A note from Carl:
I had just finished writing today’s email about Mary Oliver, and was about to hit send when I saw the news that she died today at 83. My heart is raw with appreciation and loss. What a gift her life brought to the world…
I love the story of an interviewer asking Mary Oliver how she does it- how does she bring such wonder, such a profound quality of attention to her world? Her response: “I always keep the appointment.”
This to me is such a powerful teaching and the essence of what it means to have a practice. Whatever that practice is- a meditation practice, a movement practice, an intimacy with the natural world practice, an artistic practice- do I keep the appointment with that which is most important?
Do I keep the appointment
When I am too tired?
When I don’t have enough money?
When I am too busy?
When other things seem much more important?
When I feel so good, I don’t need it?
When it seems boring?
When it feels like the world is on fire?
It can be easy to think that the numinous perception that shines through Mary’s writings is some kind of rare gift she was given, and miss the cultivation, the effort, the years of keeping the appointment that are behind how she sees and writes about this world.
The botanist George Washington Carver wrote, “If you love anything enough, it will speak to you.” Mary kept her appointment with loving this world, and it spoke to her.
To be honest, I don’t always keep the appointment. But I aspire to, and I notice what changes when I miss an appointment (or 3.) I notice what is fed when I keep them.
Let’s enjoy a few examples of Mary keeping the appointment:
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
And if your spirit
carries within it
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaksand the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.trees,
I am so distant from the hope of myself
in which I havegoodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.,
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Wishing You Well,