Rest in Love, Mary Oliver 1935-2019

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?”
                         – Mary Oliver from ASummer Day

“My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums,Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. ”                              

“It is what I was born for -to look, to listen,to lose myselfinside this soft world -to instruct myself over and over . . . ”   

Declaring Walt Whitman her hero and the brother she never had, Mary Oliver longed to know and become one with what she saw. Awed by the singing of goldfinches or, as in the poem “White Flowers,” overcome by a long nap in a field, she believed in an “attitude of noticing.” When she opened her senses, nature revealed its details.

With over 20 poetry books, Ms Oliver received a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for her collection, “American Primitive.” She won a National Book Award in 1992 for “New and Selected Poems.”

We have her poems to remind us of Mary Oliver’s gratitude and adoration of nature.

“Never in my life
had I felt myself so near
that porous line
where my own body was done with
and the roots and the stems and the flowers

“Six a.m. – the small pond turtle lifts its head into the air like a green toe. It looks around. What it sees is the whole world swirling back from darkness.”

“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.”

“The luna moth, who lives but a few days, sometimes only a few hours, has a pale green wing whose rim is like a musical notation.”

“When it is over I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”


The Value of Books

Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone. – Rebecca Solnit

During my childhood, my father read to me at bedtime. I’d snuggle under my comforter as he encouraged me to close my eyes and create mind images of the stories using my ears, sense of smell, and taste. 
When he opened the book, I could smell its wonder.

One evening I must have fallen asleep during his reading of Arabian Nights because I shook when I heard my father’s voice say, “The villagers were angry.”

Mashed carrots steamed from a bowl on a window ledge. I could smell them. Their cinnamon and clove flavor exploded into my mouth. From then on when I heard the word, angry, it elicited an association with carrots. It became a beneficial trigger to make me laugh and not get caught up in the emotion the word represented. 

I wanted to read the words myself and urged my father to teach me. He began by teaching me about cursive writing. He showed ways to make leads and tails on vowels. Loops needed to soar high and low in consonants.

I had to repeat the squiggles until they looked like his ideal.

My time arrived to read those books he had read to me and  to search for others. After all the books of fairy tales and Mark Twain’s journeys,  Mice on Horseback, by Susan Tweedsmuir led me into more adventures.

Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay for how books saved her life, in the anthology, A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (public library). The book contains illustrated letters (121) to children about why we read and how books transform us. Written by artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and adventurers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading.

Solnit writes: “Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings. Some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends. In some books you meet one remarkable person; in others a whole group or even a culture. Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying. Some books are puzzles, mazes, tangles, jungles. Some long books are journeys, and at the end you are not the same person you were at the beginning. Some are handheld lights you can shine on almost anything.”

All proceeds from A Velocity of Being, benefit the New York public library system.

Find your wonder in the above read.

Find the Light

At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you will discover will be wonderful. What you’l discover is yourself. – Alan Alda

Learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate yourself. – Zen Koan

German scientists have created cochlear implants for gerbils that have been genetically modified to enable them to “listen” to light.” Scientists search for ways to improve the lives of people with hearing impediments.

Imagine an equivalent of gaining the power to hear light? Even if it makes no sense, wriggle your mind.

Stretch the imagination to find something that turns out to be unexpectedly practical.

String Experiences

“Words are the threads upon which we string our experiences.” – Aldous Huxley

The New Year looms days away.  

Are you feeling consumed by changes you wish for in 2019?  
Forget Resolutions!  

Free your mind of distractions and explore without judgment today.  

Relent to creative urges and stay flexible.

Imaginate: Write a line of something that seems impossible.

Revitalize: See an old problem in an unbelievable way.

Play: Describe a playful activity.

Eye rolls: Examine a familiar object with a new perspective.

No gravity: What would you do if gravity did not hold you down?

Take the responses to your lines and re-arrange them. Read them aloud. Put them aside and write for ten minutes.

How will you begin 2019 as a purple tummy bird?

Or sing like a bluebird with freckles?

Get Grounded

Do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind let it come in and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are not bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything . . . . If you are not bothered by the waves gradually they will become calmer and calmer.  
  –  Shunryu Suzudki

Get Grounded:

l. Set an intention. Try:  I seek insight to see my objectives clearly.

2. Let go of tension. Inhale for an intake of five and lift shoulders to your ears. Exhale and release them down your back.

3. Take ten breaths with eyes closed. Find awareness in the sensation of breathing. If thoughts grab you, start over. Keep trying until you have taken ten consecutive breaths without distraction.

4. Return to your intention.

Notice what happens.

Wisdom of the Day

When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. -Lau-Tzu

Stay curious as you view life’s wonders. Make daily contact with wisdom sources.
Find discipline and also stay open to guidance.

Let your mind fly into new areas of discovery.

Take challenges one step at a time. Absorb inspiration from an adventure.

Create with color, taste, and music on your mind’s wall.

Avoid judgment. Notice how a heron provides a way for a lizard to rest.

Find Fun and chase Laughter as the finest wisdom of the day.

Unravel the Day

How does one assimilate events in life and enhance memory?

Once in bed for the night, mentally return through your day in increments of thirty minutes.

Register what happened during the day starting with the thirty minutes before bedtime, then thirty minutes before that, and so on, without judgment.

Notice feelings that arrive as you go through the catalog of your day. Then let them go.

End with the point when you awakened in the morning and then drift
into sleep.

Release the Unnecessary

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things this is the best season of your life. – Wu-men

When focused on nature’s displays, we forget our worries. The moments bring awareness of life’s fascinations.

Find the clouds as they form in the sky’s azure tint. Notice shapes and textures. What might they taste and smell like up close? Imagine wriggling among them. 

Discover nature’s delights and release the unnecessary.

A Single Blossom

Sen No Rikyu, a 16th century tea master, revealed a story of his relationship with Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a warlord. He served Toyotomi  as an advisor on art and taste.

Upon hearing of an exquisite display of morning glories, in Rikyu’s garden, the warlord asked to see it. To honor the request, one morning Rikyu invited him to tea.

As the warlord walked down the garden path, no flowers appeared.

When he entered the tea hut, he saw a single morning glory in the alcove display. Rikyu had ordered all the morning glories in the garden cut down to focus his lordship’s attention on the single exquisite blossom.

How will you focus attention today?

Piling Snow in a Silver Bowl

A silver bowl filled with snow, a heron hidden in the moon.—Dongshan 

A rebirth of the arts occurred in Japan during the Muromachi period in the 14th century. Poetry and painting flourished and a form of theater called Noh developed. This form used carved masks and combined mime, dance, poetry, and song. 

Derived from the Japanese word for “skill or talent, Noh is a form of classical musical drama. Developed by Kan’ami and son, Zeami, Noh tells stories of human passion and struggle from an otherworldly perspective with masks and gestures.

Actors train for a lifetime to communicate universal emotion to the audience.

Zeami wrote the book of dramatic theory called the Kadensho. He shares the secrets of achieving the highest accomplishment as a non actor. With nature images as a metaphor, he refers to various levels of artistic achievement in the performing arts as hana or flowers.

Zeami indicates o
ne of the highest levels of accomplishment occurs when an actor captures a moment of beauty:

. . .  piling up snow in a silver bowl . . . the hues that derive from a pure, clean white light, an appearance that gives rise to a real sense of gentleness. Can it not be said that such represents the Flower of Tranquility.

Find your moments of beauty.