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Mary Oliver on What Attention Really Means and Her Moving Eulogy to Her Soul Mate

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“Attention without feeling … is only a report.”

Mary Oliver is one of our era’s most beloved and prolific poets — a sage ofwisdom on the craft of poetry and a master of its magic; a woman as unafraid to be witty as she is to wise. For more than forty years, Oliver lived on Cape Cod with the love of her life, the remarkable photographer Molly Malone Cook — one of the first staff photographers for The Village Voice, with subjects like Walker Evans and Eleanor Roosevelt, and a visionary gallerist who opened the first photography gallery on the East Coast, exhibited such icons as Ansel Adams and Berenice Abbott, and recognized rising talent like William Clift. (She was also, living up to her reputation as “a great Bohemian American,” the owner of a bookshop frequented by Norman Mailer and occasionally staffed by the filmmaker John Waters.)

Mary Oliver (b. 1935, right) with Molly Malone Cook (1925–2005) at the couple’s home in Provincetown, Massachusetts

When Cook died in 2005 at the age of eighty, Oliver looked for a light, however faint, to shine through the thickness of bereavement. She spent a year making her way through thousands of her spouse’s photographs and undeveloped negatives, mostly from around the time they met, which Oliver then enveloped in her own reflections to bring to life Our World (public library) — part memoir, deeply moving eulogy to a departed soul mate, part celebration of their love for one another through their individual creative loves. Embraced in Oliver’s poetry and prose, Cook’s photographs reveal the intimate thread that brought these two extraordinary women together — a shared sense of deep aliveness and attention to the world, a devotion to making life’s invisibles visible, and above all a profound kindness to everything that exists, within and without.

Oliver — who refers to Cook simply as M. in most of her writings — reflects in the opening essay:

Though you have known someone for more than forty years, though you have worked with them and lived with them, you do not know everything. I do not know everything — but a few things, which I will tell. M. had will and wit and probably too much empathy for others; she was quick in speech and she did not suffer fools. When you knew her she was unconditionally kind. But also, as our friend the Bishop Tom Shaw said at her memorial service, you had to be brave to get to know her.

[…]

She was style, and she was an old loneliness that nothing could quite wipe away; she was vastly knowledgeable about people, about books, about the mind’s emotions and the heart’s. She lived sometimes in a black box of memories and unanswerable questions, and then would come out and frolic — be feisty, and bold.

Amish schoolroom, late 1950s (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

Oliver writes of the affair Cook had in the late 1950s, shortly before they met:

She had … an affair that struck deeply; I believe she loved totally and was loved totally. I know about it, and I am glad… This love, and the ensuing emptiness of its ending, changed her. Of such events we are always changed — not necessarily badly, but changed. Who doesn’t know this doesn’t know much.

The following year, Cook met Oliver and they remained together, inseparable, for more than four decades. That encounter — which calls to mind the fateful first meetings that occasioned such iconic literary couples as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas or Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes — took place at Steepletop, the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay, where Oliver had landed the day after her high school graduation at the age of seventeen and stayed for several years.

Inside the library at Steepletop, the home of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, late 1950s (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

One evening in 1959, when Oliver was twenty-four and Cook thirty-four, the young poet returned to the house and found the photographer sitting at the kitchen table with a friend. She describes their encounter with her signature elegance of unpeeling the mundane to reveal the momentous:

I took one look and fell, hook and tumble. M. took one look at me, and put on her dark glasses, along with an obvious dose of reserve. She denied this to her dying day, but it was true.

Isn’t it wonderful the way the world holds both the deeply serious, and the unexpectedly mirthful?

Mary Oliver in 1964 (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

It turned out that Oliver and Cook, in their regular lives beyond Steepletop, lived right across the street from each other in New York’s East Village. So they began to see one another “little by little,” and so their great love story began.

Chess players, Washington Square, New York City, late 1950s (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

But perhaps the greatest gift of their union was the way in which they shaped each other’s way of seeing and being with the world — the mutually ennobling dialogue between their two capacities for presence:

It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer. It was my pleasure to notice such things, it was a good first step. But later, watching M. when she was taking photographs, and watching her in the darkroom, and no less watching the intensity and openness with which she dealt with friends, and strangers too, taught me what real attention is about. Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter. Such openness and empathy M. had in abundance, and gave away freely… I was in my late twenties and early thirties, and well filled with a sense of my own thoughts, my own presence. I was eager to address the world of words — to address the world with words. Then M. instilled in me this deeper level of looking and working, of seeing through the heavenly visibles to the heavenly invisibles. I think of this always when I look at her photographs, the images of vitality, hopefulness, endurance, kindness, vulnerability… We each had our separate natures; yet our ideas, our influences upon each other became a reach and abiding confluence.

