My dear daughter-in-law gave me a copy of this book as a Christmas present last year.
I’ve been chewing it slowly, lectio divina-style.
Right now, the summer poems are calling to me.
You probably know the most famous one, “The Summer Day.”
Here’s another, called “While I Am Writing a Poem to Celebrate Summer, the Meadowlark Begins to Sing.”
The first line of this poem grabbed me:
“Sixty-seven years, O Lord, to Look at the Clouds,”
Mary Oliver wrote those words years ago.
As I read them, however, I am sixty-nine and counting fast.
This gratitude for the new season has sneaked up on me.
Every time the seasons turn, I now say something similar to myself that boils down to
“Thank you, O Lord, for the clouds, . . . the brilliant leaves, . . . the lazy snow flakes, . . . and this tumult of redbud glory.”
Recently, inspired by Mary Oliver,
I posted this haiku poem on Facebook:
Basking in birdsong
I see no mountains ahead
They are hiding well
I am influenced by my friend and mentor John Paul Lederach
You can listen to his inspiring dharma talk about haiku and peacebuilding here.
Below I have paraphrased some of his thoughts in the talk.
1. You need a haiku attitude.
Prepare yourself to be touched by beauty.
Beauty helps us re-humanize ourselves and others.
Haikuists simply take time to notice.
Immediate, concrete and transcendent.
We are a global human family, made in the likeness of God.
This includes those who wish you harm.
The soul of building peace is to see beauty in the enemy.
2. A better way to deal with complexity.
A great haiku will put you in touch with complexity
but through it see simplicity —
the deep essence of the human experience.
In John Paul’s words:
“Don’t ask the mountain
to move. Just take a pebble
each time you visit.”
Find a way to essence.
3. Presence. Moving beyond the head.
A story from poet Mark Nepo. Long ago in Italy, sellers of marble, cheaters, used wax to hide defects.
Honest sellers sold marble
without wax. That’s what the word means. Sin cere, without wax.
Haiku requires you to be sincere: to see, notice, capture fullness of complexity.
People often speak unconsciously in haiku when they speak from the heart.
I’ve decided, now that I am home again in the Shenandoah Valley,
to listen for haiku every day.
That means listening for beauty, for simplicity beyond complexity, and for sincere presence.
Scraps in the bucket
whisper the dark secret
“All life is compost.”
Do you have a favorite haiku? A favorite Mary Oliver poem? Please share!