Posts Tagged ‘Mary Oliver’

Be Free. Get Simple.

I’m on a roll.

Cleaning. Sorting.

Changing my life. Starting a new chapter.

Everywhere I can, I’m simplifying in preparation for what will come.

Sometimes, I wonder what’s ahead. I think about Mary Oliver’s question, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I muse about it. I let it go.

A little later, I remember her words, “Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”

I notice I’m breathing just a little. I pause and breathe deeper.

A hummingbird comes to my window. My heart lifts. (How can a thing with wings cause so much happiness?) Thank god for birds.

There are also many butterfly visits to these same flowers. Thank god for butterflies, too.

I do especially love things that fly. I also love anything with roots that’s blooming.

Another line from one of Mary Oliver’s poems crosses my mind: “I want to be improbable, beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.”

Me, too.

She said, “I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”

I sing a little. (Singing helps everything. Immediately.)

Returning to the kitchen, I place dishes, vanilla, and spices back into newly painted cupboards and sort as I go. Do I love this cup? This sauce pan, this plate, this cinnamon tea…

The simpler I get, the more clear I become.

I might love clarity more than anything I own. Clarity is valuable anytime, but especially in the coming days.

Simplicity is Freedom

by Mary Oliver

When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room
for. What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.

As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took

I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing – the reason they can fly.


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It’s Time For A Heart-To-Heart About Fear.

Truth be told, I’ve been afraid of many things for many years. I’ve been hesitant. Worried. I’ve held myself back, not spoken up, not been willing to try something new. Ignored out of lack of self-confidence. Shaken in my shoes, walked away, shuddered and retreated.

I’ve done this in little ways and big ways — about little things, big things, and everything in between. I could make a list.

You, too?

Maybe it’s time we send fear to the wolves. Or to the flashy red cardinals winging here and there on the edges of any North Carolina forest in spring. We could send it to the dolphins — I’ve spent hours swimming with them. They know what to do with fear. They toss it. They frolic and play instead. They know more than either of us (you or me) about how to be (truly, only, fully) ourselves.

Frankly, I am tired of fear and its family. Restriction. Pressure. Shame. Must and should and shouldn’t and can’t.

I’m tired of tsk, tsk. Tongue wagging. No, no. Shhh. I am tired of averting my eyes.

I am truly tired of better and best. Achievement. Perfection. Not being ready, ever. Waiting. Holding back. Thinking I have to know something before I do something. I am tired of the very idea of mistakes.

Maybe if I let this fear family slide silently away, they can all go elsewhere for work. Maybe they could even take a well-deserved vacation.

Who knows, maybe fear is even tired of itself. Tired of the job, the responsibility, the relentlessness.

You never know…


When Eric died, before Eric died, when I hoped he wouldn’t die, when Eric denied that he was dying — I felt fear. All of those times, fear welled up. It oozed. Sometimes it galloped on black stallions in the dark night. Other times, fear opened quietly under water, came up with the sun, lingered in the sweet evening breeze.

Fear was present with me. I was present with it.

From this communion, I am acutely aware of the energy of fear and that it gathers momentum if you let it. It will live and breathe, gladly and with gusto. It will accumulate power and rule if you give it the time of day. But finally, in the end, fear slumps in the corner with red eyes and a tired heart, wearing only rags.

Like I said, I’m tired of fear.

I am weary to the bone of it.


Long ago, someone did a “reading” on me, some fancy machine or other, and I found my notes from the session while going through Eric’s things.

My notes were in his file, which caused me to pause. I wondered if the old truth of my notes still belonged to me, or if it ever had.

My notes said that I had an issue around the idea of “I can’t.”

Well, if “I can’t” is still here, if it is living and breathing and taking up space, I  hereby send that out to the wolves, the cardinals and the dolphins, right along with the rest of the family. After all, “fear” and “I can’t” are probably kissing cousins.

Come to think of it, though, I have a friend named “Luna” and for a moth, she’s big (about the length of an iPhone). She doesn’t have a mouth or a digestive system, never eats, and lives for about a week after leaving the cocoon.

I know “Luna.” She visited lucky me one summer night, lingering on a window in my great room for an hour  in the moonlight. We had a long and luxurious conversation.

Maybe Luna would fly with it and take it with her when she goes.

Alright, it’s settled. Whatever I think I can’t do, I give to Luna.

So, beautiful eye-winged creature with delicate tail streamers, take “can’t” and the fear family and whatever else I no longer need and do what you will with it. I offer it up. I give it to you with all my heart.

Maybe you could take it to the forest “with your one wild and precious life.” (Mary Oliver, The Summer Day)

And to dear you reading this, listening to this, contemplating this — what is it that you would give wings to?

Tell me, please.





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Such Singing in the Wild Branches by Mary Oliver

Wood Thrush

Such Singing in the Wild Branches by Mary Oliver

It was spring and I finally heard him among the first leaves–– then I saw him clutching the limb in an island of shade with his red-brown feathers all trim and neat for the new year. First, I stood still and thought of nothing. Then I began to listen. Then I was filled with gladness–– and that’s when it happened, when I seemed to float, to be, myself, a wing or a tree–– and I began to understand what the bird was saying, and the sands in the glass stopped for a pure white moment while gravity sprinkled upward like rain, rising, and in fact it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing–– it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers, and also the trees around them, as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds in the perfectly blue sky––all, all of them were singing. And, of course, yes, so it seemed, so was I. Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last for more than a few moments. It’s one of those magical places wise people like to talk about. One of the things they say about it, that is true, is that, once you’ve been there, you’re there forever. Listen, everyone has a chance. Is it spring, is it morning? Are there trees near you, and does your own soul need comforting? Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song may already be drifting away. by Mary Oliver. “Such Singing In The Wild Branches” is  from Owls and Other Fantasies. Other books by Mary Oliver
  • 1963 No Voyage, and Other Poems (Dent (New York, NY), expanded edition, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1965.
  • 1972 The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems Harcourt (New York, NY)
  • 1978 The Night Traveler Bits Press
  • 1978 Sleeping in the Forest Ohio University (a 12-page chapbook, p. 49–60 in The Ohio Review—Vol. 19, No. 1 [Winter 1978])
  • 1979 Twelve Moons Little, Brown (Boston, MA)
  • 1983 American Primitive Little, Brown (Boston, MA)
  • 1986 Dream Work Atlantic Monthly Press (Boston, MA)
  • 1987 Provincetown Appletree Alley, limited edition with woodcuts by Barnard Taylor
  • 1990 House of Light Beacon Press (Boston, MA)
  • 1992 New and Selected Poems [volume one] Beacon Press (Boston, MA),
  • 1994 White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems Harcourt (San Diego, CA)
  • 1995 Blue Pastures Harcourt (New York, NY)
  • 1997 West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA)
  • 1999 Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA)
  • 2000 The Leaf and the Cloud Da Capo (Cambridge, MA), (prose poem)
  • 2002 What Do We Know Da Capo (Cambridge, MA)
  • 2003 Owls and Other Fantasies: poems and essays Beacon (Boston, MA)
  • 2004 Why I Wake Early: New Poems Beacon (Boston, MA)
  • 2004 Blue Iris: Poems and Essays Beacon (Boston, MA)
  • 2004 Wild geese: selected poems, Bloodaxe,
  • 2005 New and Selected Poems, volume two Beacon (Boston, MA)
  • 2005 At Blackwater Pond: Mary Oliver Reads Mary Oliver (audio cd)
  • 2006 Thirst: Poems (Boston, MA)
  • 2007 Our World with photographs by Molly Malone Cook, Beacon (Boston, MA)
  • 2008 The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays, Beacon Press,
  • 2008 Red Bird Beacon (Boston, MA)
  • 2009 Evidence Beacon (Boston, MA)
  • 2010 Swan: Poems and Prose Poems (Boston, MA)
  • 2012 A Thousand Mornings Penguin (New York, NY)
  • 2013 “Dog Songs” Penguin Press (New York, NY)
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Fall-ing Through Change, Heading For Winter

