Words of WonderI worried - Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And I gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

by Mary Oliver


A Mary Oliver treasure I hadn’t come across before, which immediately resonated with me. I worry too! Including about things that are about as big and unsolvable as whether the earth is turning in the way it was taught, and what I should do about it if not. That neatly sums up how useful my worry is, most of the time!

(Which is not to say that I think we should shun the big, seemingly impossible questions of our time, by the way. Akong Rinpoche, the co-founder of Samye Ling, was fond of saying that ‘only the impossible is worth doing’ – in fact, you can get that saying on a fridge magnet now. A very helpful question I find comes from Joanna Macy‘s book Active Hope, which asks ‘what can I do to make the outcome I hope for more likely rather than less likely?’ – and then go and do that. In our courses on Mindful Consuming and Engaged Mindfulness we support each other to sustain our gaze in the direction of what’s difficult, not to start worrying more, but to become more clear on where our agency might lie. Anyway…)

Mary Oliver invites us in her inimitable way to step out into the world, out of our habitual frames of reference and self limiting spaces – ‘out into the morning’ – and just doing what we long to do. She wrote this one when she was around 75 years old – and just because we may have spent a lifetime believing we can’t do certain things, who says we can’t just go and do it today… why wait?! I wonder what that might look like for you…



Picture by Unsplash