Mary Oliver: Paying Attention

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My oldest brother, Hank, gave me my first two Mary Oliver poetry books, House of Light and Dream Work. These were published in 1990 and 1986 respectively. Her work has supported and deepened my spiritual journey in many ways. She is a lover of nature: ponds, trees geese, crickets, swans, heron, bear, ravens, turtles, otters, rivers, rocks, the sun and many more living creatures, especially dogs. When we pay attention like she does the world around us starts buzzing, shining brighter, showing graceful movements through the air and colors of water we never imagined. Her poems expand our breathing and thus our spiritual practice.

At the end of her poem “Starfish” is one example of how Oliver’s poetry speaks to me, ‘while I lay on the rocks, reaching into the darkness, learning little by little to love our only world.

Through her experiences of the living creation, her words arranged on paper can translated into feeling we are experiencing whatever she is writing about. It is her profound act of paying attention—that has encouraged my participation in the ‘non-peopled’ life. And in that world there is a transcendent presence, a holy presence, that is easy to miss. Pausing to pay attention slows us down, allows us to breathe and not breeze past life right before our eyes, ears and all senses really.

You may have read some or seen quotes in various places. “Wild Geese” and “Summer Day” are two of my favorite and very inspirational popular ones. What I encourage you to do, is to read her poetry slowly, read it deeply, take your time and let it connect with your spirit.

Oliver died on January 19, 2019. This is my way of honoring her and pay attention to her life, a life that has provided of the Holy moments for me. Thank you Mary.

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