that poems do not need to be “difficult” to be intelligent, that poems can be both inspirational and investigative, that poems can be tender without being soft. I learned from her to own my wonder and to stay open to uncertainty." Maggie Smith, The Washington Post, January 18, 2019

If I had not been awake in the night, chances are I would not have found those graceful beautiful lines by Mary Oliver, or this lovely thought about her by Maggie Smith in The Washington Post. And, there certainly would be no post for you either. So, even for sleepless nights, I am grateful. Stay warm. Stay safe.  

* * *

With love, I'm wishing you beauty and heart's ease,


Photo Credits: All photos, except the birthday card photo
which is mine, came courtesy of


  1. Well, it certainly is evident that you made better use of your sleepless night than I did of mine. Wishing you a wonderful night of rest this coming night.

  2. "Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world." So practical, so simply said, so true. It seems as though you sat and had a lovely chat with Mary Oliver in the wee hours of the night. Comforting company for a chilly night. :)

  3. I appreciate the comfort and encouragement that poetry can bring, and the selections here are lovely...but when I researched Mary Oliver, I discovered that she was a lesbian and many say that much of her poetic imagery is referring to that sexual preference. I find this to be profoundly sad. It also makes me less inclined to want to embrace her work. It seems to illustrate Romans 1 to me: the worship if the creation rather than the Creator. Just some thoughts.

    1. Dear Anonymous, Everyone must make his or her own choices that work for them. For me, I find her beautiful writing often leads me to sing to the Creator in gratitude for all the beauty in nature. I just finished reading several lovely poems she wrote about the Lord Jesus, including one where she ponders the point of view of the donkey that Jesus rode and one wondering about the disciples falling asleep when Jesus asks them to stay awake with him at Gethsemane. I marveled at her insights. I do believe all creativity comes from God, and I have come to appreciate the myriad of creative expression no matter who composes or creates it. Thank you for your thoughts.

  4. I love Mary Oliver! Her poetry speaks and sings to me in in a way that makes my soul rise up with joy and gladness and praise to the Creator of all things--a very real antidote to middle-of-the-night gloom and doom!

  5. Ah, Brenda! Another beautiful post! Sending you special hugs and encouragement during this pandemic season. Wishing you a more settled night ahead!

  6. Devotions by Mary Oliver is one of my very favorite books, thanks for all the quotes, plus the card is very pretty.

  7. When I discovered Mary Oliver's poetry some years ago now, it seemed to put into words the feelings I experienced in nature. She has a way of taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. I don't have Devotions, and think I will add it to my list of books I'd like.
    Funny how our minds work. I woke up this week with pandemic gloom, too, but I just lay in bed and thought of other things until I fell back asleep. You made that gloom bright with loveliness in this post.
    Stay warm. BRRRR!

  8. Brenda, Mary Oliver is new to me, and I shall certainly try to read some of her work. She is obviosly a creative and imaginative writer. Thank you!

  9. Thanks for sharing-love Mary Oliver's poetry!

  10. Thank you for your reply. It is still hard for me to wrap my mind around how a person can speak/write as if Jesus is "Lord", and yet be content to live in a daily lifestyle of sin (what does light have to do with darkness?). And yet...I know that it is still possible for a believer to enjoy the creative talents of an unbeliever and be able to lift up praise to God while appreciating its beauty (Mozart anyone?) I guess I am just saying that in this particular case, I believe it would turn me off of her work to encounter references to her lifestyle. �� I also want to add that though I don't often comment, I do enjoy your lovely blog!

  11. I don't mind waking in the night because I usually doze off again. Attention is a kind of love for sure. Even when we say someone is "attention-seeking", we can reframe it that they are really seeking love and offer them the love that they are seeking. I just binged a book called The Paris Library. It is historical fiction based on the American Library in Paris and the efforts of the librarians to preserve the collection and to serve the Jewish community. Good snowy day reading!

  12. Good morning, Brenda. Happy Valentine's Day! This post may well be my favorite of all time. I dearly love the writing of Mary Oliver. She is certainly one talented soul with a kind and loving heart. I will read this post many times over. The opening quote is a most favorite of mine. Isn't it so very true?

  13. Oh, how lovely, Brenda! And so very perfect for the time and season. I've had my second vaccine shot now and while I was quite ill afterwards I'm so glad I got it. A week has passed and I think that I can - very carefully - rejoin the world and resume that long forgotten art of living.

  14. Ah yes, I am so fond of Mary Oliver and her poetry. What a treat it would be to sit with her over a meal and an evening of conversation. Imagine sitting for an evening with someone who has such depth of love and gratitude in her heart. Thank you for your lovely post.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo