No, Mary, YOU tell ME; or Life in the World

Mary Oliver in Upstream wrote in the eponymous essay, “In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” I feel like I’m still in this state, that I’m still rediscovering, redefining.

I admire the way she is so attuned to her environment, noting the shifts with each phase of the passing seasons, how she daily consumes that notice and transforms it into her work in poetry. I react to the world in similar ways as when I was young. I think I have long paid attention to details, both out of an interest in the natural, and out of a watchfulness born of fear of what is scary and uncontrollable in the world. But it’s what I am to do with those reactions that I continue to find puzzling. How to live a life.

As Oliver said in “Summer Day,” “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild, precious life?”

There are many hours in the day in which to live out an answer to this question, but an unknown number of years to figure it out. I am grateful for the question and how it haunts me. She writes, “May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.”

Pema Chodron wrote, “The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” I am grateful for the possibilities that crack wide open with that quote, but also daunted by the responsibility. Blue sky today and a breeze bobbles the rhododendron already unpinched from the cold night temperatures to the warming air.

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2 thoughts on “No, Mary, YOU tell ME; or Life in the World

  1. heck, Marilyn, me too. except to say that while i ponder all these years how to live it, i am living it. I’ve just begun “Upstream”. You wrote here: ” I react to the world in similar ways as when I was young.” The three of us do and I love that. hey, we’re soul sisters! – Donna

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    • Yes, the life somehow gets lived, one way or another, doesn’t it, sister? I just strive to be conscious of it! Not always successful. Just today I forgot to notice most of the hours…

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