Mary Oliver

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. 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?

Billy Collins


In the dining room there is a brown fish

hanging on the wall who swims along

in his frame while we are eating dinner.


He swims in candlelight for all to see,

as if he has been swimming forever, even

in the darkness of the ink before someone thought


to draw him and the thin reeds waving in his stream

and the clear pebbles strewn upon the sand.

No wonder he continues his swimming


deep into the night, long after we have

blown out the candles and gone upstairs to bed.

No wonder I find him in the pale morning


light, still swimming, still looking out at me

with his one, small, spellbound eye.



“Zero Circle” by Rumi

Be helpless, dumbfounded,

Unable to say yes or no.

Then a stretcher will come from grace

To gather us up.


We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.

If we say we can, we’re lying.

If we say No, we don’t see it,

That No will behead us

And shut tight our window onto spirit.


So let us rather not be sure of anything,

Beside ourselves, and only that, so

Miraculous beings come running to help.

Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,

We shall be saying finally,

With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.

When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,

We shall be a mighty kindness.

Martin Luther King Jnr



“ I must confess that I have enjoyed being on this mountaintop and I am tempted to want to stay here and retreat to a more quite and serene life. But something within reminds me that the valley calls me in spite of all its agonies, dangers, and frustrating moments. I must return to the valley. Something tells me that the ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in the moment of conflict and moment of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy. So I must return to the valley – a valley filled with the misguided blood thirsty mobs, but a valley filled at the same time with the little Negro boys and girls who grow up with the ominous clouds of inferiority forming in their little mental skies; a valley filled with millions of people who because of economic deprivation and social isolation, have lost hope, and see life as a long and, desolate corridor with no exit sign. I must return to the valley – a valley filled with literally thousands of Negroes in Alabama and Mississippi who are brutalized, intimidated, and sometimes killed when they seek to register and vote. I must return to the valley all over the South and in the big cities of the North – a valley filled with millions of our white and Negro brothers who are smoldering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”


Martin Luther King, Jr Jan 27th 1965







Turn, turn, my wheel! Turn round and round
Without a pause, without a sound:
So spins the flying world away!
This clay, well mixed with marl and sand,
Follows the motion of my hand;
Far some must follow, and some command,
Though all are made of clay!

Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change
To something new, to something strange;
Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,
To-morrow be to-day.

Turn, turn, my wheel! All life is brief;
What now is bud will soon be leaf,
What now is leaf will soon decay;
The wind blows east, the wind blows west;
The blue eggs in the robin’s nest
Will soon have wings and beak and breast,
And flutter and fly away.

Turn, turn, my wheel! This earthen jar
A touch can make, a touch can mar;
And shall it to the Potter say,
What makest thou? Thou hast no hand?
As men who think to understand
A world by their Creator planned,
Who wiser is than they.

Turn, turn, my wheel! ‘T is nature’s plan
The child should grow into the man,
The man grow wrinkled, old, and gray;
In youth the heart exults and sings,
The pulses leap, the feet have wings;
In age the cricket chirps, and brings
The harvest home of day.

Turn, turn, my wheel! The human race,
Of every tongue, of every place,
Caucasian, Coptic, or Malay,
All that inhabit this great earth,
Whatever be their rank or worth,
Are kindred and allied by birth,
And made of the same clay.

Turn, turn, my wheel! What is begun
At daybreak must at dark be done,
To-morrow will be another day;
To-morrow the hot furnace flame
Will search the heart and try the frame,
And stamp with honor or with shame
These vessels made of clay.

Stop, stop, my wheel! Too soon, too soon
The noon will be the afternoon,
Too soon to-day be yesterday;
Behind us in our path we cast
The broken potsherds of the past,
And all are ground to dust a last,
And trodden into clay!


New Beginning

For a New Beginning

By John O’Donohue
In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting until you were ready to emerge. For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on, Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. It watched you play with the seduction of safety And the gray promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent, Wondered would you always live like this. Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream, A path of plenitude opening before you. Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at one with your life’s desire. Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk; Soon you will be home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses the world that awaits you.


