Lessons from the Landscape

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 - 5:30 am

Lessons from the Landscape

Mary Oliver’s poems seem simple, until you read them a second time! Then you realize there’s more to them than meets the eye. As you try to understand what that “more” is, you start engaging the poem — and yourself — at deeper and deeper levels.
“Landscape” invites us to be as patient as the moss and as vulnerable as the black oaks. It reminds us that keeping the heart open is a matter of life and death.
And it offers an amazing image of crows who spend the night thinking of what they “would like their lives to be,” imagining the “strong, thick wings” that will loose them from the darkness and lift them into the light.
As one who sometimes needs to break free from the dark night of the soul, I’m grateful for this reminder of what I can do in the dark to get ready for daybreak.
Keep the doors of your heart open and you can say, with Mary Oliver — and with gratitude — “Every morning, so far, I’m alive…”

“Landscape”
by Mary Oliver

Isn’t it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience? Isn’t it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I’m alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky—as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.

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Contributor

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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