Category Archives: writing as connection

Mary Oliver and the Poems We Need

As I write this, a young man ( a boy, really) has been caught on video, harassing an elder at a March for Life rally. The young man is wearing a MAGA hat. The young man is white; the old man is a Native elder. People on social media have named both, stood up for both, and weighed in with their own expressions of violence, shaming and hatred, from yes, all sides of this deeply broken agreement about what we owe each other as human beings.

There are many political and cultural signifiers in what I just wrote, which will trigger people in different ways, and yet what strikes me most is the way we rush to outrage, running right past sorrow: our tendency to instantly react can obscure a missed opportunity for real connection, for truly being reminded of the way we keep perpetuating the worst of human attributes. We race past intimacy and the holy practice of deep presence. What is happening in that young man’s heart? What is responding in that elder man’s soul? In ours? How can they find a way to each other, and us to them?

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
(From The Journey, by Mary Oliver; Dream Work, Atlantic Monthly Press 1986)

Mary Oliver’s poetry shows us how to pay attention, how to enter into a more deliberate state of attentiveness regarding what is unfolding in nature’s time. Her work is loved by so many because of this quality of intimate stillness simultaneously infused with life’s passionate urgency; her poems explore the path toward a balance of both, a fusion which delights and heals and transcends. Some have argued that poetry such as hers is too divorced from the daily realities we struggle with as a culture and a body politic, but I believe that there is an opportunity in every encounter with people, animals, and nature to deeply connect. Trying to articulate what that desire for connection, and the experience of it when it happens, feels like, looks like, is an important poetic pursuit. Her poems teach us how to bear witness to what really matters: the connection we are all trying to get back to, in one way or another. May the young man ( and all of us) who couldn’t see what was right in from of him, find his way.

“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.”

 

Begin Again

Celebrating a “new year” as a global concept (regardless of which culture’s calendar is followed) is a marvelous thing.  Human beings have chosen to delineate the passage of time with a great turning of the wheel, a symbol constructed of geometry, astronomy, numerology, legalities, and myth. It’s what we do: we construct, tear down, construct again. Always turning.

So here we are. I love the number 19, for reasons which reach back 45 years in my own timeline, to adolescence.  But that’s a poem for another day. 2019 is the only year with 19 as a suffix which I will ever experience, so I am choosing to see it as an auspicious moment in time: a cause for celebration, an inducement, even an imperative. Live it out loud. Into and through the elements, the seasons, the demarcations of culture, liturgies and symbols. Eager to reach across boundaries of all kinds: mental, spiritual, fear-based, other-imposed.  Everything is connected in an unbroken flow, even as we set up false divisions, borders, “that was then, this is now; then was better, now is worse” and so on.

I’m glad to be here, glad to still be writing, musing, finding a way to begin again. Here’s to the unbroken connection of creativity. Here’s to how we choose to go on.

Port Townsend fireworks, New Year’s Eve 2018.

 

 

New Poetry Blog Coming Soon

Launching on New Year’s Day, 2019. Meanwhile, I’m pondering this:

Adrienne Rich, from her intro to The Best American Poetry Anthology, 1996