New mantra…


Maybe because it’s spring, I’ve been having some nature cravings lately. There are lovely green leaves everywhere now, and blossoms, and swallows zipping about in the morning and evening, and that freshness in the air… there is nature in the city to be sure, but getting a taste of it in an urban setting seems to make me greedy for more! I want fields and forests and fresh streams or sea, wild spaces where you can’t here any traffic or construction sounds. I want some wilderness!

However, since I can’t get that right now, I’ve been re-reading the poetry of one of my favourite poets, Mary Oliver. I just love the nature imagery that her poems evoke. They bring up all kinds of associations for me, of a particularly American sort of wild landscape, open spaces, a sense of freedom, freshness, exhilaration, all that good and inspirational stuff. For any of you nature lovers out there, I recommend getting your hands on some of her poems!

The other day I was reading ‘The Summer Day’ and I absolutely love it and the sort of ‘life questions’ of the poem, so I thought I’d share the second half of it. Actually, I think I could do with writing the last line of this poem down and posting it all over the flat, because I think it’s the sort of question I’d like to ask myself every day for the rest of forever! I’m going to make it my mantra! Anyway, here it is…

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

                                                 – from The Summer Day

                                                by Mary Oliver



The pitfalls of paths, or how to reconnect with your wild side…

This morning I was reading some poems from 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, by the Arab-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poems have a beautiful simplicity, which is so poignant and also so refreshingly earthy. She writes about family, Jerusalem, the West Bank, peace and war and humanity. She writes the way I wish I could write!

I was just reading the title poem, and it stopped me in my tracks. I re-read it a couple of times and mulled over a few of the lines.

A gash of movement,/ a spring of flight. She saw them then/ she did not see them. The elegance of the gazelle caught in her breath. The next thing could have been weeping.

Later in the poem she describes the gazelle again:

They soared like history/ above an empty page.

And here’s where I stopped and read the lines again and again:

Where is the path?/ Please tell me./ Does a gazelle have a path?/ Is the whole air the path of the gazelle?

Paths. Lines of certainty drawn through the chaos of life. With the image of gracefully leaping gazelle fresh in my mind, the idea of a path, a set course, leading from point a to point b, in a straight and rigid line sounded like a terrible and soul-choking affront to the natural wildness of life.

I can’t deny that paths have their uses. They are a clear way, free of obstruction. The stones and thorns and fallen branches and tall grasses are thrown aside, uprooted, tidied up. You can see a greater distance ahead of you. You know what’s coming next on the path, at least to some degree. You are less likely to step in a hole, fall into a pit, or be surprised by a snake or poison ivy. Your shoes are likely to stay a bit cleaner. You can move more quickly and efficiently, cutting out the nonsense and just getting where you want to go.

But paths are also somewhat barren. The grass and weeds and wildflowers have been trampled down by so many feet. They are a dull and dusty brown, spotted with muddy puddles, stagnant water pooling in other people’s footsteps. They are like hard-beaten scars cut across a vibrant, wild and tantalizing landscape.

Do paths help or hinder us in life?

Read the rest here!