My love of Mary Oliver

I want to do a short post for a change.  Nothing spectacular, nothing that might change the world.  But might get one person to stop and think, maybe.

I went to the movies the other day with a friend.  We wanted to see Edie, a beautifully photographed film about an elderly woman, who after years of caring for a sick husband, sets out to climb a mountain in Scotland.  One she wanted to climb a long time ago with her father, but through circumstance, and through her inability to really seize the day, well any day actually, she hadn’t done.  Until now.  The years in between were lived in a bit of a half life, for everyone else except herself, particularly for her domineering husband. She is helped to climb it by a young man, on the edge of life, and who has to make decisions of his own, about how he will live his life.

It’s a movie, about love and loss, about new beginnings, and about friendship. And about life, the only one we have.

It reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver, who has become like a friend to me.  Speaking things that may go unsaid if not for her quiet and perceptive observations.

The poem is called,

“When Death Comes”


When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse


to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox;


when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,


I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?


And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,


and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,


and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,

tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.


When it’s 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.


When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.


I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


Perhaps a lesson for us all! It is never to late, just ask Edie.



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