Thursday, September 14, 2006

Poetry Thursday



I'm reading Mary Oliver's HOUSE OF LIGHT which contains my favorite poem of hers -- although I like the book of collected poems that came out in, I think 2000 even more than this book. The poem is "The Summer Day". She describes a grasshopper exquisitely in 38 words. Then she writes:

I don't know exactly what prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I've been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Pay attention ... besides the gift of chosing the perfect words to describe what she wishes to share, Mary Oliver's great talent is to pay attention. Isn't that what we all should be doing? As she asked. Paying attention is the first step in Buddhist meditation ... but not the last. It is not something Westerners consider meditation. Some people pay attention, most do not. Our minds are muscles, as I've heard two people say in the last week or so ... but we have little idea that we can train them or let them atrophy as we can our other muscles. We can teach ourselves to pay attention and greatly enrich our lives. We can teach ourself to reallly listen, to really see, to really feel, taste, smell. To be present in this "one wild and precious life."
How often do we even think of our minds as muscles we can control? Part of the time we are involved in something and using our minds, but a lot of that time we're doing something rote and part of the mind is puttering random thoughts. A large part of the time we have parked our minds in automatic static. We walk or drive or ride somewhere and our minds play the static of: what I should have said or done, what I will do or say, what I want to eat, a memory that pops up and passes quickly ... meanwhile we don't see the people or things around us, barely feel the sun or hear the birds -- or the car going through the red light...
Mary Oliver goes for walks, it seems, most days, she pays attention to the grasshoppers, turtles, snakes, deer, plants, everything. We can read her poetry and be enriched by her attention and her craft. We can learn, too, to pay attention to what is around us, perhaps we will gain some of the philosophy Mary Oliver has about nature, and perhaps we will gain some of the reverence and compassion toward others and other creatures the Buddists cultivate by paying attention.
By the way the picture at the top of this entry is "The Shell Tree" -- a dead tree on a beach on Cape Cod that someone has festoons with sea shells. It's been there some time. So far people leave it alone or perhaps once in a whle add a shell.

1 comment :

magikquilter said...

Wonderful....and not just the poem. I am going to be really absorbing this blog, it's wonderful June!