Mary Oliver, one of nature's finest ambassadors, has gone

Mary Oliver's poetry immerses her reader in the nature from which she sought inspiration and solace
CC BY 2.0 alisonpavlos

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?* --Mary Oliver, Sept. 10, 1935 - Jan. 17, 2019 (age 83)

I found Mary Oliver far too late, but fortunately her words will be with us forever. It was relatively recently that I began to appreciate her work, as I was seeking some words of solace for someone I know. The poem I shared was "I Go Down to the Shore," published in the Indiebound collection A Thousand Mornings.

Mary-Oliver, facebook, post on her poem-Mary Oliver/Promo image
In the hope that if you recited the poem in a loop, the sea would say something more each time, and perhaps just a bit chagrined at how well Mary captures a sense of humanity's irrelevance, we wrote a tribute poem:

I Go Down To The Shore Again

I go down to the shore in that time
when my emotions roll over me like waves
rolling in or ebbing out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what must—
what may I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
"I will collect your tears.”
-- A tribute by two fans of Mary Oliver

The playful exercise gave us a moment of joy. At times of loss, the power of her poetry penetrates exceedingly deep into the heart. But in times of quiet, the poems of Mary Oliver will waken you, and make you aware of the how we must allow nature to feed our souls if we hope to truly live what life offers.

Instructions for living a life
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
--Mary Oliver, excerpt from "Sometimes," in Red Bird (Beacon Press, 2008)

The New York Times remembers Mary Oliver with the highest praise a poet can hope for, noting that she is "a phenomenon: a poet whose work sold strongly." Among her many awards, she counts the National Book Award for Poetry in 1992 and a Pulitzer Prize in 1984.

Mary Oliver's facebook page reflects the power her poems have for her readers, who have made a habit of sending her photos of her books accompanying their forays into nature. Hopefully, her books will be shared and gifted in celebration of her life, or in mourning for our loss of her.

If you know Mary Oliver, the news of her passing will cause you to return to the consolation of her words. If not, seize this opportunity; you have the fresh pleasure of roaming through a forest of her words, seeking the peace of the distance, or perhaps the source of the echo that reverberates in your own soul.

What will you hear when you go down to the shore and ask the sea for answers?

* This quote (at top) is from Mary Oliver's poem, “The Summer Day” from the 1992 National Book Award for Poetry winner New and Selected Poems, 1992 (Beacon Press, Boston, MA)

Mary Oliver, one of nature's finest ambassadors, has gone
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? -- Mary Oliver

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