WHEN I AM AMONG TREES by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.”
Every day I read poetry, at least a dose in the morning, and a dose at night. If it is a particularly good day it is filled with poetry from morning to night. If it is a particularly difficult day, it is filled with poetry from morning to night. You get the idea.
Poetry saves me, and daily. I have one bookcase completely filled with poetry books. Most days I “randomly” pull a book off the shelf and open to a “random” page, and receive a perfect message, a divine inspiration for the day. God speaks to me through poetry. My highest wisdom speaks to me in lyrical language. Some days I fall deeply in love with one of my favorite poets, and read only their poetry for the entire week. At some point, my other favorites beckon to me and I leave Mary for May (Sarton), Billy (Collins) or David (Whyte). Or maybe it is the call of Naomi (Shihab-Nye), Pablo (Neruda) or William (Stafford) that lure me under their spell. And always for Rumi and Hafiz I will drop everything and run into their waiting words.
I like to say that my life is a poem. The way I walk through the world, the way I listen, the way I see others, the way I work, deep poetic listening and shining into the world. It is what I inspire to.
Poetry is even more savory if it can be consumed in Nature. Nature also saves me, and daily. Walking in the trees is the most satisfying balm for my soul. The light and wind under the canopy of cedars, fir, alders and maple is beyond compare for soul renewal. Bring a book of poetry or two into the magic of the forest and you have the recipe for the most delicious day. Even an hour of this bliss is exquisitely renewing. To read When I Am Among the Trees, among the trees, feeds my soul and makes my heart happy. To wander through the forest after reading Lost by David Wagoner is a sure invitation to be found. To gaze up at the sky precisely at the moment you read this line from Rumi:
“Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape”….is freeing. Nature in all its beauty, from mountains to sea is the way God soothes my soul, and prepares me for the work I do. And for living my poetic life in service of others.
Why am I talking about this right now, at this time? Because we are living in times where we seem to need saving on a regular basis. Saving ourselves from getting consumed by the news, drawn into fear and grief, blasted by the challenges and the difficult work ahead. We need what will keep our hearts open, and feed our soul with the beauty that sustains our ability to be kind and to love in the midst of it all. For me, that is Poetry and Nature.
Won’t you grab a book of your favorites, or perhaps a poet that is new to you, and meet me in the trees or on the seashore?