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A Conversation With Mary

August 18, 2011


It is possible, I suppose that sometime

we will learn everything

there is to learn: what the world is, for example,

and what it means. I think this as I am crossing

from one field to another, in summer, and the

mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either

knows enough already or knows enough to be

perfectly content not knowing. Song being born

of quest he knows this: he must turn silent

were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead


oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly

unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display

the small suns of their center piece, their — if you don’t

mind my saying so — their hearts. Of course

I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and

narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?

But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,

to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;

for example — I think this

as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch —

the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the

daisies for the field.

 ~ Mary Oliver ~

(Why I Wake Early)

Dear Mary,

How exactly do you go about seeing all the things in life I wish to be able to see?  What is your secret to noticing, as naturally as you breathe, all the mysteries and all the subtleties of the world in which we live?  When did you teach yourself the humble discipline of patience and acceptance?

I learned as I walked.

I am trying to have patience with this life of mine.  I am trying to notice “the suitability of the field for the daisies and the daisies for the field.”  I am working on understanding, as you are teaching me, that each being, experience, place – lends itself to others.  That fields are there to house and nurture the daisies.  Poppies exist to light up the night when their orange and crimson petals burst open in Spring.  Grasshoppers leap through fields, and humans wander around to let their fingertips trickle along the tips of grass.  Each one lends itself to another.  You can see that.  You write about that.  How did you let yourself become small enough to notice it all?

I learned as I walked.

I want to notice with joy.  I want noticing to be intuitive.  I want to see my life as a grander whole, and celebrate the way all the smaller pieces come together.  But I don’t always have the patience this life requires.  I see what I don’t have and impulsively go after it.  I see something that is missing and instantly aim to fill it.  I get antsy and bored and desire change, even if it is not at the most suitable time.

I’m afraid that sometimes I walk through my fields and start picking the daisies recklessly.  I pick my daisies, my daisies that were meant to slowly grow up and sway and dance and blossom, and I carry them home and set them on my table in a jar.  I admire them, the daisies I plucked prematurely, for several days and then watch them slowly wilt and die.  I throw them away and run back out to my field and pick new ones without a thought in the world.  I repeat this process over and over again.

But what if I just let my daisies alone?  What if I reached down to touch, rather than to pick, and with patience let my daisies fill the field that is so suitable to their growth?  What could be if I let the field that my life is built upon, do its job?  What if I did not rush, did not do, did not wish away these precious present moments – and just walked?  Just noticed my overwhelming abundance of white petals blossoming across fields?  What if I just spent the afternoon wandering through my blessings?

I learned as I walked.

Mary, I would like to take a walk with you.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 18, 2011 3:31 pm

    Dear Lauren,

    You are a poet.


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