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Praise for the World

San Juan Islands Sunset

Writing poems, for me but not not necessarily for others, is a way of offering praise to the world... Think of them that way, as little alleluias. They're not trying to explain anything, as the prose does. They just sit on the page, and breathe. A few lilies, or wrens, or trout among the mysterious shadows, the cold water, and the somber oaks.
- May Oliver, foreword to "Long Life: Essays and Other Writings"

I respect and honor Mary Oliver's work . Her poetry and essays are truly about the world, the small things that catch her attention - the wild inhabitants and eternal rhythms of nature. She does not overlay or infuse nature with subjective emotions or human need, she simply engages. Gives it on the page as she finds it. This humble awe, Oliver's respect of the living, and her sense of the universal dance are what make her work, to me, insightful and grounding. Her sensibility more heir to Emerson than Thoreau. More singer of praises than intellect of treatises.

Lately, in the battles over the existence or limits of global warming and climate control, of crises with toxins, vanishing species, and population explosion, I wonder at the evolution of the human relationship with nature. Us versus them? Man versus beast. City versus wild. That can't be right. This mosaic of living things is only as perfect as each element of the sacred whole. And perfect and sacred it is, even in its incomprehensibility, its invisibility, its transience.

Nature is the pulse that is heard; my ear pressed against the heart of the world. I wander into the woods on a walk, or run the cedar trails. Stand on the bluff engulfed by a horizon exploding in sunset colors and know a truth I cannot define. The yellow finch, thistle, river bank turtle and child kissed awake by sunrise. The rising song of a new day some say only angels hear. Nature is our place of being. Our companion in this mystery.

So today I offer this poem from Mary Oliver's "Long Life," just one of her magnificent little alleluias.


skidding down platforms of stone
ten miles
nothing to talk to but ferns

in the deep water
the eye of a trout
under a shelf of stone
not moving

no one will ever sully the water
the ferns will go on sleeping and dreaming
no one will ever find the trout
for a thousand years he may life there, gleaming.

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