Sunrise 11-12-14

Written by Terri Crosby for In Care of Relationships

Every day, in every way the leaves are falling, swirling, plummeting past my window as winter approaches.   Yesterday morning, the valley below us was filled with mist, and hundreds of leaves were falling, down, down, down into the mist below.  It was surreal.  On one recent blustery day as I walked with Jackson (dog) on our country road which is flanked on both sides with tall trees, thousands of  leaves “rained” on us.  It was positively heavenly. Jackson and Blue Flowers May 2011In this change-of-seasons time, in my world, the perfect thing to do is read a little Mary Oliver.   She helps me get from one place to another, from one state of mind to another.   And since even we in the more southern part of the country have had our first snow, what a perfect poem for this time of year. If you don’t know Mary Oliver, she is a true treasure.  She is an American poet who has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.  She is often referred to as America’s best selling poet.   Her first collection of poems, No Voyage and Other Poems, was published in 1963, when she was 28.  Her fifth collection of poetry, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.  She continues to write at the happy age of 79. So after you read the poem, what I would love to know from you is what “change-of season” experiences do you go through?  What do you notice about your personal transition from Fall to Winter?  Please feel free to make a comment below.
First Snow by Mary Oliver The snow began here this morning and all day continued, its white rhetoric everywhere calling us back to why, how, whence such beauty and what the meaning, such an oracular fever! flowing past windows, an energy it seemed would never ebb, never settle less than lovely! and only now, deep into night, it has finally ended. The silence is immense, and the heavens still hold a million candles; nowhere the familiar things: stars, the moon, the darkness we expect and nightly turn from.  Trees glitter like castles of ribbons, the broad fields smolder with light, a passing creekbed lies heaped with shining hills; and though the questions that have assailed us all day remain—not a single answer has been found— walking out now into the silence and the light under the trees, and through the fields, feels like one. autumn-winter 2


For more information about In Care of Relationships, click here.

Fall Light PatternsAbout Terri Crosby — I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 14 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant.

It is my experience that children are born to teach (remind) parents, not the other way around.   I’ve learned more from my daughter MacKenzie than from all other humans combined.

I’m in favor of wandering time in the morning, listening to the birds calling to each other in the woods all around me.

Making fresh food is one of life’s big yummy pleasures, along with singing – especially creating heavenly, improvisational, prayerful, meditational sound.

I believe that poet Mary Oliver writes the best bedtime stories available on Earth.

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The Unmistakeable Wisdom of Mary Oliver

mary oliver and dogToday’s message is short and sweet.  After all, there isn’t much to say after a Mary Oliver poem, but plenty to contemplate.  This poem is for anyone going through life changes, big or small. You need tools for change?  Or tools for anything?  Or comforting words?  Turn to Mary Oliver.  She is one of the wisest women I know. Mary Oliver writes for the soul in us.  She writes prose.  She writes poetry.  She even writes about how to write.  She’s everything, all in one. She writes the best bedtime stories.  I have her on my nightstand.  In thirty seconds, or a minute or two or three, I read a poem of hers, and I am off to a blissful slumber.  In those moments, my day fades, no matter what it has been. Mary Oliver lifts me up. Calms me down.  Her words make me smile.  Her poetry moves me into my heart if I have forgotten for a moment to be there.

From West Wind (Part 2)

You are young. So you know everything. You leap into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me. Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me. Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life toward it. ~ Mary Oliver ~   Continue Reading

Intimacy Is Everywhere

Hello Everyone,

Today, intimacy.

Love to you all,

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Friday Love: Bam! Gate Breaking, Anyone?

Good Friday, Everyone!

Today, I’m sharing a story about how I accidentally accomplished something on my bucket list. I ran through an exit gate while looking the other way. The hood of my car is scratched up, and one windshield wiper is a mess, but let’s have a good laugh about how we never expect what “getting what we want” includes!

Let me know if you relate…

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Enough with the Name-Calling

It seems to be a growing fad these days to call someone a narcissist, or declare they are toxic.
Political name-calling is similar—we assign politicians and voters to categories, and brush them off as if they are unintelligent, inferior, or even worthless.
By labeling others, we miss their humanity. We gloss over their struggle, their best effort at dealing with life. We dismiss them.
We do to them what we believe they are doing to others.
Look past a label, and in the soft light of day, there stands a person like you or like me, coping as best they can. At the end of the day, no friend, parent, or lover making conscious choices intends to be mean, or to ignore, or to embellish. There is always more to the story.
If we label others, then for sure we label ourselves. We trap ourselves into believing we are less than. Or not enough. Or we don’t give ourselves the time and forgiveness to work through our “stuff.” Maybe, if we stopped accusing others of narcissism, we could forgive ourselves for those moments when we were narrow-minded, inconsiderate, or afraid.
When it comes to labels, nobody wins.
So, my dear people, I suggest we peer a little deeper into ourselves to investigate a need to separate ourselves from others by tacking them with a label filled with disdain or scorn.
It is my wish that you view this video and take it to heart.
Much love,

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Terri Crosby

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