[…]

I don’t think I was wrong to be in the world I was in, it was my salvation from my own darkness. Nor have I ever abandoned it — those early signs that so surely lead toward epiphanies. And yet, and yet, she wanted me to enter more fully into the human world also, and to embrace it, as I believe I have. And what a gift [that she] never expressed impatience with my reports of the natural world, the blue and green happiness I found there. Our love was so tight.

‘My first clam,’ 1964 (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

To lose the love of one’s life is something few have dared to live in public — the most memorable such bravery being Joan Didion’s — but Oliver brings to death’s darkness her familiar touch of emboldening light:

The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.

Oliver ends with a breath-stopping prose poem that brings full-circle her opening reflections on never fully knowing even those nearest to us — a beautiful testament to what another wise woman once wrote: “You can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better.”

THE WHISTLER

All of a sudden she began to whistle. By all of a sudden
I mean that for more than thirty years she had not
whistled. It was thrilling. At first I wondered, who was
in the house, what stranger? I was upstairs reading, and
she was downstairs. As from the throat of a wild and
cheerful bird, not caught but visiting, the sounds war-
bled and slid and doubled back and larked and soared.

Finally I said, Is that you? Is that you whistling? Yes, she
said. I used to whistle, a long time ago. Now I see I can
still whistle. And cadence after cadence she strolled
through the house, whistling.

I know her so well, I think. I thought. Elbow and an-
kle. Mood and desire. Anguish and frolic. Anger too.
And the devotions. And for all that, do we even begin
to know each other? Who is this I’ve been living with
for thirty years?

This clear, dark, lovely whistler?

Boy with telescope, New York Cruises, late 1950s (Photograph: Molly Malone Cook)

Our World is a sublime read in its entirety — the kind that enters the soul like a deep breath and remains there as an eternal exhale. Complement it with Oliver on how rhythm sweetens life and her beautiful reading of her poem “Wild Geese.”

Truths We Learn From Winnie The Pooh

Since first appearing in 1924, Winnie the Pooh has innocently stumbled through the Hundred Acre Wood, leading friends and readers on curious and memorable adventures. The lovable bear is the brainchild of A.A. Milne, inspired by his son, Christopher Robin, and his toys.

1. “How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet “You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh”
2. “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
3. “The things that make me different are the things that make me.”
4. “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
5. “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”
6. “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
7. “Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”
8.  “Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.”

 

9. “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.”
11. “A little consideration. A little thought for others. Makes all the difference.”
12. “Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more… to give way to the happiness of the person you love.”
13.  “A day spent with you is my favourite day. So today is my new favourite day.”
14. “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

15.

 

  
16.  “We’ll be friends forever, Pooh, won’t we,” asked Piglet.       “Even longer,”  Pooh answered.
17.  CHRISTOPHER ROBIN was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin was going away. But somehow or other everybody in the Forest felt that it was happening at last. Even Smallest-of-all, a friend-and-relation of Rabbit’s who thought he had once seen Christopher Robin’s foot, but couldn’t be quite sure because perhaps it was something else, even S. of A. old himself that Things were going to be Different; and Late and Early, two other friends-and-relations, said, “Well, Early?” and “Well, Late?” to each other in such a hopeless sort of way that it really didn’t seem any good waiting for the answer.
One day when he felt that he couldn’t wait any longer, Rabbit brained out a Notice, and this is what it said:

“Notice a meeting of everybody will meet at the House
at Pooh Corner to pass a Rissolution By Order Keep to the Left
Signed Rabbit.”

He had to write this out two or three times before he could get the rissolution to look like what he thought it was going to when he began to spell it; but, when at last it was finished, he took it round to everybody and read it out to them. And they all said they would come.

“Well,” said Eeyore that afternoon, when he saw them all walking up to his house, “this is a surprise. Am I asked too?”

“Don’t mind Eeyore,” whispered Rabbit to Pooh. “I told him all about it this morning.”

Everybody said “How-do-you-do” to Eeyore, and Eeyore said that he didn’t, not to notice, and then they sat down; and as soon as they were all sitting down, Rabbit stood up again.

“We all know why we’re here,” he said, “but I have asked my friend Eeyore–”

“That’s Me,” said Eeyore. “Grand.”

“I have asked him to Propose a Rissolution.” And he sat down again. “Now then, Eeyore,” he said.

“Don’t Bustle me,” said Eeyore, getting up slowly. “Don’t now-then me.”