Judy Reeves

In A Writer’s Book of Days, I noted some of the ways famous writers found their inspiration. I thought I’d print that list here, as a way of reassuring any who might consider herself a little odd when she dons a flea-bitten sweater or dusts her philodendron. Mind you, these tidbits are all based on research I found here and there; I didn’t make any of it up. But that’s not to say this is all factually true. Some may be the literary equivalent of urban legends.

This then, is the list, excerpted from A Writer’s Book of Days.

The poet Friedrich von Schiller used to keep rotten apples under the lid of his desk, open it, inhale deeply, and compose.

Tea was the stimulant for Dr. Johnson and W. H. Auden. Johnson was reported to have frequently consumed twenty-five cups at one sitting. Honore de Balzac drank fifty cups of coffee in a day.

Colette first picked fleas from her cat, then wrote. It’s told she had a dozen of them (cats, not fleas).

While writing The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal began the day by reading two or three pages of the French civil code.

Willa Cather read the Bible.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge indulged in two grains of opium before working.

Alexandre Dumas, the elder, wrote his nonfiction on rose-colored paper, his fiction on blue, and his poetry on yellow. Langston Hughes also used a different kind of paper for each project.

Rudyard Kipling insisted on the blackest ink available and fantasized about keeping “an ink-boy to grind me Indian ink.” (Note: I’ve had this same fantasy.)

Voltaire used his lover’s naked back as a writing desk.


Finding New Life


 Stop looking for perfection – life is perfectly imperfect.

 It’s OK to be different. Don’t let others define you.

 Stop offering up excuses for your own failures and instead work regularly to correct them for a bigger, brighter future. Failures are only signposts on the road to progress and eventual success. They can instruct us on what we should do next, how we should proceed. Never miss an opportunity to learn from them.

 Focus more on your own behaviour rather than others.

 Always do your best but remember: you are not in charge of the universe; you are not responsible for the problems of the world.

 Listen and take notice of the subtle signs the universe is hanging out for your attention.

 Don’t construct an identity around a notion of yourself- you are not a fixed identity. Stop attaching to things and just gaze at the passing show. Become a participant observer of life, including your own. ….stay present, mindfully attending, just being rather than doing.

 Despite all the mental chatter to the contrary you are not your mind, you are larger than this.

 When we are upset – when irritation, annoyance, frustration enters our lives this is the very time to take stock. Come into your centre slowly, switching your attention to the breath…. in-breath, out-breath, in-breath, out—breath, staying with its rhythm, mindfully attending to it smoothing, healing pattern. Fairly soon a relaxing calm will settle. Stay with this presence as long as you can remembering that if you have to undertake some activity you can always return to this spacious stillness.  

 Never feel that you don’t have the time for relaxation, for when you make this judgement – often in haste whilst busily attending to work related matters -that is probably the very time that you need it the most. Stop focusing on external matters and take deep, mindful breaths. Tune your attention to your body and its need for relaxation/healing knowing that your power comes from ab intra – from within.

 Buried deeply in our intense pain lies pockets of acceptance and reconciliation – find them.

 Ultimately there is only surrender, the humility to accept without protest, without resistance, without reservation the deep mysteries of our lives.

 Michael Lewin


Raymond Carver

At Least – Raymond Carver  

I want to get up early one more morning, before sunrise. Before the birds, even. I want to throw cold water on my face and be at my work table when the sky lightens and smoke begins to rise from the chimneys of the other houses. I want to see the waves break on this rocky beach, not just hear them break as I did all night in my sleep. I want to see again the ships that pass through the Strait from every seafaring country in the world— old, dirty freighters just barely moving along, and the swift new cargo vessels painted every color under the sun that cut the water as they pass. I want to keep an eye out for them. And for the little boat that plies the water between the ships and the pilot station near the lighthouse. I want to see them take a man off the ship and put another up on board. I want to spend the day watching this happen and reach my own conclusions. I hate to seem greedy—I have so much to be thankful for already. But I want to get up early one more morning, at least. And go to my place with some coffee and wait. Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

Denise Levertov

Variation On A Theme By Rilke

By Denise Levertov
(1923 – 1997)


(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me — a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic — or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.