Keeping the Appointment & Farewell to Mary Oliver

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:

Morning Poem

Every morning

the world

is created.

Under the orange

sticks of the sun

the heaped

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

alighting everywhere.

And if your spirit

carries within it

the thorn

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


every morning,

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 oaks
and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself
in which I have
goodness, 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,

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.