There’s so much.
There’s so much more I need to do, and write, and see. My time here is finally and actually drawing to a close. As I’ve been trying for days to compile my thoughts and feelings into something fluid for my final Sunday at Whitehouse (and a final blog post), I realize that I’m just not quite ready.
It’s strange, these days, because I feel very much the way I did this time last year, when my anxiety and excitement and sadness would overwhelm me all at once and I would burst into tears in the middle of Target (and, now, Tesco). But I’m doing my best to allow each feeling its time and place; to allow it all to wash over me, to change me, to form me – much in the same way the winds and the rain have shaped the landscape of this beautiful place I’ve had the great privilege of calling home for the past eleven months.
I have, over the course of the year, been rendered speechless countless times by the overwhelming beauty of this part of God’s creation. I have learned the meaning of the word awesome. I may have written this before, but it isn’t hard to imagine why the ancient Irish peoples believed that the divine lived just below the surface of the mountains, which is why they treated (and Celtic tradition still treats) the earth with such great care.
After the coldest winter in a century and the spring that wasn’t, we are in the midst of a proper summer – and it’s glorious. Every time I leave the house I still can’t believe I live in a place so picturesque, so inspiring. While I manage with words most of the time, I’m no poet. Mary Oliver is a poet who seems to capture the world the way I see it, too. I don’t know her story and I don’t know what she believes, but she writes of the glory of the world around us in such a way that you can’t help but experience it, too. I spent some time reflecting on her poetry on our retreat in Iona. So while I attempt to feel all things as they come, I’d like to leave you with this expression of my feelings of gratitude for the opportunity experience this kind of goodness by way of photos from Iona followed by some of Mary Oliver’s poems.
Song of the Builders
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God-
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.
Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?
There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.
And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.
The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in, the goldfinches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.
I look; morning and night I am never done with looking.
Looking, I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.
And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree –
they are all in this too.
And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world
At least, closer.
Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unlooping snake.
Like goldfinches, little dolls of gold
fluttering around the corner of the sky
of God, the blue air.
I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open
and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is the dark
pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut,, but of course the birds
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing, too,
and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
locked up in gold.
Look and See
This morning at waterside, a sparrow flew
to a water rock and landed, by error, on the back
of an elder duck; lightly it fluttered off, amused.
The duck, too, was not provoked, but, you might say, was laughing.
This afternoon a gull sailing over
our house was casually scratching
its stomach of white feathers with one
pink foot as it flew.
Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us, if we
only look, and see.
Why I Wake Early
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
The Old Poets of China
Wherever I am, the world
comes after me. It offers me
its busyness. It does not
believe that I do not
want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of
China went so far and
so high into the mountains,
then crept into the
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It is what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I’ll tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
What Was Once the Largest Shopping Center in Northern Ohio Was Built Where There Had Been a Pond I Used to Visit Every Summer
Loving the earth, seeing what has been done to it,
I grow sharp, I grow cold.
Where will the trilliums go, and the coltsfoot?
Where will the pond lilies go to continue living
their simple, penniless lives, lifting
their faces of gold?
Impossible to believe we need so much
as the world wants us to buy.
I have more clothes, lamps, dishes, paper clips
than I could possibly use before I die.
Oh, I would like to live in an empty house,
with vines for walls, and a carpet of grass.
No planks, no plastic, no fiberglass.
And I suppose sometime I will.
Old and cold I will lie apart
from all this buying and selling, with only
the beautiful earth in my heart.
Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.