Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: A Passion for Work



In books: truth, and daring, passion of all sorts. Clear and sweet and savory emotion did not run in a rippling stream in my personal world— more pity to it! But in stories and poems I found passion unfettered, and healthy. Not that such feelings were always or even commonly found in their clearest, most delectable states in all the books I read. Not at all! I saw what skill was needed, and persistence— how one must bend one’s spine, like a hoop, over the page— the long labor. I saw the difference between doing nothing, or doing a little, and the redemptive act of true effort. Reading, then writing, then desiring to write well, shaped in me that most joyful of circumstances— a passion for work.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Staying Alive” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Saturday Morning: Be Still Be Still


The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still…
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged…

See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking,
the way is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

~ Wendell Berry, from “Grace. For Gurney Norman, quoting him” from New Collected Poems 


A temple – or a green field – a place to enter, and in which to feel.


Whitman kept me from the swamps of a worse uncertainty, and I lived many hours within the lit circle of his certainty, and his bravado. Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! And there was the passion which he invested in the poems. The metaphysical curiosity! The oracular tenderness with which he viewed the world— its roughness, its differences, the stars, the spider— nothing was outside the range of his interest. I reveled in the specificity of his words. And his faith— that kept my spirit buoyant surely, though his faith was without a name that I ever heard of. Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have . . . for the April rain has, and the mica on the side of a rock has.

But first and foremost, I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple— or a green field— a place to enter, and in which to feel. Only in a secondary way is it an intellectual thing— an artifact, a moment of seemly and robust wordiness— wonderful as that part of it is. I learned that the poem was made not just to exist, but to speak— to be company. It was everything that was needed, when everything was needed. I remember the delicate, rumpled way into the woods, and the weight of the books in my pack. I remember the rambling, and the loafing— the wonderful days when, with Whitman, I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time.

~ Mary Oliver, from “My Friend Walt Whitman” in Upstream, Selected Essays


It’s been a long day


Maybe poems are made of breath,

the way water, cajoled to boil,


This is my soul, freed.

Dean Young, from “Scarecrow on Fire,” Fall Higher



If you live to be very old, you may see twelve hundred full moons

One world trade center

If you live to be very old, you may see twelve hundred full moons. Some come in winter and you trudge out into the deep snow to stand beneath their glow. Others come to you in the city and you take an elevator up to the roof of the highest building and set out a couple of folding chairs to watch it glide across the sky. Or the moon finds you along a foreign shore and you paddle out in some dingy and scoop its reflection from the waters and drink it down. The moons of your old age are the most potent but seem few and far between. They make their way into your marrow and teach it how to hum. When your final moon arrives, it’s as if youth has come back to you. Though instead of flaunting its yellow hat, now it’s dressed in black.

~ David Shumate, “An Inventory of Moons” from Kimonos in the Closet


Sunday Morning



Today, at the sacred site of your soul, make peace with your present reflection as you go in search of the body and face you were born with and excavate the many extraordinary faces that have evolved during your many lives…

Embrace the lines that stare back, the parts that sag in the middle or stick out where you think they shouldn’t, the hair that never keeps a curl or never loses it. Invoke the Tibetan poet Saraha’s psalm of praise:

“Here in this body are the sacred rivers; here are the sun and moon as all the pilgrimage places. …I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.”

Sarah Ban Breathnach, from “Our Pilgrimage Places” in Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self


Notes: Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels. Photo: Philippe Conquet

Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the middle of the night and sing?


One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people – a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lillian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousands of leaves tremble! What a life is ours! Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the

middle of the night and

~ Mary Oliver, from “Upstream” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Lightly child, lightly.


the body itself
a lighthouse—

the body:
such thin skin
and gold beneath—

Rachel Richardson, from A Brief History of the Whale Fishery in Hundred-Year Wave



  • Quotes: parataxis. Photo: mennyfox55
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”



My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive


It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist. […]

It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Of Power and Time” in Upstream, Selected Essays (Penguin Press, October 2016)


Walking Cross-Town. With Lightning Strikes.


5:40 am.
2nd morning train: Metro North to Grand Central.
Dark Sky reports: Clear, 45° F and Rising.

Wardrobe check:
Black Belt.
Black Suit.
Black Socks.
Black Tie.
Black Shoes.
Black TopCoat.
Black Underwear.

Train rolls into Grand Central 2 minutes late, red ants swarm, clamoring and jostling to get to the exits.

The pace accelerates, foot traffic is flowing. I bear down on a doodler staring down at her smartphone, and need to slow, way down.

There’s heavy foot traffic on all sides, I veer right to pass, glare at her, but it misses wide as Ms. Oblivious’ is clueless as to the traffic backup.

As I straighten up, I ram into a Suit, who teeters, wobbles and regains his footing.

[Read more…]

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