There is Still Beauty

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This morning I watched two squirrels go back and forth, back and forth, leaping from branch to branch with mouthfuls of leaves, dressing up their nest. Yesterday I walked with a friend along the winter beach; the sun sparkled against the dark water, the sandpipers clustered, the marsh hawk silently soaring and the colors of rust, yellow, purple blending into a song of November.

There is still beauty. We humans are love and hate, kindness and cruelty. But the natural world—the natural world just is. And there is a great peace in that.

…Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled–
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing–
that the light is everything–that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

Excerpted from The Ponds, by Mary Oliver

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Mary Oliver Reminds Us in These Harsh Times

I thought it might be time for something beautiful.

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the trees
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver

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Transitions

Monday, September first, I took my spinning wheel outside on the deck and placed it so I could spin the merino I am working on and watch the pond, like I do almost every pleasant morning in summer. I have placed a thistle seed feeder near the deck (in defiance of bears) and I like to listen to the noises of the summer morning as the thread accumulates. This morning, though, seemed more than usually still—and then it hit me. The phoebes were gone. Those tail-wagging birds who perch on the canoe line or the dead branch, then swoop out in a rush over the water snatching at insects; those feisty April arrivals who build a nest under the eves on the light fixture of the cottage next door, and raise two, sometimes three nestfuls.

They were gone. Nary a one to perch and swoop and wag. I felt like a child whose summer friends—you know, that noisy family with kids your age who come every year—had left, taking with them the golden bubble of summer and signaling with their departure the sure and concrete message that summer is over.

Unwilling to take this in just yet, I strained my eyes and ears for summer sounds. Whew, I could still hear the catbird and was that two cedar waxwings flying by? I hoped they would stick around a bit longer since we’ve had a bumper crop of blueberries. And then I heard the chickadees, goldfinches and cardinals who are year-round residents. But so many had already quietly left. The kingbirds—when had they gone? The scarlet tanager, the orioles—gone. A few weeks back I had a glimpse of warblers—a blackburnian and a black-and-white—and I realize now they were migrating through.

No, they’re not all gone, the summer birds, but they will be, as their time comes. I was fond of those phoebes, dammit; it’s hard to let them go. But there, a plump hummingbird just careened by. Mary Oliver understood.

Of course.

To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and when the time comes to let it

go,

to let it go.

phoebe fledglings

 

Everything is Revealed by Highlights and Shadows

I originally wrote this post one year ago, after the Boston Marathon bombings. This Monday, the Marathon runs again. In the intervening year, there have been, worldwide, more bombings, more acts of terrorism and aggression, more unrest. Sometimes it seems like the shadows are taking over. But the beauty of being human is that we can decide what we want to believe. And then we can believe it. I still choose to believe that a million lights of kindness will cover the darkest acts of atrocity. And I always will.

Grief is linked, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, to the lung and large intestine organs and, like anger, fear, joy/sadness and worry, it plays a fundamental role in our health. Our lungs hold and distribute the oxygen that sustains life, so our inhalation is quite literally the act of taking in life.  When we exhale, we are letting go, in the trust that our next inhalation will come. Without this exhalation––this letting go with trust­­––we can’t take in another breath; we can’t take in more life.

It is the role of grief to facilitate the letting-go process. When we grieve, we are letting go of that which no longer serves us. Grieving is the process of sifting through the loss to discover the essence that we wish to carry with us. And then allowing the rest go, so we are able to take in another breath, to continue living.

This week I am grieving the lives lost and maimed at the Boston Marathon bombings and underneath that, I am grieving the awareness that there are people so separated from the basic heart of humanity, that to maim and kill innocent lives is, to them, an acceptable act. But my grieving has unearthed an essence in the tragedy, to wit: the darkest acts of atrocity are covered by a million lights of kindness. In Boston, people ran toward the bombing scene, seconds after it happened, to help, heedless of their own safety. Social media spontaneously sprang into action to coordinate emergency information.

Everything is revealed by highlights and shadows. We are moving forward as a species defined by our immense kindnesses in the wake of our isolated evils.

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I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—

that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum

of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

excerpted from The Ponds by Mary Oliver