He took a piece of paper from behind his ear, and unfolded it. “Nobody knows anything about this,” he went on. “This is a Surprise.”

He coughed in an important way, and began again: “What-nots and Etceteras, before I begin, or perhaps I should say, before I end, I have a piece of Poetry to read to you.

Hitherto–hitherto–a long word meaning–well, you’ll see what it means directly–hitherto, as I was saying, all the Poetry in the Forest has been written by Pooh, a Bear with a Pleasing Manner but a Positively Startling Lack of Brain. The Poem which I am now about to read to you was written
by Eeyore, or Myself, in a Quiet Moment.

If somebody will take Roo’s bull’s-eye away from him, and wake up Owl, we shall all be able to enjoy it. I call it–POEM.” This was it:

Christopher Robin is going
At least I think he is
Where?
Nobody knows
But he is going–
I mean he goes
(To rhyme with knows)
Do we care ?
(To rhyme with where)
We do
Very much
(I haven’t got a rhyme for that
“is” in the second line yet.
Bother.)
(Now I haven’t got a rhyme for
bother.. Bother.)
Those two bothers will have
to rhyme with each other
Buther
The fact is this is more difficult
than I thought,
I ought–
(Very good indeed)
I ought
To begin again,
But it is easier
To stop
Christopher Robin, good-bye
I
(Good)
I
And all your friends
Sends–
I mean all your friend
Send–
(Very awkward this, it keeps
going wrong)
Well, anyhow, we send
Our love
END

“If anybody wants to clap,” said Eeyore when he had read this, “now is the time to do it.”

They all clapped.

“Thank you,” said Eeyore. “Unexpected and gratifying, if a little lacking in Smack.”

“It’s much better than mine,” said Pooh admiringly, and he really thought it is.

“Well,” explained Eeyore modestly, “it was meant to be.”

“The rissolution,” said Rabbit, “is that we all sign it, and take it to Christopher Robin.”

 

So it was signed PooH, WOL, PIGLET, EOR, RABBIT, KANGA, BLOT, SMUDGE, and they all went off to Christopher Robin’s house with it.

 

“Hallo, everybody,” said Christopher Robin–“Hallo, Pooh.”

They all said “Hello,” and felt awkward and unhappy suddenly, because it was a sort of goodbye they were saying, and they didn’t want to think about it. So they stood around, and waited for somebody else to speak, and they nudged each other, and said “Go on,” and gradually Eeyore was nudged to the front, and the others crowded behind him.

“What is it, Eeyore?” asked Christopher Robin.

Eeyore swished his tail from side to side, so as to encourage himself, and began.

“Christopher Robin,” he said, “we’ve come to say-to give you-it’s called-written by-but we’ve all–because we’ve heard, I mean we all know–well, you see, it’s–we–you–well, that, to put it as shortly as possible, is what it is.”

He turned round angrily on the others and said, “Everybody crowds round so in this Forest. There’s no Space. I never saw a more Spreading lot of animals in my life, and all in the wrong places. Can’t you see that Christopher Robin wants to be alone? I’m going.” And he humped off.

Not quite knowing why, the others began edging away, and when Christopher Robin had finished reading POEM, and was looking up to say “Thank you,” only Pooh was left.

“It’s a comforting sort of thing to have,” said Christopher Robin, folding up the paper, and putting it in his pocket. “Come on, Pooh,” and he walked off quickly.

“Where are we going?” said Pooh, hurrying after him, and wondering whether it was to be an Explore or a What-shall-I-do-about-you-know-what.

“Nowhere,” said Christopher Robin.

So they began going there, and after they had walked a little way Christopher Robin said:

“What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?”

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best?” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have: and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, “What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying,’ Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.”

“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say ‘Oh, nothing,’ and then you go and do it.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again. “It means just going along, listening to all the things
you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.

They walked on, thinking of This and That, and by-and-by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleons Lap, which is sixty-something trees in a circle; and Christopher Robin knew that it was enchanted because nobody had ever been able to count whether it was sixty-three or sixty-four, not even when he tied a piece of string round each tree after he had counted it.

Being enchanted, its floor was not like the floor the Forest, gorse and bracken and heather, but close-set grass, quiet and smooth and green. It was the only place in the Forest where you could sit down carelessly, without getting up again almost at once and looking for somewhere else. Sitting there they could see the whole world spread out until it reached the sky, and whatever there was all the world over was with them in Galleons Lap.

