The first poem I ever memorized was “The Fawn” by Mary Oliver. Since her recent passing, many have written about her, her work and what her words meant to them. I add my voice to that chorus here.
These last several decades, I have worked as a consultant, facilitator and educator. Behind the scenes, since early childhood my life has been inspired and buoyed by literature and poetry. When I read or hear a paragraph, sentence, or word that captures that which had been an indescribable understanding, my heart fills and leaps. I am grateful for words that reflect and deepen my experience and knowing.
My roommate in college introduced me to Oliver’s work. I have always been grateful. Oliver offered me multiple ways to perceive and understand life. For example, Oliver’s stanza from New and Selected Poems (1992), captures the essence of meditation.
“The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees,
To become something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.”
And, in “The Fawn” (Twelve Moons, 1972) I remember the wonder and prayers of the child who loved the New England woods where I was at home.
“Sunday morning and mellow as precious metal
the church bells rang, but I went
to the woods instead.
A fawn, too new
for fear, rose from the grass
and stood with its spots blazing,
And knowing no way but words,
no trick but music,
I sang to him.
His small hooves struck the grass.
Oh what is holiness?
The fawn came closer,
walked to my hands, to my knees.
I did not touch him.
I only sang, and when the doe came back
calling out to him dolefully
and he turned and followed her in to the trees,
still I sang,
not knowing how to end such a joyful text,
until far off the bells once more tipped and tumbled
and rang though the morning, announcing
the going forth of the blessed.”
More recently, prior to my having surgery last year, at my request, my beloved husband Roger James read me selections from Oliver’s Evidence (2009). My body and being softened. Surely this was a more auspicious way to enter surgery. All went well.
Farewell, Mary Oliver. I bow in gratitude. You have blessed me many times over with your words.
My wish for each of you is that you have or find an author or poet or a place inside you that is able to capture and express your deepest experience so that you may access and know it more deeply.
If the ideas in this and previous postings interest you, I will be co-hosting a series of interactive Exchanges starting February 12 with David Sibbet and Bill Bancroft on “The Neuropsychology of Collaboration and Design.” Please check the Global Learning and Exchange Network (GLEN) for more information here.