Words of WonderBone-Mary-Oliver
Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape —
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something —
for the ear bone
is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long —
and thought: the soul
might be like this —
so hard, so necessary —
yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don’t we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it
lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts —
certainties —
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.
by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver often makes mindfulness seem so luminous in her poems. Through her perceptions of the vivid realities of nature, and through her deep experiencing, she lets a mindful way of being speak to her and then to us.

Apparently, she is one of the best loved poets of our time (according to the shop-keeper of my local poetry bookshop in Hay-on-Wye). This suggests that in this ever more complex world, there is a longing for the natural simplicity, beauty and aliveness that she gives us in her words.

In this poem she reflects on what the soul is, letting a whale bone be a messenger. Then the ocean speaks to her of the eternal, and she senses the presence of the golden sand beneath its darkness, hidden far out of sight. In the end she finds her way into the mystery of existence by letting herself not know what the soul is, yet play at the edge of knowing, which lands her into the wonder of the now – into ‘looking and touching and loving’, which in the end feels like the point of it all.

The process she goes through feels familiar to me. I try to grasp at knowing the meaning of life and the spiritual truth of existence, fail to get anywhere, and land back into the sheerness of the moment, my own sentience being the ultimate gift to be lived and shared.

Ps. Join us for the Wonder of the Everyday course which begins after Christmas. The constant project to get to somewhere better can cause a rejection of our own precious life, causing us to miss out and feel unfulfilled. The intention for this course is to start the new year by finding the wonder that is present in our own imperfect life as it is.

Photo by Lorenzo Spoleti on Unsplash