Mary Oliver, the wonderful American poetess died this last week. She was a woman of such deep faith in the goodness of things. A Pulitzer prize winner at a young age, Mary spent her life asking the deeper questions of life, searching out the answers through her affinity with the natural world, a place she had retreated to during a difficult childhood. She saw the fingerprint of the divine in every detail of nature, marrying her love for all things alive with her search to make sense of the world. Our Call to Worship this week will be Mary's thoughtful rendering, 'Wild Geese.' Below is a short clip of Mary reading this poem. There is also a short radio interview where she speaks of her view of prayer.
Mary, and her poetry, are beloved by my daughter Madelaine and I. We find in Mary's work a simplicity and elegance that offers a fresh lens for viewing this often tumultuous world. Here below is one of her most famous poems on death. I have, from time to time, offered it during a time of contemplation in funeral services. In it, Mary imagines death to be a 'cottage of darkness', hoping that she may step through its door 'full of curiosity', wondering 'what it is going to be like.'
I can imagine Mary doing just that, her keen mind alive to new possibility, her heart open to new experience. But I will miss her in this world. I am grieved that her heart beats no longer with our collective heartbeat.
But Mary has awakened to a brand new day over the horizon. And no doubt she is just as filled with wonder there, as she was here.
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.
Rev. Dr. Candice Bist
Offering what I hope will be thoughtful additions to your spiritual journey, from my own musings, and the great array of teachers available to us through other blogs, videos, websites, music and art. May grace surround us all as we make our way forward through the astonishing mystery of life.