Poet Mary Oliver made her transition to the other side this week, Thursday, January 17th, 2019. That night I sat down thinking and feeling into the power and grace her words had had on me over the years and tears welled up. To me, she was more than brilliant. She was a mentor, a lighthouse, a safe harbor to curl up to on a rainy day. Her words made me feel soft, and bold, precious and like nothing could break me all at once. I can look back at my life and know what was really going on inside me by whatever Mary Oliver poem was tacked to my binder, hanging on my wall, or running through my head.
The first being “Wild Geese,” performed with a broken arm around the state of Vermont in a production of the Diary of Opal when I was twelve. Even at twelve the refrain “You do not have to be good…” I could feel in my bones the freedom and truth it spoke. From that poem on, Mary Oliver has always been present in my life.
There was a time in my twenties her poem “The Swimmer” spoke to me, “...gasping, you rise and struggle lightward, finding your way through the blue ribs back to the sun, and emerge as though for the first time.” She understood me at a time I don’t know if I even understood myself.
Then, and this is the one I think of today, there is her poem Thirst, which hung above my sewing machine during a time when I was nursing a broken heart.
Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayer which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning.
-Mary Oliver, September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019
Mary, I am so glad God granted you a little more time. It was time and blessing He granted all of us. I know you packed nothing, just like you knew you would, cause you left so much behind here for us. Your words are both prayers and lessons. Ones I am still slowly learning. May the conversation in your heart both with God and this Earth continue on. I know it is. And may your precious and wild ride continue on, on the other side.
Thank you for everything. For all your words and all your deep strength of heart. Thank you for seeing me, a woman, a girl you never met yet somehow knew. Thank you for reaching out through time and space to guide me and encourage me all these years. You are truly loved. And will be very missed. ❤️
What were some of your favorite Mary Oliver poems? Or Mary Oliver inspired memories? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.