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The Intersection of Science, Art, Music & Humanities

Mary Oliver & Coleman Barks

Sunday, January 20, 2019

I go down to the shore in the morning and depending on the hour the waves are rolling in or moving out, 

and I say, oh, I am miserable, what shall—what should I do?  

And the sea says in its lovely voice: Excuse me, I have work to do.  ​~Mary Oliver

Sadly, Mary Oliver died at age 83 on Thursday, January 17, 2019.

She published more than 15 poetry and essay collections that covered topics such as nature, mortality, sorrow and the plight of existence. Mary won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for American Primitive, and the National Book Award in 1993 for New and Selected Poems.

"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”  ~Mary Oliver

The delightful video above features Mary reading her poetry, and Coleman Barks interviewing her about the meaning of her work. Coleman is my favorite Rumi translator, as well as former literature faculty at the University of Georgia. 

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift."  ~Mary Oliver

The Journey  

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary's Journey, is a beautiful poem opening with metaphor and symbols that could be viewed as negative and sinister in the life of 'you'. At the last moment, before it's too late, 'you' overcome the obstacles both real and imagined.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one and precious life?~Mary Oliver

Enjoy the thoughtful poetry and have a lovely Sunday Morning.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff