Day 16: Surviving life through Mary Oliver

The beauty of our life is that it only has finite amount of moments. The tragedy for a reader is that even if we spend every waking moment consuming whatever has already written, our lifetime will still fall short. So it is established that there will always be some amazing writers whose books we will never end up reading. I shudder at that thought and it takes me back to the day when I first got introduced to Mary Oliver - the day she died.

It was January, 2019. I was going through my social media feeds and people were all emotional over the loss of Mary Oliver. I immediately started searching for her works to see what it's that made her special. Kindness, humility, appreciation for the nature and a child like wonder - it was all bundled together in words. She was definitely the kind of person who would have inspired me if I had met her earlier. But as they say, better late than never.

I remember reading this short poem

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. "

If I had read this earlier, I would have been a less bitter person, for sure.

One of her most appreciated poems is Wild Geese. When the days are tough and I started doubting myself and my choices, it offers consolation. It feels like a warm hug from someone you love.

About an year ago, I was in the mountains for a holiday. It was a holiday for doing nothing. There was nothing to be ticked off from the list. I just had to embrace my being and let my mind wander across the woods and mountains. Her collected poems, Devotions was with me during that time. She was my companion during those solitary walks in the wood. I felt like she is walking beside me showing the wild flowers, the hidden streams and asking me to walk a little bit farther each day. One of the most cherished poems during these days was Daisies.

"It is heaven itself to take what is given,

To see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly; for example - I think this

As I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch

The suitability of the field for the daisies, and the

Daisies for the field. "

I would forever be grateful for those days in mountains where I spent reading and re-reading her poems. It is from her words that I learned about healing ourselves through paying attention. I have finally come to the last phase of grieving for some losses and it wouldn't have been possible without her wise words.

Then the pandemic came, we all got trapped in flats or apartments and there was not enough beauty to enchant us in the four walls of a house. But inspired by her words, I tried to find a little piece of heaven even in the wilted down plants. Some days, when I was lucky, I got to witness some new leaves sprouting, giving me hope that may be we will also survive this season of wilting. During these days, I turned to her collection of essays - Upstream. Her prose is excellent as her poems, may be even better. There I learned about more about herself and sometimes I saw her in myself too. It is one book that I will never grow tired of reading. There is more wisdom lying in those words and my mind is not wide enough to accept everything in one reading.

This is from Upstream:

"I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything - other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned: that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness - the beauty and mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books - can redignify the worst-stung heart. "

Now I listened to At Blackwater Pond recited by she herself. There were nights when the mind was too anxious and I barely got any sleep. I started listening to this collection of poems in her kind , with my heart pounding and my eyes closed tightly. Slowly I am transported to the pine woods and black water pond. I see , daisies, snow cricket and even feel the coolness of the water in the pond. After some moments, I feel an inexplicable warmth towards everything in this life and my heart comes back to its steady rhythm again.

It's been two years of reading her and I believe that her words has influenced me to be a better person. One day, when I have a place of my own, I plan to inscribe this in a wall.

"Instructions for living a :

Pay Attention

Be Astonished”

Tell about it"




In search of the stories I cannot hold in my heart

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