Suddenly Christopher Robin began to tell Pooh about some of the things: People called Kings and Queens and something called Factors, and a place called Europe, and an island in the middle of the sea where no ships came, and how you make a Suction Pump (if you want to), and when Knights were Knighted, and what comes from Brazil. And Pooh, his back against one of the sixty-something trees and his paws folded in front of him, said “Oh!” and “I didn’t know,” and thought how wonderful it would be to have a Real Brain which could tell you things.

And by-and-by Christopher Robin came to an end of the things, and was silent, and he sat there looking out over the world, and wishing it wouldn’t stop.

But Pooh was thinking too, and he said suddenly to Christopher Robin:  “Is it a very Grand thing to be an Afternoon, what you said?”

“A what?” said Christopher Robin lazily, as he listened to something else.

“On a horse,” explained Pooh.

“A Knight?”

“Oh, was that it?” said Pooh. “I thought it was a– Is it as Grand as a King and Factors and all the other things you said?”

“Well, it’s not as grand as a King,” said Christopher Robin, and then, as Pooh seemed disappointed, he added quickly, “but it’s grander than Factors.”

“Could a Bear be one?”

“Of course he could!” said Christopher Robin. “I’ll make you one.” And he took a stick and touched Pooh on the shoulder, and said, “Rise, Sir Pooh de Bear, most faithful of all my Knights.”

So Pooh rose and sat down and said “Thank you,” which is a proper thing to say when you have been made a Knight, and he went into a dream again, in which he and Sir Pump and Sir Brazil and Factors lived together with a horse, and were faithful Knights (all except Factors, who looked after the horse) to Good King Christopher Robin . . . and every now and then he shook his head, and said to himself, “I’m not getting it right.”

Then he began to think of all the things Christopher Robin would want to tell him when he came back from wherever he was going to, and how muddling it would be for a Bear of Very Little Brain to try and get them right in his mind.

“So, perhaps,” he said sadly to himself, “Christopher Robin won’t tell me any more,” and he wondered if being a Faithful Knight meant that you just went on being faithful without being told things.

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world with his chin in his hands, called out “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m–when– Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”

Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.

“Yes, Christopher Robin?” said Pooh helpfully.

“Pooh, when I’m–you know–when I’m not doing Nothing,
will you come up here sometimes?”

“Just Me?”

“Yes, Pooh.”

“Will you be here too?”

“Yes, Pooh, I will be really. I promise I will be, Pooh.”

“That’s good,” said Pooh.

“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

Pooh thought for a little. “How old shall I be then?”

“Ninety-nine.”

Pooh nodded.

“I promise,” he said.

Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.

“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I–if I’m not quite” he stopped and tried again –“. Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”

“Understand what?”

“Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. “Come on!”

“Where?” said Pooh.

“Anywhere,” said Christopher Robin.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

 

 

100_1918

 

water jug    I will bring a cup of water,

Here’s the best that I can offer

In the dusk of coming night,

There is evidence of light,

With the pattering of rain,

Let us bow as if in grace

Consider all the ways we heal

And how a heart can break!

 

passion-of-christ

 

Oh,  abide with me

Where its breathless and its empty,

Yes, abide with me

And we’ll pass the evening gently.

Stay awake with me,

And we’ll listen more intently

To something wordless and remaining

Sure and ever-changing

In the quietness of now.

 

Let us ponder the unknown

What is hidden, what is whole,

And finally learn to travel,

At the speed of our own souls.

There is a living water,

A spirit cutting through,

Always changing, always making

All things new.

fen marsh

 

Oh, abide with me

Where its breathless and its empty

Yes, abide with me

And we’ll pass the evening gently

Stay awake with me

And we’ll listen more intently,

To something wordless and remaining,

Sure and ever changing,

in the quietness of now!

 

There are things I cannot prove,

But still somehow I know,

It’s like a message in a bottle

That some unseen hand has thrown.

You don’t have to be afraid,

You don’t have to walk alone,

I don’t know but I suspect

That it will feel like home!

 

100_5651

 

Oh abide with me

Where its breathless and its empty

Yes, abide with me

And we’ll pass the evening gently

Stay awake with me

And we’ll listen more intently

To something wordless and remaining

Sure and ever-changing

In the quietness of now.

 

A Permeable Life is about what presses out from the heart, what comes in at a slant and what shimmers below the surface of things,” Newcomer says. “To live permeably is to be open-hearted and audacious, to risk showing up as our truest self, and embracing a willingness to be astonished.”

 

A Permeable Life

I want to leave enough room in my heart
For the unexpected,
For the mistake that becomes knowing,
For knowing that becomes wonder,

For wonder that makes everything porous,
Allowing in and out
All available light.
An impermeable life is full to the edges,
But only to the edges.
It is a limited thing.
Like the pause at the center of the breath,
Neither releasing or inviting,
With no hollow spaces
For longing and possibility.
I would rather live unlocked,
And more often than not astonished,
Which is possible
If I am willing to surrender
What I already think I know.

