To live in this world you must be able to do three things . . . and a walk in Wandlebury Woods

On Sunday I returned to a poem by one of my most favourite poets — one whose work I truly love, respect and, these days, find essential in the living of life — Mary Oliver. I mentioned there that her words are finding their way into many Unitarian liturgies. In most funerals I now conduct, at the moment of committal, I use the following words from her poem "In Blackwater Woods":

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

Well, today I conducted another funeral service and these words were very much in mind, not only today, but earlier in the week especially on Monday, some of which I spent walking through Wandlebury Woods. The trees there were, of course, very much in their winter form — bare but beautiful pillars — and this fact reminded me of the whole poem from which the words above come. I include here a few photos from the walk (as always just click on them to enlarge).

If you are thinking about reading some more Mary Oliver I can do no better than strongly encourage you to buy the two volumes of her "New and Selected Poems": Volume 1 and Volume 2. You might also enjoy the two CDs of her reading her own poetry:



Mary Oliver
In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.










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