So I will stay open
And companionably friendly,
With all that presses out from the heart
And comes in at a slant
And shimmers just below
The surface of things.

 

 

Excerpt From: “A Permeable Life: Poems and Essays.”

A Permeable Life, produced and engineered by Paul Mahern (John Mellencamp, Over the Rhine, Willie Nelson, Lily & Madeleine), will be in stores on April 1, 2014, from Available Light Records, distributed by MRI/Sony RED Music.

Newcomer is simultaneously releasing a companion book, A Permeable Life: Poems and Essays. Newcomer has attracted a devoted following with her warm voice, exquisite melodies, and an irreverent yet spiritual view of the world.   As in the work of poets Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, Newcomer’s songs are based in the ordinary, and infused with images from the natural world.

Author Barbara Kingsolver wrote, “She’s a poet, storyteller, snake-charmer, good neighbor, friend and lover, minister of the wide-eyed gospel of hope and grace.”

On April 1, 2014, Available Light Records, distributed by MRI/Sony RED Music, releases a new album of Newcomer’s music entitled A Permeable Life.  On this album, Newcomer’s signature deep voice takes on a quiet conversational tone, close and intimate.

Recording artist Carrie Newcomer’s work cuts across secular and spiritual boundaries. She has had many artistic collaborations with notable authors such as Parker J. Palmer, Barbara Kingsolver, Jill Bolte Taylor, Philip Gulley, Scott Russell Sanders and Rabbi Sandy Sasso. She facilitates workshops on songwriting, creative writing, spirituality, vocation and activism. Newcomer, who tours throughout the U.S. and Europe, has also toured with Alison Krauss.

 

northcarolinaweddinginn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

old friends in snowb

The Winter of Life

by: Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913)

As down the frosty road we came,
My man and I together,
We talked of this, and smiled at that,
Nor felt the chilling weather.
For side by side we trudged along,
Each thought the other sharing,
And in each other’s company
The wintry breezes daring.

The sky above was cold and gray,
The earth below was dreary,
But home was near, and love was warm,
Altho’ the way seemed weary.
John had but me, I had but John,
Life’s twilight skies to brighten,
But every sorrow we had borne,
Some blessing came to lighten.

….

The summer joys long since were past,
And winter’s snows were o’er us;
The twilight sky was cold and drear,
And night was just before us.
But though the way so weary seemed,
Yet John and I were merry:
For said I not that home was near?
And hearts and thoughts grew cheery.

old friends

old friends

The Meeting

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After so long an absence
At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,
And but few of us linger now,
Like the Prophet’s two or three berries
In the top of the uttermost bough.

We cordially greet each other
In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas
And many a Happy New Year
But each in his heart is thinking
Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,
And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish
Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
Steals over our merriest jests.

“The Meeting” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Public domain.

old female friends

A Friend
by: Carmen Sylva (1843-1916)

Old age is gentle as an autumn morn;
The harvest over, you will put the plough
Into another, stronger hand, and watch
The sowing you were wont to do.
Old age
Is like an alabaster room, with soft
White curtains. All is light, but light so mild,
So quiet, that it cannot hurt.
The pangs
Are hushed, for life is wild no more with strife,
Nor breathless uphill work, nor heavy with
The brewing tempests, which have torn away
So much, that nothing more remains to fear.
What once was hope, is gone. You know. You saw
The worst, and not a sigh is left of all
The heavy sighs that tore your heart, and not
A tear of all those tears that burnt your cheeks,
And ploughed the forrows into them.
You see
How others work again and weep again,
And hope and fear. Thy alabaster room
With marble floor and dainty hangings has
A look so still, that others wonder why
They feel it churchlike. All thy life is here;
Thy life hath built the vault and paved it, and
Thy hands have woven yonder curtains that
Surround thy seat, a shady sunshine.
Age
Is feeble not to thee, as all thy wishes
Are silent and demand no effort. Age
is kind to thee, allows thee all the rest
That never came, when life was hard and toilsome.
Receive it with a smile and clothe thyself
In white, in Nature’s silver crown, and sing
A lullaby of promise and of comfort.
Tell them that life is precious, after work,
And after grief and after all the deaths,
And not a loathsome burden of a life.
Old age is like a room of alabaster,
The curtains silken; thou art priest and Druid!
No mystery for thee, but Light from heaven!

old friends on beach

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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October 2021
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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory